Once regarded as Nigeria’s safest and most peaceful city, the bombs have robbed residents of Abuja of that peace, leaving most people wondering about the next target. Michael Oche writes.
The statistics of fatalities are grim enough in the country, but many Nigerians are conscious of the reality that Nigeria is in the throes of a fierce war which is neither officially acknowledged nor likely to end soon.
It has been four bomb blasts in the last eight months and for once, both security operatives and civilian residents in Abuja are jittery. As residents gather in small clusters discussing Thursday’s bomb attack on the force headquarters, the salient question written all over their faces was, who and where is safe?
Forty-eight hours after the bombing of the force headquarters, life was yet to return to normalcy both for private individuals and government officials in the federal city.
Except for traffic wardens, almost every police officer in Abuja had a gun in his hand but the victims of the aftermath of such attacks are usually innocent Nigerians. Stop-and-search check points have hurriedly been mounted at major junctions in and around the city. Motorists are subjected to rigorous search at such checkpoints.
Most public offices, including the CBN, NNPC, banks and hotels beefed up security and everyone speaking to a journalist seems nervous. At the CBN and NNPC offices, bomb detectors have been deployed and the police thoroughly search visitors. Such checks are uncomfortable to most people.
As life is gradually returning to Area 11 and Central Business District of Abuja, business men and women are counting their losses following the bomb blasts. The blast forced the closure of the force headquarters and several offices for some hours. “These people have finally made a bold statement. The police is badly hit and its ego bruised,” a resident, Samuel Abraham told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY.
As at 11:am on Friday, nearly 24 hours after the deadly attack, the road leading to Area 11 from Asokoro, where the police headquarters is located was blocked, resulting to heavy traffic jam. A resident, Akim Timothy told our correspondent, “It is unfortunate but trust the police; they will pour their anger on ordinary Nigerians.
Even a stupid man knows the bomber will not return to detonate another bomb at the police headquarters. So, why are they barricading everywhere and diverting the whole vehicles? They should be going after the bombers and not law-abiding Nigerians.”
The terror unleashed by the bomber and the following disruption of lives and businesses also added salt to the wound already soured by high level of insecurity in the country.
A survey conducted by LEADERSHIP SUNDAY over the weekend showed that most traders had not resumed their businesses, but some shop owners were still reluctant to open their premises, fearing that the situation was not all that conducive for them to re-open their businesses. “I am waiting for people to settle down and resume their daily activities. It is too early for them to start buying new clothes now,” Bisi Akindele, a boutique owner at the CBD told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY.
She said that many traders were still assessing the losses they incurred while they awaited the condition to normalise. Some have had their premises vandalised as the bomb exploded that day. It was not on the massive scale though and it was still too early to establish the real loss.
“I had only started getting ready for the day’s business, and when the bomb exploded, I ran and left everything there. And when I returned the following day, I didn’t find even a single sachet of pure water,” said Hamisa Sunday, a pure water hawker at the busy Area 11 junction said.
She stated that she would have to start from scratch but the main problem, according to her, would be servicing a loan she took from a lending group.
Mrs. Ifeoma Lukas, 34 is a food vendor at the nearby market at the Banana area. She lamented that the bomb explosion has seen her losing up to 100,000 naira since all the food she was selling got spoilt for the two days that she was out of business.
Last Thursday’s bomb incident at the police headquarters became of special interest to residents of Abuja, because of the location. The headquarters of the Nigerian police force is like what Salisu Ibrahim, a resident of Abuja, rightly explained as taking the battle to the security operatives.
That the perpetrators took the battle to the mouth of the lions is no longer news but its aftermath on business and residents is what remains worrisome to many residents.
With the recent bomb blast in Jos and the continuous spate of killings in Borno State and some other towns, no one, including the Inspector General of police, Hafiz Ringim, had the inkling that the dare-devils could have the gut to unleash the same terror in Abuja, let alone the force headquarters.
Many residents strongly believed that with the assurance of the IG of police that men of the Boko Haram sect would be smoked out soon, many people went to bed with their eyes closed. But they were wrong, as at about 11: am of the ill-fated day, the dare-devils struck, leaving in their trail, scores of corpses while many others were wounded, with families wailing as they moved from one hospital to another in search of missing relatives.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY went round the town 24 hours after the blast and noticed that most offices were closed down and stern-looking police officers were stationed at the entrance of NNPC and CBN offices.
When our reporter approached the leader of the about 15 armed-to-the-teeth police officers, the reception was not cordial. “Where are you coming from... who are you... identify yourself... no comment... come back on Tuesday...” The entire squad spoke at the same time, at the mere introduction of the mission of the journalist.
Attitude of hospital officials.
At the Asokoro General Hospital, the staff were very hostile to journalists who went to enquire about the victims who were rushed to the hospital. Nobody was willing to speak to journalists on the issue under the guise of “we are not permitted to speak to the press.”
Our reporter was directed to the hospital’s acting chairman who appeared to be very busy in the theater. But when he eventually came out, he was in a hurry, apparently to avoid any interview with the reporters. “Sorry, I am very busy. I can’t give any information except that the nine victims who were rushed here have been discharged. I am sure the police have told you all you need to hear; the company secretary will tell you the rest.” he said
When our reporter went to the chairman’s secretary, he was not willing to talk. He would not even tell the reporter the name of the acting chairman. “Go and ask him yourself,” was all he could say.
Anti Terrorism Bill
After its passage by the National Assembly two weeks ago, President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Terrorism (Prevention) Bill 2011, and the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Bill, 2011. Under the laws, it is an offence to finance terrorism and launder proceeds of crime.
The Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 establishes measures for the prevention, prohibition and combating of acts of terrorism and the financing of terrorism.
However, this has not stopped terrorists from carrying out their wicked acts. Ironically, the government, after the bomb attack has called for negotiation with the terrorist group. A move, some analysts say serves the interest of the terror group.