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Residents panic as terrorists, bandits move into FCT




FOLLOWING a series of attacks by terrorists and bandits within Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), security concerns have heightened, and residents now live in apprehension.

Many have expressed dissatisfaction with the Federal Government’s response to the security concerns. They described the government’s reaction as sluggish.

Speaking with The ICIR, a resident of the Lugbe area of the FCT, George Awo, said he had lost faith in the government’s ability to deal with the situation in the city.


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“The FCT is being taken over by terrorists, and it is quite a sad thing to watch. It feels like the government cannot handle this anymore. It’s such a shame that they could even threaten to abduct the President. How then should we, the ordinary citizens, feel?” he asked.

For Chizoba Anam, who works in a hairdressing saloon within the city centre and resides in Kubwa, a satellite town, the rising spate of insecurity resulted from government’s lack of interest in the welfare of the citizens.

“This government does not care about us. With these threats of kidnaping and terrorism going around, there is still nothing to show that the government cares or has the situation under control. People are dying everyday because of this same issue, yet there is nothing to show that the government is trying to address it,” she said.

In recent times, terrorists and bandits have launched a series of attacks within the FCT, including a jailbreak at the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre on July 5.

More than 800 inmates escaped during the incident, including over 60 suspected terrorists remanded in the facility.

Though the police and other security agencies have recaptured some escapees, many others are yet to be apprehended.

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A terrorist group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility for the attack, which left at least five people dead.

Three weeks after the jailbreak, gunmen suspected to be bandits killed eight soldiers of the Presidential Guards Brigade, who were on a patrol in the Bwari Area Council of the FCT.

The soldiers had been drafted to the area following a distress call from the management of the Nigerian Law School, situated in the area council.

According to the management, terrorists had dropped a letter threatening an attack on the institution.

About 24 hours before the soldiers were killed, a viral video had shown terrorists threatening to abduct Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor of Kaduna State Nasir El-Rufai.

Victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, abducted in March, were also captured in the video being brutalised by their captors.

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The rising spate of insecurity had also led to the closure of a government-owned school in Kwali Area Council a day after suspected terrorists attacked surrounding communities.

A memo from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) dated July 25 had warned of terror attacks in five states, including the FCT.

The NSCDC said it had placed its operatives on alert following intelligence reports.

On July 28, a few days after the NSCDC memo surfaced, one soldier died during a gun battle between troops of the Nigerian Army and terrorists near Abuja.

The terrorists had attacked a checkpoint along the Abuja-Kaduna road near Zuma rock, in neighbouring Niger State.

Following the recent attacks, minority groups in the National Assembly had issued Buhari a six-week ultimatum, which would expire in September, to resolve insecurity in Nigeria or face impeachment.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina dismissed the impeachment threat, describing it as “flippant ultimatums,” but the fear of terrorists has persisted within the FCT and other states.

The way out

Although insecurity has persisted in Nigeria for over a decade, its spread from the Northern region to the FCT and the Southern states is a cause for concern, and security experts have made recommendations on ways to successfully combat the development.

In an interview with The ICIR, Senior Fellow on Sub-Saharan Africa, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change Bulama Bukarti noted that the Nigerian government should focus on transnational cooperation to win the battle against terrorism.

“You cannot fight Boko Haram or bandits in the North-West without transnational cooperation because geographical factors are one of the factors making them very effective. When Nigeria launches attacks on them, they easily slip into Niger or Cameroon or Chad and hide there.

“And the Nigerian military cannot, by international law, pursue them into another country’s territory. So they finish bombing Nigerian Territory and then come back to Abuja and clap for themselves and celebrate, only for them to slip back to the big side of the border, rebuild and continue to operate.”

He noted, however, that Nigeria did not contribute appropriately to the transnational arrangement with the Chadian government, which led to the withdrawal of Chadian troops.

Bukarti also pointed out that Nigeria’s challenges with international cooperation stemmed from the lack of synergy between local agencies.

“Nigeria’s house is not in order. Domestically, we are not cooperating; our security and law enforcement agencies are not cooperating well. Our governors are not working together.

“Your security and law enforcement agencies must have to work together first before you start talking about transnational cooperation.”

Noting that terrorism had been sustained by incompetence and corruption rather than a lack of political will, Bukarti suggested that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari should declare a state of emergency on insecurity in the country.

He also said the President should issue ultimatums to heads of security agencies in the country and replace them if they failed to deliver, adding that intelligence information gathered by agencies in the country are not well utilised.

According to Bukarti, security operatives in the country should be more offensive and take the fight to terrorists in their hideouts rather than wait till they have attacked.

“There is literally no group in Nigeria whose whereabouts we do not know. For every group in Nigeria, our intelligence agencies know their precise locations. But instead of us to pursue them, we are trying to protect Abuja or our schools, and all of this will not work because if you want to solve a problem, you have to go to the roots.

“We have got to deploy our military to take the fight to them. No country can succeed in this fight against such groups without taking the fight to them,” he said.

Noting that the defence sector has become an industry through which funds are being misappropriated, he noted that such embezzlement should be more strictly dealt with.

Bukarti called for committees to be set up which would hold heads of military parastatals accountable and collate data on terror activities to assess if progress is being made while reporting to the President and Nigerians weekly.

Although security agencies in the FCT have continued to reassure residents of safety, many are living in fear of terror attacks.

Author profile

Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via vopara@icirnigeria.org

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