First, Abuja is the nation’s political capital. Were it to fall or be threatened more than it already is, it will mean dire political and diplomatic censure of the government in power? Beyond that, many of the movers and shakers of Nigeria, both political and economic, make Abuja their home even if they come from other parts.
Were Abuja to be really threatened, it will disrupt every state across the nation. It will send the wrong signals around the world and would precipitate a run on the naira. Beyond that, it will embolden the terrorists as they will simply cut off the up north from the rest of the country. This will lead to massive refugee crisis that will threaten all neighbouring countries that border Nigeria.
Abuja must be secured by all and any means. The defence of Abuja must go beyond rhetorics. It must get to the point it was in the Abacha years when only those who had business in Abuja were tolerated in Abuja. Major Mustapha ensured that. If that is what it will take to secure Abuja, then so be it. No one should underestimate the threat, it is real and it is acknowledged even by government agencies and parastatals who have been issuing releases on the matter.
On September 6, 2020, the Nigeria Customs Service asked its officers to stay alert in Abuja as there are Boko Haram terrorist camps in and around the Federal Capital Territory.
In a notice with reference NCS/ENF/ABJ/180/S. I/VOL.II, issued by the Comptroller, Enforcement Headquarters, H.A. Sabo, the NCS said it had information that terrorists were in Abuja. In the notice titled, “Intelligence on National Security,” the NCS said, “Information reaching the Comptroller-General of Customs revealed the existence of Boko Haram terrorist camps in and around the Federal Capital Territory.” The NCS also stated in the notice dated August 20, 2020, that reports had it that the terrorists were planning to attack some selected targets within the territory. It added that the terrorists had reportedly set up their camps in Kunyan Bush along airport road, off DIA Staff Quarters, Abuja. It added that other camps were reportedly set up in Robochi/Gwagwalada forest, Kwaku forest in the Kuje area of Abuja and Unaisha forest in the Toto local government of Nasarawa State.
“Consequently, you are to be at alert and security conscious of your environment at all times. Ensure wide circulation please,” the NCS told its officers. When this story broke in the media there was attempt by those in authority to downplay it just to protect the image of government, especially as this government was elected on a promise to fight insecurity.
Again in 2021, the Nigeria Immigration Service put its officers at various border posts across the country on red alert of a looming terrorist attacks in Abuja. The NIS said it received intelligence from the Presidency that some terrorists from West African neighbour, Mali, want to move through the Nigeria-Niger Republic border to launch an attack in Abuja. The letter dated December 23, 2021, was titled,
“Terrorists Plan Attacks In Abuja” and signed by the Land Border Patrol Commander, Edirin Okoto, on behalf of the Acting Comptroller General Of Immigration Service, Idris Jere. The letter was addressed to all sector commanders and border patrol corps all over the country.
They include those at the Seme, Idi Iroko, Jibia, Illela land borders, as well as Immigration officers at the Murtala Mohammad International Airport, the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, amongst others.
In April 26, 2021, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State said Boko Haram fighters are closer to the nation’s capital. Speaking when he visited an Internally Displaced Persons Camp, the governor said the terrorists took control of a part of the state after the Federal Government failed in the bid to effectively secure the state. He said he reached out to the Federal Government on different occasions but nothing fruitful came out of the process. Bello warned that the Boko Haram terrorists are trying to make Kaure in Shirroro local government area of the state their headquarters like they did to Sambisa forest in Borno State. He, however, said while Sambisa Forest is several kilometres from Abuja, Kaure is only two hours from the nation’s capital.
It is therefore obvious that something is wrong with the security of Abuja. This was also not lost to the international community, particularly those that live and work in Abuja as diplomats. On the month of May, this year, the ECOWAS Commission issued a security alert to its staff on alleged plans by criminal elements to infiltrate state capitals, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The commission alleged that there were plans to carry out abductions for ransom and recruitment for terrorism. ECOWAS in a statement titled, “Security advisory on the current security situation in the country” and signed by the ECOWAS Commissioner for General Administration and Conference, Vafolay Tulay advised its staff to limit social engagements and avoid going out at night after work hours.
On July 6, 2022, terrorists attacked Kuje Prison in Abuja and released 500 convicted terrorists, many of whom were said to be Boko Haram Commanders, without losing a man. It left the nation in bewilderment.
And the diplomatic community was also alarmed. The United States government warned its citizens in Nigeria to be security conscious for the next two weeks and avoid unnecessary travel on the Airport Road in Abuja. The warning come barely 24 hours after terrorists orchestrated a jailbreak at Kuje Prison in Abuja, freeing over 500 inmates. In a statement posted on its website, the US Consulate in Nigeria said, “It is recommended that US citizens should maintain a high state of personal security awareness for the next two weeks and avoid unnecessary travel on the airport road.” “Crime is endemic throughout Nigeria and tends to spike after dark.”
On July 26, 2022, barely 24 hours after terrorists, who hijacked the Kaduna-bound train released a video, where they threatened to kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, insecurity fears heightened at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), leading to the immediate closure of all unity schools in Abuja. This was after five soldiers of Guards Brigade were killed in an ambush by Boko Haram terrorists in Bwari Area Council of the FCT. The soldiers from the elite Guards Brigade guarding the FCT as well as the presidential seat of government were ambushed along Bwari Kubwa road, while on patrol of Bwari Area where the Nigerian Law School and the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) is located. The Guards Brigade is in charge of the security of the President, his entire family, the Vice President, Very Important Personalities (VIP), the Federal Capital Territory and its surrounding states. This was said to be the first direct encounter between terrorists and the Brigade of Guards in Abuja. The soldiers from 7 Guards Battalion, who have been carrying out patrol in the town following intelligence report of an impending attack on the Nigerian Law School, came under heavy fire around the Kubwa-Bwari road. The signal message on the attack reads: “Troops on routine patrol along Kubwa-Bwari were ambushed by suspected terrorists. Three soldiers were injured during the attack. The soldiers have been evacuated for medical attention. Details on the extent of their injuries are still under confirmation. The ambush attack happening within the general area of Bwari shows that the terrorists are actually within the location and possibly preparing to carry out their plans to attack the law school in Bwari as earlier reported.”
Following the heightened insecurity, the Federal Ministry of Education, taking a cue from intelligence reports, directed the immediate closure of all unity schools domiciled in the FCT, while ordering immediate evacuation of students. The minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Muhammad Bello also ordered the closure of schools in the territory.
All these are pointers that a lot more need to be done to ensure the security of Abuja and has be done quickly. The era of prevarication before taking needed decision on security by those in authority should be over by now. Abuja is Nigeria’s centre of unity and the face of Nigeria to the world.
Everything needed to ensure the security of Abuja, must be done by those saddled with the responsibility of protecting our centre of unity. The security of Abuja should not be left in the hands of government alone. All residents of Abuja must get involved. The time has also come to have well organized vigilantes in the FCT. This will go a long way in providing security at the micro level, while at the macro level technology must be applied to identify the terrorists’ camps in the bushes around Abuja and states surrounding the FCT and eliminate them.
MAY NIGERIA REBOUND