Port Harcourt/Abuja/Lagos — Warnings by the United States and the United Kingdom of possible terrorist attacks in Nigeria have set off a red alert across the country.
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, yesterday ordered Commissioners of Police in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe states to "ensure 24-hour patrol of mosques and churches, markets, schools, motor parks, hotels, recreation centres, settlements, villages, towns and cities."
The UK, in its travel advice, "still current" as at yesterday, warns its citizens: "The risk of terrorist attack increases around religious festivals, so will be elevated in the run up to and throughout the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Terrorist groups have threatened to conduct bombings and attacks in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) area during this period. You should avoid places where crowds gather, including religious gatherings and places of worship, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, transport hubs and camps for displaced people."
A statement signed by police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, in Abuja, yesterday, notes: "Consequent on recent Boko Haram attacks on soft targets in Adamawa and Borno States, it would be recalled that the Inspector General ordered all Commissioners of Police in charge of state commands and their supervising Assistant Inspectors General and personnel nationwide to be on red alert with effect from November 21, 2017, to nip in the bud and prevent spread of further attacks in the affected states and other states of the federation.
"Notwithstanding, with the recent warnings by U.S. and UK missions in Nigeria of possible attacks by Boko Haram insurgents on soft targets in the FCT, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe, the Inspector General has re-emphasised and reinforced his directive to all Commissioners of Police in charge of state commands and their supervising Assistant Inspectors General of Police and the entire personnel of the force to remain on red alert and beef up security throughout the country."
The police implored members of the public to go about their lawful businesses without apprehension or panic. He urged them to be "cautious, vigilant and more security conscious," adding: "They should report promptly any untoward or suspicious happening to the nearest police station or formation."
The U.S. notice warns: "(American) citizens should be vigilant at public gatherings and locations frequented by foreigners. Markets, hotels, restaurants, bars, and places of worship may become targets for terrorist attacks. Exercise extreme caution throughout the country due to the threat of indiscriminate violence."
It says: "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all but essential travel to Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, and Yobe States because the security situation in northeast Nigeria remains fluid and unpredictable."
It added: "Due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks, U.S. citizens should also avoid all but essential travel to Bayelsa, Delta, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara States."
Reacting to the travel advice, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Sunday had pointed out: "The terrorists, who have been massively degraded and put on the run, have been looking for soft targets to attack." He said the situation explained why "security agencies have continued to be on the alert."
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday claimed its fighter jets destroyed Boko Haram hideouts at Bogumeri in Borno, killing an unspecified number of insurgents.
"In furtherance of Operation Lafiya Dole, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on November 24, 2017 successfully neutralised a large gathering of Boko Haram terrorists in Bogumeri. Fighter aircraft were detailed to carry out interdiction on the target, in quick succession. The Alpha Jet aircraft attacked the target with bombs, killing the insurgents and setting some structures ablaze," said spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya in a statement in Abuja.
He added: "In a separate attack on November 28, 2017, NAF successfully neutralised another large gathering of Boko Haram terrorists in Gobara, 15km northwest of Gwoza. The strike resulted in the immediate destruction of the target building, killing all the terrorists inside it."
In another development, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, alleged that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a tool by government for underhand practices.
The squad has recently come under criticism, with some Nigerians accusing it of high-handedness and extra-judicial killings.
"SARS is being prepared for the rigging of elections in 2019. Time has come for people to resist these criminals in uniform because they cannot kill everyone. SARS has not helped in Rivers State. Rather, they perpetrate criminal activities. With the sustained activities of SARS, Nigeria is heading for disaster," Wike told the board of editors of Sun Publishing Limited at Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The FCT's security committee meanwhile ended its one-day emergency meeting yesterday, appealing to residents to be cautious and report suspicious persons to appropriate authorities.
The committee said the meeting became necessary following the warnings of imminent attack on the FCT.
FCT minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, assured residents of safety. Represented by permanent secretary, Mr. Chinyeaka Ohaa, he said the police and other security agencies have stepped up patrol at crime flashpoints and increased surveillance on public places.
He added that a ban on use of fireworks in the FCT was still in force.