Following the terrorist attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, security has been beefed up at shopping malls in Lagos, Abuja and Kano.
LEADERSHIP gathered that most of the shopping mall operators and customers are afraid that some terrorist group might try such an attack on the many malls that dot the big cities of Nigeria.
Al Shabab terrorist group based in Somalia has claimed responsibility for the Kenya attack, which has claimed 68 lives with hundreds injured. The group is fighting for an Islamic state in Somalia, and Kenya has led a multinational force to stop it.
At some shopping malls in Abuja, LEADERSHIP saw more security personnel than usual as well as increased surveillance of the surroundings.
Shopping malls like Shoprite at Apo District, Ceddi Plaza and Grand Square, both at the Central Business Area, Abuja, have increased security personnel placed at strategic places to scrutinize prospective customers.
At the popular Shoprite located at Apo District, our correspondent saw over 10 heavily armed soldiers who were at the entrance of the shopping mall searching vehicles and women carrying bags while some policemen also stood around.
The branch manager of Shoprite in Apo District, Mr Samuel Asegiemhe, declined to speak to LEADERSHIP.
"I am not permitted to speak with the press. There is actually nothing I have to say about what the management of the mall is doing to avert such thing because I am not in position to speak. You can speak to our head office in Lagos," he said.
Some customers at the mall told LEADERSHIP that they were happy with the increased security there.
A customer at Shoprite, Mr Martins John, expressed satisfaction at the presence of armed security personnel at the shopping mall which, he said, is a good development following the recent happening in Nairobi, Kenya.
He told LEADERSHIP, "Nobody knows what this world is turning to, because you do not know where you will go to and be safe. With the presence of these armed military men, you feel safe when you are inside the mall. But the question is how long they will keep these military men here to avert any attack. Although we do not pray for such a thing to happen, we are scared. Because, the truth now is that if such dastardly act can take place in Kenya that is close to us, what can we say about Nigeria where the security situation has been questionable for such a long time? We are appealing to operators and managers of plazas and shopping malls not to relent in ensuring proper security because nobody can predict anything."
Another customer at Ceddi Plaza, Ms Chidimma Igwe, said, "When I was asked to stop by a security personnel so that they could check my bag, I was worried because my bag had never been checked before I entered the plaza. I was wondering the reason for such tight security, until I heard about what happened in Kenya.
"It is unfortunate. I like coming here to shop and sometimes relax to enjoy myself. When I came and saw these security guys, I felt safe and I pray they should continue with this security search. I hope this kind of thing does not happen in Nigeria. Our security agencies should please stay at alert because everybody is very scared presently."
Also at the NEXT shopping mall in Kado, LEADERSHIP gathered that the management of the mall had adequate security plans on the ground to detect suspicious persons around the large shopping area.
When contacted, the general manager declined to speak much but acknowledged that there was enough security apparatus to provide sufficient security for the mall.
However, LEADERSHIP observed that despite the presence of police and internal security operatives at the entrance to the mall and the car park, people still moved into the place without scrutiny and cars were not checked.
When contacted, the force public relations officer, CSP Frank Mba, said that the Nigerian police were not unprepared for such terrorist attack if it occurred here.
Mba said, "I believe that other security agencies and the Nigeria Police Force are watching the events unfolding in Kenya. Looking at it both from operational, strategic and public sector perspectives, we will not want a similar thing to happen here, so we will rather take proactive measures. But however the measures, the details and extent of these measures, we will not disclose. We will do everything -- working with other security agencies in the country and ensure that such incident does not happen here."
LEADERSHIP checks showed increased security presence at some of the shopping malls in Lagos and Abuja. In Lagos State, our correspondent visited Ikeja Mall located along Obafemi Awolowo Way and saw increased police presence there. Also, at one of the Shoprite Shopping malls in Ikeja, the number of armed police officers normally deployed increased significantly.
Our correspondent gathered from a police officer attached to the Lagos State Task Force near the mall that the state government has instructed the police formations in the state to beef up security around the mall.
He said, "The number of people that come to this place is much and Nigeria is now one of the countries known for violent attacks. This place is too close to the secretariat' the governor and his deputy offices are nearby. In fact, this is the seat of power in Lagos State.
"It takes less than a minute for disaster to happen. So the best thing is to always be prepared to combat terrorism. Those people that went to the Westgate Mall in Kenya never knew terrorists would strike."
Although the management of the mall refused to disclose measures taken so far by it to secure lives of the people that daily throng the mall, some of the customers urged the management to take proactive steps.
Andrew Efehi, who came to shop at the mall, lamented that the country was still using old methods of security surveillance, saying developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom succeeded in keeping terrorism out of their countries through routine undercover and "sting" operations exposing terror plans before they are executed.
"This idea of keeping police officers at checkpoints no longer help in combating terrorist attacks. These people have gone far in their evil way of attacking innocent people," he added.
All efforts by our correspondent to speak with the police public relations officer, Lagos Command, Ngozi Braide, met a brick wall, as two of her mobile phones were switched off.
Speaking on the issue, the president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Goodie M. Ibru, urged his members to be on the alert and take preventive measures, saying "we should not wait for the enemy to attack us". He said that the Kenya attack was a wakeup call for the government and citizens of Nigeria to be vigilant and strengthen the security of the country.
Also, the director-general of Lagos, Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Muda Yusuf, called on Nigerians to be vigilant, stressing that the federal government should strengthen the security of the country. He added that the citizens have a role to play in this regard by giving timely quality information to the security agencies.