Voice of America (Washington, DC)

30 March 2014

Nigeria Presidential Villa 'Not Under Attack'

Photo: Premium Times
Nigerian security officers.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan was unharmed following gun shots at the headquarters of the State Security Service (SSS), near the presidential villa Sunday in the capital, Abuja, according to Presidential Spokesman Reuben Abati.

Abati says the presidential villa was not under attack after rejecting reports of eye witness accounts suggesting Mr. Jonathan was whisked away following the gunshots. He says the gunshots were due to an attempted jailbreak at the SSS headquarters.

"It was an attempted jailbreak. Those arrested tried to make an attempt to escape, but the situation was immediately and effectively brought under control," said Abati. "We will want to reassure everyone that really there is no cause for alarm."

Some Nigerians expressed worry following the gunshots, since the SSS headquarters building is near the presidential villa.

"The president is safe and well, and there is no cause for alarm. There are some persons who are trying to put up negative information trying to suggest that the president was whisked away. The truth of the matter is that there was no attack on the presidential villa," said Abati.

"We take the support and concern that has been expressed with appreciation. President Jonathan is very grateful to Nigerians that when they perceive that there is any kind suspicion about his person and office, they come out to express support and concern."

Abati outlined the circumstances that led to the gunshots.

"When the security officials went to see the inmates, the [inmates] overpowered them and then all of this ensued. But all of this was brought under control. Nobody managed to escape, those who tried to escape were immediately re-arrested and the SSS officials took control of the situation," said Abati.

He said suspected Boko Haram detainees were allegedly behind the attempted jailbreak.

Abati denied witness' account suggesting security officials surrounded the entire area following the gunshots.

"These are just preventive efforts when there is that kind of situation, there is cooperation among the security agencies. Immediately the SSS had an issue, other security agencies felt obliged to move in and they moved in to secure the situation, and in a matter of minutes, everything was brought under control," said Abati.

"Anyone who wants to put a spin on the issue should just realize that we have a peculiar challenge with Boko Haram, because the people who were involved were Boko Haram detainees. What we expect is continued support from the Nigerian people and the support of the neighboring countries."

Abati says that the situation is under control after the detained prisoners were subdued by the security agents.

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