By Onyedi Ojiabor, Sanni Onogu and Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja
A MERICA issued yesterday a Boko Haram attack warning. But the Federal Government said security agents are prepared for such challenges. Should any country have doubts, it should contact the Nigerian authorities, the government said.
The U.S warned its citizens living in Nigeria that Boko Haram is planning attacks in major hotels in Abuja.
“The U.S. Embassy has received information that Boko Haram may be planning attacks in Abuja, Nigeria, including against hotels frequently visited by Westerners,” an emergency message on its website said yesterday.
“The Nigerian government is aware of the threat and is actively implementing security measures.”
The U.S. authorities issued a similar warning in November, naming the Hilton, Sheraton and Nicon Luxury as Abuja hotels that could be targets for Boko Haram, but it later retracted it.
The Federal Government said then that high profile hotels were always a possible target but security was tight and people should not live in fear. However, occupancy at those hotels dipped after the last U.S. warning.
The embassy did not name specific targets this time. The Hilton in Abuja said it always took security seriously.
But the Federal Government expressed concern over the security alarm raised by the U.S.
Information Minister Labaran Maku at the end of yesterday’s Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, cautioned the media against inadvertent support for terrorists and their activities through their reporting.
Maku said there was nothing new in the US warning, noting that it is similar to the one issued about a year ago.
While stating that the Federal Government concedes to every country the duty to ensure the safety of its nationals, the minister, however, said this must be done in such a way that it would not create panic in Nigeria.
Maku said: “I still appeal that if they (foreign governments) have any doubt about the preparedness of our security agencies to tackle insecurity in the country, they should communicate to us.
“Our security agencies have increased their capacity to respond to these threats here in the FCT and other parts of the country and other places of public interest. We will continue to appeal to all foreign agencies to align more with our security agencies. Security does not come from such measure (such statements).”
Maku added: “The media need some time off; it appears to me that we get a lot of panic from sensational reports. We have a responsibility in this country to have some discernment on the time and space we give to anti-state groups.”
“I believe it is wrong; I believe it is creating panic and hate across the country.”
Boko Haram’s purported leader, Abubakar Shekau, has appeared in two al Qaeda-style videos posted on the Internet this year but has made only vague threats and no clear demands.
The Senate yesterday asked President Goodluck Jonathan to crush the Boko Haram insurgents at all costs.
This followed a unanimous adoption of a motion entitled “Terrorist attack on Kaduna”, sponsored by Senator Sani Saleh (Kaduna Central) and 10 others.
Tension was high amidst emotional outbursts as the motion was being debated.
The lawmakers specifically dwelt on the Easter Sunday blast in Kaduna. More than 40 people died in the attack.
The Senate specifically called on the Executive to recognise that terrorists have declared war on Nigeria, which is a threat to the sovereignty, existence and economic wellbeing of the country.
The lawmakers resolved to ask the Federal Government to “respond (to the development) with all instruments of national power at its disposal”.
They condemned bomb explosions in parts of the country in its entirety and observed a one-minute silence in honour of those who died in the explosions and other attacks across the country.
The Senate mandated its joint committees on National Security, Intelligence, Defence and Army, and Police Affairs and Interior to intensify their oversight functions over the security agencies with a view to improving their capabilities in handling the security challenges.
However, the prayer that the government should compensate to victims of the Kaduna bomb explosion was rejected.
In his lead debate, Senator Saleh urged the Senate to note with deep sense of grief, the dastardly bomb explosion at Junction Road in Kaduna on Easter Sunday, by some suicide bombers.
He noted that the explosion was a stark reminder of last year’s Christmas Day attack that left dozens of people dead in Madalla, Niger State.
He observed that terrorist attacks continued unabated nationwide despite the assurances of our security agencies of “being on top of the situation”.
He said that the Easter bomb explosion in Kaduna claimed 13 lives, injured 32 people and destroyed property worth millions of naira, bringing untold hardship on victims, their relatives and residents of the city.
The prayer that the federal government should be asked to recognize that “these terrorists have declared war on Nigeria, which is a threat to our sovereignty, existence and economic wellbeing and to respond with all instruments of national power at its disposal” was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers.
Senator Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna North) described the bomb blast as sad.
He said: “It is a problem concerning all of us; we should volunteer information to security agencies to be able to arrest the situation. All measures including dialogue, should be used by government to solve the problem,” Makarfi said.
Senator Gyang Dalong Datong (Plateau North) said: “This country is going through a very sad moment because every Nigerian that is killed is either a brother or sister.”
Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi (Ekiti North) noted that the Senate has refused to pass a vote of no confidence on any security outfit.
He said: “Nigerians are tired of condemnation, of bombings and observations of one minute silence. One of the questions Nigerians are asking is: ‘Do we have a government?’”
The poser led to an uproar in the Senate.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, said: “Let’s take the matter with the seriousness it deserves. Let us allow our colleague to express his opinion. This is the high point of democracy.”
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe noted that the country is at war.
He said: “When you are at war, you do the needful. Security agencies have to step up to the challenge. They attacked the security agencies first in the North, which made them duty bound to protect themselves and in the process protect the citizenry. “
Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East) said something must be done about children who are affected psychologically.
Senator Mohammed Magoro said: “What we are facing is a very serious situation.”
He added: “It is because we have not been following the trend of events. Kano, Kaduna and Borno are at a standstill. Training and acquisition of modern equipment is necessary for security. Security agencies are doing their best. Physical checking of vehicles cannot take you anywhere.”
Ekweremadu said: “The most important business of government is the protection of lives and property and that is fundamental. If we need to even borrow money to deal with this security challenge that needs to be done.”
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