Since the Department of State Security Service, DSS, came public with the arrest of 45 members of the dreaded terrorists group in Lagos, residents of the former capital of Nigeria and the economic nerve centre of the country are living in dread. Lagos, reputed for its large crowd, is seen as a soft target for any terror group.
State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, stated that much earlier in the week when he charged the security agencies to re-strategise and re-orientate their personnel to adopt and adapt to new ways to tackle armed robbery as well as be mentally and physically prepared to confront the faintest elements of insurgency in the state.
Though cleverly coughed, the message was clear: threat of suicide bombing is real and Lagos is obviously a soft target. The government knows and wants to without alarming the people warned the security operatives to be at red alert. Ambode wants security agencies to up their ante against likely troublesome elements to serve as deterrent to any or some who may harbour any thought of carrying out any nefarious act against Nigerians resident in Lagos.
Friday Magazine recalls that since 2009 when the terrorists group- Boko Haram, came on the scene, no fewer than 20,000 persons, mostly from the North east have been killed by the dreaded insurgent group.
At the peak of its scourge against the Nigerian state, Boko Haram captured between 15 to 27 local governments in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states where they held sway. The degraded, dishonoured and pulled down the Nigerian flag, the symbol of the country’s authority and sovereignty and declared Islamic sovereignty in those areas. The group dared the Federal Republic of Nigeria in January as it consistently undermined its sovereignty attacking public institutions with reckless abandon.
In August 2014, the group had declared an Islamic caliphate in Gworza, along the Cameroon border, overtook Bari and other places and then became emboldened to the extent of warning the Federal Government against venturing into its territory threatening serious repercussion should the Nigerian troops takes its stern warning with a pitch of salt. With persistence, Boko Haram raided several cities in the North in a bid to take control of more territory.
With renewed zeal the insurgent group advanced from three states into other areas not the least then usually volatile Kano, made in-roads in Bauchi, Gombe, Kogi and returned its attention to the nation’s capital. The ensuing panic across the states of the federation was palpable. In fact, the scheduled February 2015 general elections had to be extended by six weeks to allow the military regroup and confront them.
Procurement of needed machinery and armoury meant the hitherto fleeing Nigerian troops had enough guts to take on them force for force and weapon for weapon and were largely successful so much so that the insurgents began to flee helter skelter.
In matters then that the secret police disclosed plans by these hated elements who have made life unbearable to other citizens in the North east, North central and some places in the North west especially in the face of renewed attacks even when the army persistently claimed victory over them.
The police revealed that about 60 suspects were picked up from different locations in Lagos by the DSS who were acting on intelligence information that these hoodlums were planning to attack Dolphin Estate in Ikoyi last month,” said one source, according to AFP report said.
The AFP piece further said that some of the suspects were released after preliminary investigations, while 45 others were taken to a magistrate court. In all, about 60 suspected members of Boko Haram were said to have been hauled in by the DSS, while others were later cleared of any suspicious relationship with the group, those found somewhat connected with the group are currently cooling their heels in place(s) reserved for unpleasant elements.
“They were arraigned on holding charges. The DSS urged the court to remand them in prison pending further investigation and their eventual arraignment before a high court,” said a source.
Dolphin Estate is a gated community on the Ikoyi Island, which is home to wealthy Nigerians as well as expatriate workers, many of them in the oil and gas industry. Any attack on Lagos, which drives Nigeria’s economy and is seen by many foreign governments as a gateway to West Africa, would likely send shockwaves through.
Lagos State Information Commissioner Steve Ayorinde called for the public’s help in ensuring the safety of the megacity’s 20 million-strong population.
“Our appeal goes to every school, housing estates, religious houses, markets and shopping complexes, hotels and restaurants and sporting arenas to take issues of security and personal safety more seriously these days and to work with both the government and security agencies in promptly reporting any persons with suspicious activities or unusual gatherings that may compromise security,” he said.
“Care must also be taken in how domestic servants and house aides are also employed,” he added in a statement.
Boko Haram, which wants to carve out a hardline Islamic state in Nigeria’s northeast, has threatened to move south to spread its six-year-old insurgency in the country.
Friday Magazine recalls that Nyanya, which is located in the outskirt of Abuja has been hit twice within six months by suicide bombers and in both instances several innocent persons were killed and hundreds were injured. Some are still receiving treatment in the hospitals. As recent as October 2, three suicide bombers killed 18 in two satellite towns: Nyanya and Kuje. Before then, individual cases of suicide bombing are recurrent in Borno, in fact it is almost a daily occurrence.
Though Lagos was attacked last June, the cruel act is not common and both federal and state workers are working assiduously to ensure it does not re-occur in Lagos because of the untold ripple effect to the people, business community and the international partners whose businesses are mostly located in Lagos.
The fear is further heightened by Boko Haram propaganda. Note that in one of such propaganda videos, Shekau threatened to hit Nigeria’s oil-producing south. Security analysts said at the time the Lagos bombing was likely to have been carried out by a small group of Boko Haram sympathisers, with no direct link to the group’s high command.
Acting army spokesman, Col Rabe sought to assuage the fear insisting that the increased activities of the insurgent group is as result of heat they are receiving from the joint West African campaign against them. He boasted that since the insurgents were dislodged from the Sambisa Forest and their fortress destroyed, they are now scampering in desperation and often do resort to lunching attack on soft targets.
“We know what they are doing and where they are going,” he said. “They [insurgents] are weak. In fact, they are using soft targets to carry out attacks,” he added, referring to the large amount of civilians, mainly women and children, kidnapped by the terrorists and forced to carry out suicide bomb attacks.
In August, the Nigerian army announced a new task force– consisting of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin – was ready to step up the fight against the terrorists. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports that the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau had been replaced started circulating after Shekau failed to appear in the group’s propaganda videos, triggering speculation regarding his fate. That was however dismissed when a new video last month featured Shekau.
President Muhammadu Buhari had first mandated the then newly-appointed military chiefs in August that Boko Haram should be defeated by November. That date was shifted to December following a meeting with the President late October where the military high command issued what it called last warning to Boko Haram to surrender or face cruel reprisal sack.
That approach though has not calmed fray nerves even as some prominent persons including former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon rtd, have tongue lashed the government for being rather too cheeky. They think fighting insurgency is never an easy war since it is not conventional. They have cited US versus Taliban, Al Qeada, now ISIS, stressing that more time was needed to eradicate terrorism in the northeast region.
This though hardly assuaged fears as Lagosians wonder what fate would befall them should Boko Haram set sights in the city.

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