As Terrorists Take Battle to the Seat of Power 


The killing of 10 officers and soldiers of the elite Guards Brigade in Abuja by terrorists, last week, signals a dangerous upscaling of insecurity and again puts President Muhammadu Buhari squarely on the spot, writes Louis Achi 

No fewer than two military officers – a captain and lieutenant and eight soldiers of the 7 Guards Battalion Abuja were last week killed in an ambush by terrorists in Bwari, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The fallen military personnel were on internal security operations at the Nigerian Law School, Bwari.

The audacious attack threw the entire Nigerian Army, Guards Brigade and the 7 Guards Battalion, which was their mother unit, into a mourning mood as officers, soldiers, and their bereaved families expressed shock at the incident which is coming weeks after the Kuje prison attack which freed over 60 detained terrorists.

Last Thursday, the federal government finally confirmed that elite soldiers guarding the president were ambushed and many of them killed. The National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), confirmed that soldiers of the Presidential Guards Brigade “were ambushed and decimated,” an affirmation of worsening insecurity in the country.

An embattled Monguno spoke after the National Security Council meeting summoned and presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. According to Monguno, “so far, we have recovered all the bodies of the two officers and eight soldiers and are making contact with their families, some of whom are not in Abuja.”

With residents of the FCT, Abuja on edge, the federal government on Monday officially shut the Federal Government College, Kwali, in the Kwali Area Council of the city. Subsequently, schools were ordered shut in the capital city as insecurity upscaled. Nasarawa State also ordered schools closed.

The bloody attack on the Guards Brigade, whose duty is to protect the president, comes on the heels of similar terrorist attack on a presidential convoy in Dutsinma, Katsina State. With curious operational synchronisation, on the same day, terrorists invaded the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja and freed hundreds of inmates, including Boko Haram suspects.

Forty-eight hours prior to the attack on elements of the Guards Brigade, terrorists gleefully released a video showing them manhandling persons kidnapped from the Abuja-Kaduna train attack incident. One of the terrorists in the video even threatened that his group would abduct President Buhari, Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El-Rufai and other prominent Nigerians.

Significantly, even as insecurity scales up, the presidency has repeatedly insisted that security has improved under Buhari’s administration. But in the mounting gloom, a flicker of light emerged when the Defence Headquarters announced that its operatives have killed 30 of the terrorists who killed 10 elite Guards Brigade officers and soldiers in Abuja.

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Bernard Onyeuko, made this known at the bi-weekly news conference on military operations on Thursday in Abuja. Onyeuko said the operation was conducted by troops of 7 Guards Battalion and 167 Special Force Battalion in conjunction with the air component of “Operation Whirl Punch” between Sunday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, apparently miffed at the manner the security situation in the country has turned out, the rubber-stamp Senators, across party lines, on Wednesday, gave President Buhari a six-week ultimatum to properly address worsening insecurity or face immediate impeachment.

But an attempt to raise the motion to that effect on the Senate floor was frustrated by the Senate President Ahmad Lawan. Led by Senate minority leader, Philip Aduda, the Senators staged a walkout from the chambers to address the newsmen.

But for all their efforts, the presidency dismissed the legislators move as bravado and a waste of time.

It could be recalled that in April 27, 2021, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State had raised the alarm that Boko Haram terrorists had hoisted its flag in Kaure Village, in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state. He alleged that Boko Haram elements were trying to use the area as their home just as they did in Sambisa.

The unsettled governor then warned that “Kaure is just a two-hour drive from Abuja. So, nobody is safe anymore, not even those in Abuja.” He further alerted the federal government that: “This is the time to act. All hands must be on deck, it is not a fight for Niger State alone”.

Before Governor Bello’s warning, an internal memo dated September 4, 2020, was issued by the Comptroller in charge of Enforcement at the Nigeria Customs Service, H.A. Sabo on behalf of the Deputy Comptroller General, Enforcement, Investigation, and Inspection, stating that Boko Haram had established camps in and around Abuja FCT. Clearly, these could not have been tourism camps.

A copy of the intelligence report read: “Further reports have it that they are planning to attack some select targets within the territory. They are reported to have set up their camps in several identified enclaves”

The Defence Headquarters also confirmed the plots by the terror group to unleash mayhem on Abuja. In a statement issued by the Defence Headquarters a few days after the NCS alert and signed by the then Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major-General John Enenche, the apex security body reassured residents of the federal capital territory and contiguous states of their safety.

It could be recalled that the devastating September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US, scripted by the baleful Al Qaeda terror group led by Osam Bin Laden represented an unimaginable strategic surprise, exposing American vulnerabilities. But there were intelligence warnings, met with very tepid responses. Intel warnings also preceded the Kuje jailbreak and Abuja-Kaduna train attack.

The Islamist Boko Haram group and ISWAP oppose the constitutional secularity of the Nigerian state, repudiate western education, democracy, and seek to fight for their version of justice. The operational base and activities of these bloodthirsty groups have been spreading from the Northern regions to the South.

The problem of risk communication in the context of imperfect intelligence regarding a prospective, rather than actual, terrorist attack presents its peculiar challenges. This is especially so when the difficulty of offering tactical warning without a prior strategic analysis and the tendency to focus on the vulnerabilities of a society rather than the intent of the terrorists is the dominant thread.

Any successful terror attacks targeting the FCT would send the wrong signals both to the international community and domestic constituents. The terror group’s successful attacks on the police headquarters and UN building, both in Abuja, during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration have not been forgotten. But those were suicide bombers who had no courage to face Nigeria’s superior military firepower. Today’s terrorists are audacious, daring and courageous to confront the Nigerian Army and threatened open assault on Buhari and el-Rufai.

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