- Category: National Security
- Published on Tuesday, 05 July 2011 02:11
- Written by Admin
- Hits: 1448
Life came to a standstill in Abuja for the better part of Monday as soldiers barricaded major roads in the city during an unprecedented manhunt for the members of the fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
The soldiers conducted body searches on motorists and passengers, looking for explosives and weapons. They also scoured the city for the members of the sect. The ensuing traffic jam made most workers, who had left their homes at dawn, to get to their offices after 12noon.
Thousands of stranded commuters also had to trek several kilometers to their destinations after waiting for several hours inside vehicles that were stuck in the traffic. Worst hit by the traffic situation were residents of Nyanya, Karu, Mararaba and Keffi in the outskirts of the nation’s capital.
“When I came out around 5am, I couldn’t get a bus, so I trekked to Abacha Barracks from MOPOL Junction. I joined a bus and we spent over five hours in the traffic jam. The whole road was totally blocked and many people simply trekked,” an Abuja resident, simply identified as Linus, told our correspondent.
Staff of federal ministries who were caught in the traffic jam got to their offices, simply signed the attendance registers and departed on their home-bound journeys.
It was gathered that most federal offices and agencies did not record full staff attendance on account of the development.
Emeka Ekong, who works with a federal agency, said he had left his home around 4am but only got to his office in the Central Area at 11am.
“I hope the security agencies would devise a more sensible way of tracking down Boko Haram members; blocking the highway and subjecting people to this horrendous experience is not the best.”
Assistant Director, Public Affairs, the State Security Service, Marilyn Ogar, implored Abuja residents to bear with the security agencies, saying the inconvenience they suffered was a necessary sacrifice to ensure “peace and (our) collective security.”
Ogar said, “It is appropriate at this point to apologise to Abuja residents and (residents of) its adjoining communities for the temporary inconveniences they are experiencing.
“We must all continue to remain conscious of the fact that security is everybody’s business and the effect of such routine security procedures should be considered as part of the little sacrifices we all have to pay for our collective safety.”
Monday’s security action came on the heels of the deployment of an Armoured Personnel Carrier, and a large number of soldiers and riot policemen in the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC Towers, in the Central Business District of Abuja on Sunday. Sources had told THE PUNCH that the deployment was to foil an attack on the building by members of the Boko Haram sect.
Security sources said an intelligence report had indicated that the NNPC Towers was the next target of the sect.
On Sunday, suspected members of the sect had bombed a drinking joint in Maiduguri, Borno State, killing at least 25 people.
Boko Haram, founded in 2002, commenced its bombing campaign after it was routed by security forces and its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, killed in 2010.
A lone bomber suspected to be a member of the group attacked the Nigeria Police Headquarters, Louis Edet House, in the Federal Capital City, Boko Haram on June 16 killing several people.
The attack shook the nation and attracted condemnation from Nigerians from all walks of life.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, at the Second Quarter Chief of Army Staff Conference in Abuja a week ago, had vowed that the Army would crush Boko Haram in line with a directive from the president.
The Senate, at the commencement of its seventh session on June 28, had also raged at the worsening state of security in the country and resolved to summon the Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Defence Staff and the Director-General of the State Security Service to provide explanations.
The Senators’ anger coincided with the condemnation of the acts of violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect by the European Union and United States embassy.
“Nigeria is hanging on a precipice and the political leadership must at this point rise up to terminate this orgy of violence or the political class will be terminated by the violence,” a Senator from Osun State, Senator Sola Adeyeye, had said in his contribution to the debate on the floor of the Senate. The Senate is yet to come out with its findings on the matter.
At a news conference on Monday, Ogar said that the SSS had arrested 100 cell commanders and other members of dissident groups in Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe and Adamawa states.
“For strategic operational reasons, details of those arrested will remain classified as they are still undergoing the process of de-radicalisation, perception management and to win their confidence back to the society,’’ she said.
However, the Nigeria Labour Congress has described as unnecessary the inconvenience that Abuja residents suffered during the manhunt.
It said that while it appreciated the fact that the military checks were to reduce the state of insecurity in the FCT, potential troublemakers who saw the traffic jam caused by the soldiers would have been alerted to take an alternative route.
In a statement in Abuja on Monday, the NLC Acting Secretary General, Owei Lakemfa, said it was unacceptable for the Army to create a traffic gridlock in a busy axis like the Karu/Nyanya.
It flayed the corporal punishment meted to commercial motorcycle riders in the area by soldiers, describing it as uncivilised and unacceptable in a country that had laws and a functional government.
“It is unacceptable for the Army to create such a traffic gridlock in an axis like Karu/Nyanya which made hapless commuters to be stuck in traffic for hours. The situation was so bad that many workers and other commuters had to trek for kilometers, making the crowd to look like a forced exodus of Nigerians walking to safety,” the statement added. (Punch)