SUNDAY PUNCH authoritatively reports that not less than 15 different bomb attacks have been nipped in the bud since Christmas Day.
The explosives to disrupt public peace in the New Year which were planted in strategic spots in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi and Maiduguri, were discovered by the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit of the Nigerian Police.
These cities have witnessed devastating attacks that left many dead while millions of property were destroyed.
It was learnt that following security reports that the terrorist sect was planning Christmas and New Year attacks, security teams, made up of personnel from various security agencies were posted to notorious areas.
On Friday, three more improvised explosive devices were defused in Maiduguri.
Confirming that security agencies are aware of the planned attacks, the Public Relations Officer of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit, Mr. Gbolahan Moronfolu, told our correspondent that more explosives had been defused during the Yuletide.
He said, “We have been defusing the bombs on a daily basis. Even though we have been doing this since the beginning of this year, we have doubled our surveillance in the past few days and we promise Nigerians that we are doing our best to ensure a very peaceful New Year. The Commissioner of Police in charge of the unit will give you precise details.”
The CP in charge of the Anti-Bomb Command, Mr. Folusho Adebanjo, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, had ordered that no bomb explosion must take place during or before the New Year.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent, Adebanjo said, “That is the order we have. The IG said he must not hear that any bomb hurt or affected any Nigerian during the Yuletide. And because we are aware of these plans (bomb attacks), we are working extra hard.
“I can tell you that we have detonated more explosives in Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Maiduguri and Abuja these past days. We are going to foil more before the New Year and even after. We are committed to ensuring that no lives are lost. I am in touch with all the state commands every hour to achieve this.”
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the IG also warned all state commands that there would be disciplinary measures if any state command was found wanting in ensuring that their states were well monitored.
This directive has put all commissioners of police on their toes as investigations showed that most of them have been holding daily meetings with their Divisional Police Officers while also addressing press conferences to assure the citizenry of protection of their lives and property.
In Edo State, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Muhammad Hurdi, told residents of the state that police would ensure adequate security during the New Year celebrations.
Hurdi said, “We have our men fully on ground, all the corners in the state are occupied with our men; we guarantee you adequate security for protection of lives and property. If you have something bothering you, endeavour to contact the commissioner or police public relations officer, the lines are open 24 hours for quick response. Police is the mother of security, let’s partner to fight crime to barest minimum.”
It was further learnt that security had been tightened around major international airports with extra anti-bomb officials frisking passengers.
Since Friday, security has been increased around the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. All the roads leading to and out of the airport were taken over by security agents.
Vehicles plying the routes were thoroughly screened by counter-terrorism personnel of the police.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that on Friday and Saturday, the screening caused a traffic snarl on the Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, leading to the domestic wing of the airport. Similar traffic jam was observed along the Oshodi/Ajao Estate section leading to the international wing of the airport.
At the domestic section of the Lagos Airport, the road was narrowed to a single lane with used tyres. All vehicles coming into the airport from the Agege and Ikeja ends of the road passed through the single lane to enable the squad checked them effectively.
Many airport workers and passengers had to alight from commercial vehicles and walked through the traffic to their duty posts.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja witnessed the same security regime. The Chief Security Officer, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mr. Henry Afobi, told NAN that the tight security measures would continue until the New Year.
Afobi said apart from the Abuja airport, measures had been adopted to ensure that no security threat was experienced at the airports across the country.
He said, “Security is a dynamic issue. We try to be pro-active by putting a lot of measures in place to prevent unforeseen occurrences.”
Still in Abuja, additional security measures had been provided around major hotels including Transcorp, Sheraton and NICON Luxury hotels.
Plain-clothed police as well as private guards were seen scrutinising vehicles and frisking visitors at the hotels.
Sensing that there may be an increase in attacks during the Yuletide, the United States, Canadian and Taiwanese governments warned their nationals against non-essential travel to Nigeria.
These concerns resulted in increased security around foreign missions in Abuja. Besides the security men at the US Embassy and the hotels, armed policemen have been patrolling the area.
An Armoured Personnel Carrier is stationed metres away from the Canadian High Commission located on Bobo Street.
The US Department of State warned that terrorists could extend their activities to the “country’s middle and Southern states.”
The travel warning issued by the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the United States Department of State dated December 21, 2012.
The advisory read, “The Department of State warns US citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria, particularly during the holiday season, and continues to recommend that US citizens avoid all but essential travel to the following states because of the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks – Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Plateau, Gombe, Yobe, Kaduna, Bauchi, Borno, and Kano states.
“US citizens should be aware that, in the light of the continuing violence, extremists may expand their operations beyond Northern Nigeria to the country’s middle and Southern states.”