The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) department of development control yesterday dismantled security barriers mounted in front of LEADERSHIP premises. The barriers had been installed in the wake of terrorist attacks in Abuja. The FCT's action left many onlookers wondering if the FCTA is setting up the company for an attack.
The Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG in charge of zone 7, comprising FCT, Niger and Plateau states, AIG Suleiman Abba, who hosted participants of course 21 of the National Defence College on a study tour of police facilities at the police force headquarters in Abuja yesterday, however, stated that the security barriers mounted at the various security institutions and public buildings in the FCT, would remain as long as the security threats in the country persisted.
Officials of the FCT, accompanied by an 18-seater bus load of gun-wielding mobile police operatives, who claimed to be acting on the orders of the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, stormed LEADERSHIP headquarters at about 11am yesterday and ordered the private security guards at the entrance to dismantle the road blocks, insisting that the barriers were obstructing other road users. LEADERSHIP is located on a lane, a few blocks from a dead end.
Eyewitnesses said the development control officials turned a deaf ear when the company's private security guards explained that they needed to clear with the newspaper management before removing the road blocks. One of the mobile policemen assaulted a staff member who tried to mediate.
The security barriers were mounted last year following the suicide bomb attacks on the Abuja office of THISDAY Newspaper and two other newspaper offices in Kaduna. The Boko Haram sect, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, had openly warned that more media houses would be attacked in the coming months.
The sect specifically listed LEADERSHIP, Daily Trust, THISDAY, Punch and other newspapers as targets, accusing them of always promoting the federal government at the expense of the sect.
Following the threat of further attacks on media houses, the State Security Service (SSS) moved in to provide logistical support and actually installed barriers in front of a few media houses, which the service suspected could be in the direct line of attack.
In Abuja, such security road barriers are mounted in most public buildings, while part of the road leading to some public offices have been completely cordoned off. LEADERSHIP checks in Abuja yesterday showed that as at the time of going to press, similar security barriers could be found at the entrance to the office of the FCT minister, the police headquarters, Defence Headquarters, all police divisions, the zone 7 command and the FCT Police command. Offices of military and para-military agencies, including the defence headquarters, National War College and other formations, also have barrier.
The road to the presidential Aso Rock villa, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) headquarters, Radio House, State Security Service headquarters and the federal secretariat all adorn various forms of road barriers.
These barriers, especially those on major roads such as the road that passes in front of the NNPC headquarters have caused traffic gridlock in those areas and despite complaints from residents that the cordoned roads should be opened up for use, the blockades have remained.
It would be recalled that some incidents of suicide bomb attacks on some church buildings and the specific case of attack on Gen Mohammed Shuwa only took place shortly after the security checks and road barriers were dismantled.
Reports of bomb scare have continued to reverberate in the FCT with the most recent being a suspected parcel bomb addressed to the minister of finance, Prof Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and planted at the premises of a popular post office.
AIG Abba who fielded questions from journalists during his visit to the War College said that the barriers along many roads in the Federal Capital Territory were meant to secure the public, noting that the road blocks would remain until the security situation in the country improved.
Abba, reacting to the bomb scare, said the bomb scare recorded in Abuja indicated that the members of the public were now security-conscious, insisting that the police did not find any explosive in the package that was said to have been discovered at the Area 10 post office.
He said, "the cordons are meant to protect the public; we will continue to assess the situation".
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Abuja Council has described the action of the development control department as a move capable of jeopardising the security of media practitioners
Reacting to the incident, Secretary of the Council, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche, observed that security barriers were put in place in media houses in the wake of insecurity in the country, adding that if the need for them to be removed had arisen, there ought to have been proper consultation with the media house.
The council said the action of the development was capable of exposing its members to attacks stressing that the union would not condone such acts.
Minister Denies Ordering Removal
Meanwhile the FCT Minister has denied that he ordered the removal of the security barriers.
The minister who spoke through his special assistant on media, Nosike Ogbuenyi, said all departments of the FCT administration have their mandates which they carry out independently.