Nigeria: Abuja’s residents doubtful of police force to maintain safety

By Jaysim Hanspal, Nancy-Wangue Moussissa
Posted on Thursday, 4 August 2022 13:36, updated on Friday, 5 August 2022 14:52

A woman is seen with a poster of Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari, as relatives of the Kaduna train kidnapped victims protest, following the threat from bandits to kill the victims if ransom demand is not paid, at the ministry of transport in Abuja, Nigeria July 25, 2022. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Violence in Nigeria's capital continues to worry citizens with rise in terrorist attacks. 

Abuja residents have expressed concern that security has been relaxed across the capital after the recent engagements that neutralised over 30 of the bandits within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The country’s police department has a workforce of approximately 350,000 which analysts say is insufficient for a population of more than 200 million people.

According to the Premium Times, 85 soldiers were killed by armed persons in the first six months of 2022. On 26 July, terrorists attacked presidential guards in the capital, killing eight soldiers in the raid.

To promote an air of security, The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has reinstated G7 security operations to secure the territory, partnering with bordering states.

The government also says it approved the purchase of vehicles worth over N1.4bn ($3.3m) to neighbouring Niger, to help improve security, despite its own problems growing at home.

In a statement to the public, Police Commissioner Sunday Babaji reassured citizens that their security is guaranteed, saying: “FCT is safe. Every member of the community should go about their lawful businesses. We are on top of the situation.”

But for Dr  Ayo Sogunro, a human rights activist and lawyer, the inefficiency of both government and police is apparent to all. He said, “We see police officers everywhere but they are not here for security reasons. It doesn’t seem like the police service and the security services are doing as much as they should be doing.”

Sogunro continued, “A lack of informed knowledge of what is going, which makes it difficult for everyday people to feel a sense of safety – that there is a government who is watching out for them. That can be very psychologically and emotionally draining.”

Rocky region

Despite assurances from security officials, Nigeria is becoming increasingly unstable: growing insecurity created by Islamists in the northeast; numerous kidnappings in the northwest; and armed groups across the region threatening citizens daily.

For many years, violence had been restricted to remote areas of the north, where poverty levels are considerably higher. But recent events have seen that insecurity spread to areas normally thought as safe.

Following a jihadist raid on the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja that saw 879 criminals liberated, including 68 members of the terrorist group Boko Haram, authorities in the capital announced the capture of two high-profile terrorism suspects.

  • Between April 2021 and 5 June 2022, there were at least nine reports of attacks on prisons in different parts of Nigeria.

Since April 2022, the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, has carried out numerous attacks in Kogi, Niger, including the FCT.

ISWA has often chosen to target public places where crowds gather, such as places of worship, markets, and shopping malls. Reports of home invasions are also common.

Some of ISWA’s recent attacks include:

  • In April 2022, the group claimed two Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks in Iware and Jalingo, Taraba State.
  • In May 2022, they claimed an attack against a military facility in Jalingo.
  • ISWA claim responsibility for the murder of policemen on 12 May and 4 July 2022, in Suleja, less than 20 kilometres from the FCT.
  • The group carries out an IED attack on a bar in Kabba, Kogi State, on 29 May 2022.

On 28 July, the State closed schools in the country’s capital and in nearby Nasarawa state, marking a turning point for Nigeria’s insecurity.

Ahead of Nigeria’s presidential election slated for 2023, many wonder how the state will be able to ensure safety during the polls when already insecurity has been spreading, rather than being contained.

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