Fom Fred Itua, Molly Kilete and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
As Nigeria’s security challenge continues to worsen, particularly the spate of banditry and mass abduction of school children, residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja have said they are living in fear that the trend may soon berth on the shores of the nation’s capital.
Some residents who spoke to Daily Sun said the recent kidnappings in Niger State which shares boundary with Abuja and the statement by Nasarawa Governor, Abdullahi Sule, that bandits were regrouping in some forests in the state, meant the FCT stands a high risk of being infiltrated by bandits.
Residents said they are daily inundated with payment of ransoms to kidnappers and other forms of criminality, and that on the fringes of the nation’s capital, especially in Bwari Area Council, farmers are battling with herdsmen.
Determined to protect the FCT, sources told Daily Sun that security forces are battling to fence off any imminent attacks. He said that the Guards Brigade which is responsible for providing security for the President, his family, Very Important Persons (VIPs), FCT and its environs are working round the clock to keep bandits from gaining access into the city with dangerous weapons.
The source said the Army Headquarters Garrison is also assisting the Guards Brigade in this regard.
Mariam Gomshak, whose 11 year old daughter is in a boarding school in Bwari, Abuja, said she gets seriously frightened each time she hears of school children being kidnapped by bandits in neighbouring states.
“I am beginning to have sleepless night and also losing my mental sanity with daily news of attack on schools. I suggested that we withdraw her from the boarding school and enrol her in a day school where we can easily monitor her safety and security. Undoubtedly, security situation in this country is deteriorating each passing day. The increase attacks on schools have affected the interest of parents and children in education. I can imagine the long time effect of these attacks on education system particularly in northern Nigeria.”
Another parent, Olaoluwa Abosede, said she’s seriously worried about the growing interest of bandits on school children. She made reference to the recent attack on a primary school in Kaduna State where pupils and their teachers were kidnapped.
“Two of my children are in boarding school in Abuja here. Fear envelopes me each time I hear such horrific news of attack on schools. My husband and I have decided that we will withdraw our children from boarding schools and enrol them in a day school. This is because the experience of being tortured by kidnappers is better imagined. The case is worse with females who seem to be the target of these bandits. Females are often raped, maltreated and sometimes married out forcefully. It’s a trauma and experience that never leaves the students in their lifetime,” she said.
Investigation by Daily Sun revealed that the major gateways into Abuja are not properly manned by security agents as it used to be. For instance, the hitherto stop and search operation in Zuba and Abaji for incoming vehicles has been shalted.
Security patrol of towns and communities, especially satellite towns and boundary communities, have been discontinued. Instead, Neighbourhood Watch (vigilante groups) have taken over.
When contacted, the public relations officer in charge of the FCT Police Command, Mariam Yusuf, said the force has lived up to its responsibilities of providing security for residents and was even stepping up its game to be ahead of criminals.
A security source in the office of the FCT minister said the discontinuation of the security meeting between governors of neighbouring states and the FCT Administration, was partly responsible for the lack of synergy in coming up with a blueprint on how to tackle insecurity.
Until 2015, Governors of Nasarawa, Kaduna, Niger, Kogi, Benue, Plateau States and FCT Minister, met periodically to address security concerns in the region. The group was referred to as G-7.