BY LEKE ADESERI, South West Regional Editor with agency reports
LAGOS — The fear of attacks by Islamic militants in Nigeria is spreading South to the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos, where city buses are being checked for bombs.
This followed a text message purportedly sent by the group warning people not to take government buses because they are a target.
Managing Director of Lagos Bus Service, LAGBUS, Mr Yemi Odubela, was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, as saying the firm was aware of the threat and was asking passengers to remain vigilant and cooperate with spot checks of their bags.
The report noted that at the Eko roundabout bus stop on Victoria Island, a passenger said her bags were checked when she boarded the bus.
She said: “They checked us before we entered at Leventis. They checked us to see if anybody was carrying any equipment inside their bags. So they checked us before we entered. Men check men. Women check women.”
Asked if the new measures made her to feel safer, she said: “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We are afraid. We are afraid. Everybody is afraid to enter, you see that blue bus and this red one. We are afraid. They checked under all the seats before we entered.
So maybe there is something they hide under the seats but there was nothing under the seats.”
However, another man getting off the LAGBUS number 55, said he did not believe the Boko Haram threat.
He said: “They have been operating. Even when they have been bombing, have they been giving warnings? No. They have not been giving warnings. They do it. So I want to believe that people are just trying to use that to cause confusion.”
Another woman passenger said she had to take the bus, despite the threat.
“I have no choice,” she said. “Because of the rain, I have no other transport means to get to this place.” This passenger says Boko Haram will find it far harder to operate in the south. “We will continue to take the bus because there is security in Lagos,” said the passenger.”I don’t believe they will come to this place. I just call it a threat. They can’t come down to the south.
We will check them here. LAGBUS is even better because at LAGBUS you queue. So you can check anybody who enters that LAGBUS. So if it just an ordinary bus like this one that everybody jumps inside it is a different thing.”
A group that says it is fighting for a separate Islamic state is thought responsible for a series of attacks across the north. Bomb attacks and ambushes in the northern city of Maiduguri have indefinitely closed the university there and led to an exodus of civilians, some of whom are newly unemployed motorbike taxi drivers after all motorbikes were banned in Maiduguri because Islamic militants were using them to throw bombs.
The Islamic sect Boko Haram recognizes neither Nigeria’s constitution nor the federal government and says it is fighting for a separate nation in the north, ruled by Islamic law.
The group bombed the police force headquarters in Abuja and a church just outside the capital, which is now under a limited curfew with all bars and movie theaters closed by 10 p.m. President Goodluck Jonathan has offered to open talks with the group, but Boko Haram leaders have so far refused, saying they cannot meet with security forces that are trying to destroy them.