Abuja — The Nigerian government has slapped a massive security cordon on Abuja in response to a deadly car bomb Thursday, ordering the closure of all public schools and offices from Wednesday when the capital will be hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The economic meeting is scheduled to hold from Wednesday to Friday, and will be attended by world leaders and business executives around the world.
"This is to inform the general public that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, has approved, as part of arrangements for the successful hosting of the World Economic Forum Africa, that all Government Offices and Schools in the Federal Capital Territory, except those on essential services, are to be closed from Wednesday, 7th to Friday, 9th May, 2014. Private Organisations with large number of staff may also wish to close down," Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, said in a statement Friday.
The government said the measure is to ease the flow of traffic within the city and enable those attending the forum carry out their assigned roles.
The decision was the government's first response since a car bomb exploded in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, late Thursday evening, killing at least 19 people and injuring dozens more. It was the second of such attacks in three weeks in Abuja. An earlier one on April 14 killed at least 75 people.
As security fears grew in the capital city after the attacks, organizers of the economic forum also scrambled to reassure their guests of their safety, promising an expansive security operation to start immediately Friday, instead of Monday as initially planned.
Invitees to the event were sent updates of the new plan on Friday with assurances that Abuja remained "calm" despite Thursday's attack.
In details seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the organizers said while the Nigerian government implements general security plans, they will deploy a "high security operation" from Friday, three days earlier than scheduled.
Measures scheduled by the organizers will see security zone perimeters expanded at key locations and additional security at venues, Abuja airport and key roads, as well as on dedicated shuttle services to and from the airport and between venues.
"... these highly visible additional measures are purely precautionary and ... we retain full confidence in both our security plan and the capability of the Nigerian security services to implement it," the notice from Elsie Kanza, World Economic Forum's head of Africa, said.
It is not clear whether the organizers are counting on Nigerian security personnel for their own security plans, or on external assistance.
The yearly World Economic Forum will focus on Africa, and will hold in Nigeria for the first time. Previous sessions held in South Africa.
That schedule had been in place long before Nigeria leapfrogged South Africa early April as Africa's biggest economy.
But a spate of violence by extremist Boko Haram, drawing near Abuja in the last weeks, has raised security concerns about the meeting.
The group has not yet claimed responsibility for the Thursday night attack, but has admitted being responsible for the first blast at Nyanya's bus station on April 14, in which at least 75 people died and more than 100 injured.
That incident was "minor" compared to what is to come, the group's leader Abubakar Shekau had boasted in a video.
Thursday's attack occurred about 200 meters away from the scene of the first. Witnesses say an apparently bomb-rigged car exploded at the busy site shortly after its driver exited the vehicle and walked away.