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Terror alert

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Editorial

The information that Abuja may join the list of cities under Boko Haram siege should receive more serious attention.

A country’s capital city is meant to be a unique symbol of statehood and unity. The Nigerian Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is no less, perhaps even more so. The Justice Akinola Aguda Committee that recommended it saw it as central and capable of being a unifying factor.

But the city is now under the threat if an alert from the Nigeria Customs Service that the deadly terrorist Boko Haram sect is about to unleash mayhem on the city is to be believed. The service had sent an internal circular to its personnel that the intelligence arm had unearthed the existence of the terror group’s camps in forests around the federal apital. Apparently to avoid detection by the military, the camps are said to be located in forests in Kuje, Gwagwalada in Abuja, Toto in Nasarawa, and others in Kogi state.

This is a danger signal.

Although the Defence Headquarters sought to allay all fears by pointing out that the armed forces were on top of the situation, it has, as expected raised many eye brows. Ever before terror strikes, the threat has already gripped the people who remember how Abuja was under siege in the past, as dare-devil bombers struck at the United Nations Headquarters in the city and the Police Headquarters, with the then Inspector-General of Police missing death by the whiskers. By that, it sought to send a message to the international community that the country had fully become one of the terror-gripped nations unsafe for investments or tourism.

We hope that the military’s assurance is not an illusion one to lull the residents to false confidence. We are used to the government and the forces telling the people they are on top of every security situation, but end up merely leaving them open to avoidable attacks. This period is too sensitive for such false assurances. The country has been going through a lot of recent and cannot afford to add worries over securing their capital to the list. The money that has been voted for security, especially in the North East, has been so huge that laying Abuja bare would raise questions over how the trillions have been actually expended. If there is anything that could easily add a country to the list of failed nations, it is insecurity, especially when terrorists seize the country by the jugular. Nigeria cannot afford this now.

We hope the Federal Government is not leaving the matter to the military and the police only. It ought to be seen as top priority that should engage the attention of the President, the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly. The government should be concerned that the intelligence came through the Customs Service, not the intelligence arms of the armed forces, Department of State Services  and the police. And then, the service simply sent a circular to the personnel to watch out for their safety. Such information should have been passed to the relevant departments for action.

While we appreciate that the customs service has a duty to protect its personnel, the security of state is paramount and can only be guaranteed when all the agencies work in concert to stave off attacks. It should be noted that, in an imperiled state, customs cannot be an island to itself and nothing it does could save its men from attacks and the consequences thereof.

Henceforth, the forces should be alert nationwide. There had earlier been reports that cells of the terror group already exist in Lagos, the commercial capital, and neighbouring Ogun State. This should be thoroughly investigated and appropriate actions taken without delay.

The involvement of the Islamic State of West Africa and other terror groups in the Maghrib is enough to alert the nation to the ever present danger in and around Nigeria. The time to take action is now.

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