… As Boko Haram, Again, Threatens The Media
TO the residents of Mabera area of Sokoto metropolis in Sokoto State, life has changed since the botched Nigeria/Britain joint operation to free two foreign hostages- Chris McManus, a Briton, and Italian Franco Lamolinara, who were killed by their captors before they could be freed.
Although Mabera, located in the outskirts of the state capital has been known to be a quiet spot, perhaps a reason the kidnappers chose it as a safe haven, it has suddenly become like a graveyard, as apprehensive residents have been fleeing the area in droves since the military operation, for fear of the unknown.
Those courageous enough to remain behind, now sleep with both eyes open and treat every stranger with suspicion. Getting them to speak on the issue is as difficult and cumbersome as drawing the right response is like stoking trouble.
As of Wednesday, the residents were still fleeing from the area that now looks like a no-go zone.
Most of the apartments were under key and lock, with the houses under construction abandoned by labourers who fled the sites for fear of being arrested in the once peaceful and serene area.
One of those who managed to remain, Ibrahim Ismail, pleaded with the police to come to their rescue, saying: “The police ought to be guarding this place, but they themselves are afraid of Boko Haram.”
For Ibrahim Umaru, the area used to be quiet, being a new settlement, hence: “That is why the kidnappers decided to use this place as their hideout.
“Also, it is closer to the Eastern Bypass. Above all, there is nothing like security here,” he said.
Although he was not around during the raid, he said: “We all packed away immediately after the incident, because we were afraid. I am just here for security purposes, because the area boys can come and burgle this place,” he said.
All the people in the neighbourhood have equally packed out, with their gates locked, including tenants of the new shops in front of the house where the hostages were kept.
“Nobody can say what will happen next, because of the international dimension the case has assumed. It is going to be a long time before life can return to this place.
“Again, because of the nature of the incident, and the fact that the hostages were killed, which is very sad, people like us are even afraid, because it has turned out that we had been living with dangerous people in our midst unknowingly,” Umaru stated.
Jamiu Bello (not real name) was surprised to see armed security agents surround the house that fateful Thursday.
“The soldiers told us to leave the area, because they had to investigate some suspects. I carried my bike and left,” he explained. “Then, they stated shooting and so many people started packing their goods and left.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. El Mustapha Sani, has urged the people to assist the Force in intelligence gathering to fight crime in the state.
“We have already mobilised our men and we are calling on the people of the state to give us information that would help us to fight crime.
“We are not folding our hands. Presently, the Commissioner of Police is constantly meeting with the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) to give them the necessary directives, strategies and plans on ensuring the security of lives and properties in Sokoto State,” he told The Guardian on Wenesday.
Meanwhile, president of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), Dr. Ona Ekhomu, has condemned the killing of two foreign hostages by a suspected faction of Boko Haram, describing it as “despicable and unfortunate.”
Ekhomu described the killing of the foreign engineers as a terrorist act.
In a statement made available to The Guardian, the security expert said the rescue effort didn’t fail for lack of diligence and brilliance.
“It was because the fate of the hostages was sealed by Boko Haram commanders who ordered their execution once security forces stormed the hideout.
“The killing further underscored the fatalism and cruelty that epitomised Bokite mentality and world-view.”
He, however, applauded the courage, professionalism and dedication of agents of the British Special Boat Service and Nigerian security that collaborated in the rescue attempt.
“The wickedness and blood thirstiness of the Bokites foretold the tragic outcome of the rescue attempt,” he noted.
Ekhomu stated that such rescue operation should in future take place at nighttime, using night vision equipment, to catch the terrorists off guard.
Urging Nigerians not to be deceived by the denial of responsibility by some elements of Boko Haram sect, whom he said did the hatchetjob, Ekhomu argued that the denial was a feeble attempt to deflect criticism, because Europeans were killed in the abduction saga.
He noted that Boko Haram started its campaign with Kalashnikovs (AK47) rifles and graduated to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and have now added kidnap/murder to their terrorist tool kit.
Ekhomu called for intensification of the war on terror by the Nigerian authorities and advised against negotiating with the group, despite the escalation in their bloody campaign.
He urged the government to increase intelligence gathering through the use of reward money and start an arms buyback programme for the northeast zone of the country.
He further urged Nigerians and foreigners to be security conscious to avoid falling victims of kidnap plots.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram through its purported spokesman, Abu Qaqa, has restated its warning to journalists and media organisations it alleged had been reporting the views of government and security agencies about their activities and deliberately refusing to carry their own.
The sect, in a statement, said: “Some of you are also carrying comments and reviews against us without hearing from us.
“Some of your comments in the newspapers show you are ignorant of our cause. We now believe you are doing it deliberately. Some media houses are even writing untrue stories about us.
“Henceforth, we will not take it lightly with you journalists, because we have given you enough warnings.
“In fact, this is the last warning, as we will take measure against you. We know where you live and your movements.”
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