Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, is gradually becoming a ghost town for diplomats and foreign missions in the country. It is now a place to be avoided after the U.S Embassy issued a terror alert last week.
The U.S Embassy, in an advisory, warned its citizens in Nigeria to avoid such places as government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organisation offices, and was specific that Abuja will be the prime target of terrorists.
Aside from that, the embassy also stated that it will reduce its services in Nigeria until further notice in response to the threat, warning U.S. citizens in Nigeria to avoid “all non-essential travel or movement, stay alert and avoid crowded areas”. They were also urged to review their personal security plans and keep their cell phones charged in case of emergency, and to also carry proper identification.
No sooner has the advisory become public than other foreign embassies such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Bulgaria, Denmark and Germany also followed suit. Twenty-four hours later, most non-essential citizens of U.S. were ferried out of the country. As if that was not enough, one of the biggest malls in the FCT, Jabi Mall, also announced a temporary closure of its doors to customers, hinging its action on the security advice from the U.S.
Although the Federal Government, through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that there was no cause for alarm and urged Abuja residents to go about their normal activities, many are not convinced that security agents are up to the task of offering any protection when or if the alleged terrorists strike. However, security agencies appear to have stepped up their game.
In what looks like a coordinated approach between the Federal Government and U.S security agents in Nigeria, a popular estate, Trademore, in Lugbe, was raided and two suspects said to be siblings were arrested. Josephine Adeh, Abuja FCT police Public Relations Officer, who confirmed the raid said those arrested were believed to be part of a cell planning to carry out a terror attack in the city. “It is no longer news that there was a High Powered Sting Operation in Phase 3 at Trademore Estate, culminating in a complete shutdown of the estate. A combination of American Army and our DSS team were responsible. We are unable to give full details of the reason(s) behind the operation, however, we can confirm that there was an allegation of terrorist activities”.
The scale may gradually be falling from our eyes as to the real intention of the terrorist group that has held the nation by the jugular. When a well-known terror group started its activities over 10 years ago in Borno State under the leadership of Yusuf Mohammed, its sole aim was to carve out a place for itself where it could preach and live away from civilisation, according to the dictates of its brand of Islam. Expectedly, Yusuf’s messages resonated well with many in the society to the extent that a Commissioner in the state resigned to be with the group.
It was not too surprising that Yusuf soon ran into trouble with law enforcement agents and was arrested by the military. Yusuf, upon his arrest, was handed over to the police, who, without recourse to the rule of law, extra-judicially killed Yusuf. The Boko Haram sect, whose ideology is that western education is forbidden for the people soon dropped its non-violent posture and with the arrival of other fighters across the Sahel, a dangerous sect was born.
Those who took over from Yusuf pledged allegiance to other terror groups across the world and soon enough, the much-needed arms and men birthed in Nigeria. It was at this stage that the agenda of the group to create an enclave for themselves in Nigeria received attention and support from foreign terrorist organisations.
While the Boko Haram crisis was brewing in the Northeast region of the country, the effect of climate change in the horns of Africa, which drove many pastoralists out of their comfort zones in search of fertile soil for food and water for their cattle, created another problem for the country from the Northwest flank.
The election of Muhammadu Buhari at the helm of affairs in Nigeria, gave the much-needed impetus for his brothers and their cattle to come in large numbers into a borderless Nigeria. Again, the body language of the President gave the impression of a man willing to tolerate the excesses of his kinsmen as the battle between farmers and herders became a daily occurrence in Nigeria with several lives lost and farm produce worth millions of naira destroyed. Of course, Buhari, a cattle farmer himself, inadvertently took sides with his kinsmen, resulting in many farmers having to abandon their farmlands.
Rather than seeing through the antic of the marauding group, that the real agenda of the foreign cattle-rearers was to take over the land of the natives for their business, Buhari and his government formally opened up Nigeria to the invaders. The government saw nothing wrong in normal human beings living in forests heralding cattle in the 21st century. In actual fact, we took a loan from the Chinese government to construct a railway line that will link Nigeria to Maradi in Niger Republic. Yet, we could not link most cities across the country with rail network. Several financial and bilateral assistance were rendered to the government of Niger Republic when many Nigerians at home are also in need of help from their government but none was forthcoming. We became Father Christmas, buying utility vehicles for neighboring states. There were several attempts made by Buhari and those in his government to once again establish a grazing route for cattle so that herdsmen could move across the country unhindered and with little or no regard to host communities along the route who are farmers. The practice of modern-day ranching for cattle farmers was alien to our leaders.
A Water Resource Bill that would cede several kilometers of land to herdsmen and their cattle surfaced at the National Assembly, but many of our lawmakers saw through the bill and rejected it outright. However, a new version of the same Bill soon resurfaced, but clothed in a different garb.
Now, a combination of Yusuf’s group, (Boko Haram), terrorists looking for a safe haven in West Africa, who are alleged affiliates of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and mercenaries who fight for a living, have turned Nigeria into one of the most insecure and unsafe countries in the world. They kidnap locals and collect huge sums of money which they channel toward the acquisition of more firearms. The same Buhari government with its posturing, that gave life to the activities of his brothers, has now become the target of the terror group. His seat of government, Abuja, is now the target and they are determined to succeed.
When former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, several soft targets in the city were bombed. With Buhari, the elite Brigade of Guards guarding Mr. President has been attacked. Two senior army officers and one soldier lost their lives during the attack in Bwari. Kuje Prison, which housed many of the arrested terrorists, was invaded and the terrorists succeeded in freeing many of their comrades. This was done despite many security alerts that an attack was imminent on the facility. Till now, nobody has been questioned or punished for the attack, during which several lives were lost.
Early this year, the Federal Capital Territory Command of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) issued a similar terror alert. Subsequently, the Ministry of Education ordered the immediate closure of the Federal Government College, Kwali, in the FCT, over security threats. Similarly, the FCT authority issued a directive for all private schools in Abuja to be closed indefinitely. Now that schools have resumed, we are back in the same scenario and the whole of Abuja is now enveloped in tension.
Funnily, many Nigerians are not surprised at the turn of events in the country in recent times. As far back as 2017, a former Minister of Defence, General T. Y. Danjuma, warned Nigerians to defend themselves before they all die from what he termed ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the foreign invaders. Again, while speaking at the official presentation of Staff of Office to the new Aku Uka of Wukari a few days ago, Danjuma called on Nigerians to defend their land against terrorists who are bent on taking over. “My appeal to you, the new Aku Uka, is for you to unite us to be able to effectively defend ourselves against the enemies of the country. In 2017 when I called on the people to defend themselves, a kangaroo commission of inquiry was set up to investigate and they said I was lying because there was no evidence. Today in the country, there is evidence everywhere; that foreign bandits are killing and taking over lands in all places. I will not give you arms, you have to find out how the bandits got theirs and find yours too,” Mr Danjuma said.
Mr Danjuma’s instruction to his people in Taraba State also received support from the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, who has been at the forefront of the campaign to get sophisticated weapons for a regional security outfit – Amotekun – created by Southern state governors to defend their forests against bandits and kidnappers who strike at will and run to take cover in the bushes.
Sadly, the Federal Government does not appear willing to cooperate. Rather, it feels at home with the murdering and kidnapping of Nigerians by bandits and terrorists, majority of whom are foreigners in Nigeria.
With the seat of government now the target of the terrorists going by the recent terror alerts from foreign countries, it is hoped that our security agents would live up to the task of protecting the territorial sovereignty of the country. This government has been too complacent on so many issues. We pray that Abuja won’t fall into the hands of these invaders. Remember that those who carried out the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train actually threatened to capture Buhari. Now, more than ever, is the time for Mr. President to deploy all at his disposal to go after these criminals. That is why he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and also a retired General to boot.
See you next week.