From Fred Itua, Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Molly Kilete, Abuja
Few hours after the United States Department of State, granted authorised departure status to the Embassy of the United States, Abuja, residents of the Trademore Estate in Abuja, were on Tuesday night thrown into confusion as security forces reportedly raided the premises following a tip off on the presence of a terrorist.
The sting operation in the Phase 4 section of the estate had led to a complete shutdown of the area, as armed intelligence personnel and others suspected to be American special forces, swooped on a building where a middle aged man was picked up.
A resident confirmed the raid to Daily Sun. He said a message was dispatched to residents by the leadership of the estate to keep them abreast on the latest development.
He told Daily Sun that residents have been warned by security agents not to divulge further information to the media, warning that there would be repercussions and possible arrest.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command, has, however, dismissed the rumoured sting operation as fake.
Its spokesperson, Josephine Adeh, spoke on the command’s WhatsApp platform while reacting to questions from journalists.
However, the message to residents read: “It’s no longer news that there was a High Powered Sting Operation in Phase 3 this afternoon, culminating in a complete shutdown of our estate. A combination of American Army and our DSS team were responsible.
“We are unable to give full details of the reason(s) behind the operation, however, we can confirm that there was an allegation of terrorist activities.
“It is therefore desperately incumbent on every resident to remain vigilant, KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOURS and report any suspicious movement, person or activities to the Exco, Street Reps and/the Police.
“We will continue to do our utmost best to keep the estate safe for all of us. Everyone is responsible for security and there should no iota of abdication of this responsibility.
“Finally, let’s remain calm and continue to carry out our daily activities within the parameters of the Law. God bless and protect us all.”
According to a resident, the suspect who was picked up, has claimed innocence, alleging that he was set up by a governor in the North Central zone based on political differences.
“Yes, there was a raid. Boxes of grenades and other explosives were recovered. Two pistols were also allegedly recovered, from what we heard.
“Although, it was learnt that the suspect had plans to attack three churches in the area, I cannot immediately confirm that,” he stated.
The development at Trademore came a day after men dressed in Nigerian Navy woodland camouflage trousers and “Special Forces” shirt picked up one Shafiu, a native of Kogi State in the Lugbe area of Abuja.
Shafiu, a death row inmate at the Suleja Custodial Centre was, however, released in controversial circumstances just weeks to the 2019 general election.
He was picked up by a squad led by a certain Lt. Charles, just few days after declaring support for one of the opposition parties.
Meanwhile, he US authorisation which was granted on October 25, according to the Embassy of the United States, Abuja, permits the voluntary departure of family members and certain employees due to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks.
“The U.S. Embassy in Abuja continues to have limited ability to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Nigeria.
“The U.S. Consulate in Lagos continues to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Nigeria,” the emergency information for American citizens read.
The United States Government further directed its nationals to have a personal emergency action plan that does not rely on government assistance, and to take advantage of commercial transportation options, if they wish to depart Nigeria.
“Monitor local media for breaking news on the security situation. Be aware of your surroundings.
“Keep a low profile,” the United States instructed its citizens.
The Federal Government has stated that it cannot be stampeded by what any government instructs its citizens to do in response to the most recent travel advisory from the United State Department urging their citizens to reconsider traveling to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said despite the attempts by terrorists to embarrass government, security agencies have in the last few months taken firm control of the situation.
Asked if he was still standing by his previous assurances that citizens and non-citizens alike are safe in Nigeria, he replied: “Now, of course, this so-called travel advisory as far as we’re concerned, as a government we have in the last few months, taken a firm handle of security.
“What I said is that click baiting, which is, you find a story which is not verified and you immediately share it, always causes panic.
“But I want to reassure both citizens, non-Nigerians, Nigerians living in this country, that security agencies are on top of this matter.
“Of course, the terrorists would not stop to try to embarrass or intimidate government but what I’m saying is that this country is safe. And there’s no cause for alarm. No cause to panic. Unfortunately, because of that travel advisory on Sunday many schools were closed, shops were closed, travel plans were disrupted, we don’t need it. The security – our soldiers, our police are working round the clock to contain any terrorist attack. This is where we stand.”
Reminded that the travel advisory specifically mentioned vulnerable states that Americans must not travel to, Mohammed affirmed that it was not strange as even Nigeria Mission in the US can advise Nigerians on their movement in the country.
On whether government is worried by the perception the advisory can create with investors and steps that might be taken to prevent it, the minister advised citizens to desist from spreading unverified news.
He added: “The concrete step is that people should stop spreading unverified news that is what saying. You see, look how many school shootings happen in the US? how many senseless killings happened in the US?
“So have they been able to predict what’s going to happen next which school is going to be a victim next? Do Nigerians in the US also feel safe?
“I think you should stop demarketing your home country. Every country has its security challenges. We have ours and we are facing them. Which side are you, American side?”