Monday, September 2, 2013

Checkmating Boko Haram fugitives

Scene of a Boko Haram bombing at St. Theresa Catholic
Church, Madalla
Running away from the fusillade of bullets in the North-East zone of the country, some Boko Haram insurgents have relocated to Lagos State. They seem to have embedded themselves in some areas of the state and in adjoining Ogun State. Early last month, 42 of these fugitives were paraded by the General Officer Commanding 81 Division of the Nigeria Army, Lagos, Maj.-Gen. Obi Umahi. Their presence is perilous, given the fact that Lagos is the economic nexus of the country.

In May, a state of emergency was imposed on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states by President Goodluck Jonathan. A military operation that came in its wake, has scuppered the evil reign of the fundamentalist sect in the affected states, forcing them to such hideouts as Aviation Quarters, Mafoluku in Oshodi; Ketu/Mile 2 Motor Park; Orile Trailer Park; Lekki new extension and Bar Beach – all in Lagos. In Ogun State, Ibafo Trailer Park and Ileke New Garage are their enclaves. However, many points at these rendezvous of evil were raided recently following intelligence reports and the hoodlums were rounded up by the military.

These arrests were not the first. On March 14, security operatives had nabbed 14 suspected members of the sect at Ijora Badia. In another incident, security operatives stormed a newly-rented apartment owned by a Chadian member of the group, and found Improvised Explosive Devices neatly tucked in food coolers that were hidden in the ceiling. Confessions from them evinced plan to attack the United States of America and Israeli interests, in addition to 16 designated targets in simultaneous bombing operations. Continually, these merchants of death want to exploit the fact that the South-West has a sizeable moderate Muslim population, which they can easily blend with, to unleash their terror.
Some of the fresh 42 suspects have confessed their murderous deeds. Besides, escaping the hot North-East zone, their mission in Lagos and Ogun states, no doubt, could be to accomplish a long-standing evil design. The GOC Umahi alluded to this when he explained, “The Boko Haram influx was due to their plan to unleash terror in some parts of South-West.”  One of the suspects, Ibrahim Abubakar Bori, whom the Army interrogated, said, “We were involved in several major operations in Maiduguri, where several security agents and civilians were killed. I and some others here were recruited by Mallam Hassan Ibrahim.”

Similarly, one Giraima Umaru was arrested by the Ogun State Police Command in July at Isheri-Kara cattle market in Ifo Local Government Area. The Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, explained that a tip-off led to his arrest and that he confessed to have “participated in the killing of many innocent Nigerians before the declaration of the state of emergency in the three states, including Borno.” Umaru hails from Bulunkutu Kasuwa in Maiduguri.

These ominous developments are enough warning to residents of Lagos and Ogun states that they are already sitting on a gunpowder keg. They should not learn in finality or wake up to this reality when their landscapes have been painted with the blood of the innocent from senseless bombings. As the execution of their malevolence in Abuja, Jos, Damaturu, Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Suleja and other cities illustrates, relaxation spots, markets, bus stops, churches, schools, police and military installations and now mosques,  are easily targeted. Their targets elsewhere cannot be different. No fewer than 5,000 innocent lives have been lost since 2009 when this terror campaign began.

But to halt the spread of this evil to the South-West or other southern parts of the country demands citizens’ total pact with security consciousness. Urban dwellers need to watch over strange individuals in their midst; landlords should carry out security checks on prospective tenants before renting or leasing out their apartments, while  residents associations have become existential necessities.  In fact, nothing complements the efforts of security agencies than an effective communal response to a common nemesis like insecurity.

Judging that the distance between the North-East and South-West zones is more than 1000 kilometres, it beggars belief how these fleeing insurgents escaped the security network spread across six states without being nabbed until they reached Lagos. Since there have been reports of cache of arms and ammunition found in empty petrol tankers, all the way from the north to the south, it shows that the evil game transcends the preoccupation of the youth. Petrol haulage is a business undertaken by moguls. These mandarins need to be closely monitored by security agencies.

Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, whose domain has become a notorious park-cum-junk yards of sorts for articulated vehicles, needs to take proactive steps. Indeed, the prevailing picture is frightening; eternal vigilance of all security agencies and the residents has, therefore, become imperative.

The above article is an editorial by Punch newspaper, Nigeria
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