President Goodluck Jonathan has assured Nigerians that no criminal group in whatever name or guise, particularly Bako Haram or any other international terrorist organisation, can cause the disintegration of the country.
Jonathan stated this Sunday while receiving the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) delegation, led by the minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, who paid him an Easter homage at the presidential villa.
As a sign of the government’s determination to ward off any security threat, security has been beefed up in and around the FCT, following the threat made by Abubakar Shekau, leader of the terrorist sect.
Shekau, had in a video released Saturday, claimed responsibility for the Nyanya bomb blast and said he and his band of terrorists were in Abuja preparing to launch more devastating attacks on the city.
While addressing the FCT delegation, Jonathan acknowledged that the nation was going through some challenges, but said there is hope “as Nigeria will overcome every one of them”.
“However, I want to assure you that no criminal or terrorist group can disintegrate Nigeria. Yes, as a nation, we are having tribulations but surely, Nigeria has hope.
“Even those who think that the country will be divided into North, South, East and West, no way. Boko Haram will not disintegrate this country,” he said.
Jonathan recalled that when the Nyanya bus station was attacked, Nigerians from all religions and tribes participated in the evacuation of the victims even before security agents arrived the scene and people from all walks of life donated blood and even exceeded the requirement of the hospitals.
According to him, “It goes to prove that no criminal group funded within or outside this country can separate us. No criminal group will disintegrate this country. Boko Haram will come and go.”
The president also promised that his administration would do everything possible to continue to bring development to every section of the country.
He however called for closer collaboration from all the tiers of government to collectively work in order to solve every minute problem in the country.
The president noted that Easter was the most important ceremony in Christendom, stressing that without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “our faith would have been in vain”.
“His resurrection gives us hope. You will have tribulations but there is hope for you. Today, we are marking that resurrection,” he emphasised.
Mohammed, who led the delegation comprising both Christian and Muslim residents in Abuja, presented an Easter card to the president.
He informed the president that "Christian and Muslim residents in the FCT, in keeping with tradition, have come together to pay you this momentous Easter homage as a mark of respect."
He prayed that the spirit of this holy season brings the president and his family hope and unhindered opportunities of fulfilling his dreams of transforming the entire country.
Members of the FCT delegation included the senator representing the FCT, Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda; Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT, Senator Smart Adeyemi; Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki; FCT Permanent Secretary, Mr. John O. Chukwu; Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Israel Akanji; and the Chief Imam, National Mosque, Abuja, Sheikh Musa Mohammed.
The Easter homage notwithstanding, the threat made by Shekau to attack Abuja has forced security agencies into overdrive as security was beefed up yesterday in and around the FCT, with stringent stop-and-search checkpoints set up across major routes in the city.
The threat, according to security sources, prompted the security agencies to raise the security alert to the highest level in the FCT to ward off any attack on Abuja.
However, tightened security, investigations showed, grounded movements and caused horrific traffic jams over the weekend, especially for many residents who commuted along the Nyanya-Maraba-Masaka axis and the Airport Road.
The situation prevented many worshippers from attending Easter services yesterday, with many blaming the roadblocks on the security measures adopted by the security agencies, in reaction to the Boko Haram leader's threat.
In response to THISDAY enquiries, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major-General Chris Olukolade, said the measures were nothing new and had nothing to do with Shekau's threat.
Olukolade also pleaded with FCT residents to show understanding regarding the latest security arrangements, which many described as “crude and draconian”.
“This arrangement has been in place before the so-called threat and it is nothing new. However, it is for the good of the members of the public and we plead with them to bear and cooperate with us,” he said.
However, most residents who spoke with THISDAY, called for a change of tactics in the whole approach, and expressed frustration over the new measures, with some describing them as “dangerous and causing suffering”.
“This is simply not the best solution because you should not expect the terrorists to still be around or follow the same routes when they have their informants all over the places.
“They are simply punishing people for nothing and I bet you, they have not found anything. Where are their bomb detector equipment other than the road blocks?” asked one angry resident who could not make her way to the Easter Sunday service in the Abuja metropolis.
“The arrangement in itself constitutes a danger, because what if these men (God forbid) detonate a bomb in such a massive gridlock. It could be catastrophic.
“If we are experiencing this hardship during the weekend and holiday when most people have travelled, then can you imagine what the situation will be from Tuesday when work resumes,” Mrs Chidinma Orji, an Abuja resident, said.
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the security agencies are not treating the Boko Haram threat with levity, as some arrests have been made of their suspected members.
A security source disclosed that some suspected terrorists were arrested when they were trying to survey some strategic locations in Abuja, and the security apparatus is on very high alert.
“The threat is real and this is what people should understand,” the security source said.
Also, the police spokesperson, Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), told THISDAY that the police and other security agencies were working together to fight the insurgency both in Abuja and other states of the federation.
Mba said with the new resolve of the security agencies nationwide, terrorists were in for a worse time.
“I’m sure you are aware of the security apparatus we have put in place to fight terrorism. The police are not doing it alone, we are working with other sister security agencies to ensure that the Boko Haram problem is fought to the last,” he added.
Asked if there were other security measures in place in Abuja to fish out Shekau and his men in the city, Mba said with the security apparatus put in place, it would be very difficult for terrorists to operate anywhere in the country again.
As part of efforts to ensure that people enjoy their Easter celebrations, the police have provided tight security at motor parks, airports, seaports, border points, recreation parks, major markets, shopping malls to deter attacks.
These special operations, according to Mba, also included extensive counter-terrorism sweeps, detailed overt and covert surveillance operations, intelligence-driven raids, arms mop-up exercise, and special stop-and-search exercise, amongst others.
He said: “In ensuring the successful execution of this special operation, the Inspector General of Police (IG) has ordered all zonal Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police to ensure the effective deployment of men and resources throughout the period.