Nothing puts greater timbre on the parlous state of security in the country than the denudation of the virtual hedges and moats around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and the disarray of the phalanx of boots in the city. Abuja was once assumed to be impregnable and residents lived with a false sense of security. But the terrorist blitzes in the national’s capital in 2013 and 2014 jolted many out of the reverie.
With the dawning of the Buhari administration, the bombing in the city petered out. The security forces also appeared to have nicked the insecurity in the north-east to subsidence at the time. I recall that in 2016, Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, in a fit of showmanship presented a flag reportedly retrieved from the last frontier of the insurgents to President Muhammadu Buhari. But a few months after the “big show”, the insurgency metastasised. What really happened?
As a matter of fact, the FCT enjoyed a bit of calm from terrorism but with flickers of other crimes like armed robbery, one-chance operations, rape and car-jacking. However, as the Buhari administration lost its compass by sleight of abominable incompetence, the entire security bearing of the city and the country caved in – from Borno, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara to Niger, Kogi, and Nasarawa bandits expropriated pieces of earth.
While some of us in Abuja had looked on the devastation of insurgency and banditry in other parts of the country from a ‘’safe’’ distance and with a smirk of privilege, “the doom” comes right at our doors. Really, the Buhari administration has failed spectacularly to secure Nigerians everywhere and anywhere. The government has also failed to secure the very corners from where it sits to preside over the country. What an extravagant failure!
Abuja is home to the headquarters of the DSS, the police, the army, the air force, the navy, the NIA, the DIA, and other security and paramilitary agencies. But right under the lenses of this octopus of agencies, bandits are attacking communities within the territory and on the fringes of the city. What a phenomenal shame! If they cannot secure their base and the areas around it with diligence, can they secure anywhere else in the country?
The DSS and the police, in particular, appear to be very dutiful in combating civil protests and in arresting dissenters. This is while the nation is taken up in galling insecurity. The expertise of these agencies is demonstrable on the civilian population, not on those who have picked up arms against the state.
Just a few days ago, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) issued an anticipatory warning to its officers, saying Boko Haram insurgents had set up hotbeds in Abuja and that they were oiling their cannons to launch attacks on five locations across the nation’s capital.
In an internal memo, H.A. Sabo, comptroller of enforcement at the customs headquarters, asked officers to be on the alert. He spelt out the locations in Abuja, Kogi and Nasarawa where the nurseries of these terrorists are bubbling.
“Information reaching the comptroller-general of customs (CGC) reveals the existence of Boko Haram terrorist (BHTs) camps in and around the Federal Capital Territory,” the memo read.
“Further reports have it that they are planning to attack some selected targets within the territory. They are reported to have set up their camps in the following identified enclaves: Kunyam Bush along airport road, off DIA Staff Quarters – Abuja; Robochi/Gwagwalada forest; Kwaku forest, Kuje, Abuja; Unaisha forest in Toto local government of Nasarawa state and Gegu forest, close to Idu town in Kogi State.
“Consequently, you are to be at alert and security conscious of your environment at all times.’’
What is most disconcerting in the memo is the tone of helplessness by the customs – “consequently, you are to be at alert and security conscious of your environment at all times”. What could be more dispiriting? If an agency in the security network is gripped by trepidation, then it is a serious cause for alarm. We should all be worried.
On Thursday, bandits pushing violence in the Gwagwalada axis of the FCT struck at Tunga Maje, a suburb of Abuja, reportedly kidnapping 20 people after a vehemence of brutality on the community. The community has become a select victim of the invaders who attacked the area some weeks ago. What is telling about the recent attack is that it happened just days after the customs’ memo was reported. There is no reprieve from torment for the residents of Tunga Maje who have to endure intolerable trauma. The government has failed them just as it has failed other Nigerians in states under the reign of bandits and insurgents.
Also, there have been coordinated attacks by bandits in other parts of the FCT – in Kuje where a traditional ruler was kidnapped and in Pegi where nine people including a 12-year-old were abducted. And with every successful onslaught, these gunmen are revivified and excited to inch into the city centre. There have been three reported attacks on a road in Life Camp so far.
Insecurity anywhere should concern us all. First, the security crisis was localised in Borno, then it mushroomed in Yobe, Bauchi and Adamawa; it took the form of banditry in the north-west, and now it is metastasising in the north-central — with Abuja as a trophy target. We must not discount insecurity anywhere. We are all potential victims.
One thing stands out: The Buhari administration has failed on security in all axes – even in its house!
––Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist