No record of Boko Haram arrest in Lagos, police denies army’s claim
•FESTAC, Ijora-Badia, Kara, Agege Abbatoir fingered as sect's suspected hideouts •We wont shield dangerous elements —Sarkin Hausawa
SHOLA ADEKOLA, TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE and LEKAN OLABULO searched for more answers as questions swirl over a controversial arrest.
A fresh row may be brewing between the Nigerian Army and the police over the former’s claim that it recently arrested eight suspected Boko Haram members in Lagos, a report that has now set the state and its residents on the edge.
In the course of the week, the General Officer Commanding, 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Olu Irefun, confirmed to the public, the arrest of the eight suspected Boko Haram members who were allegedly planning to bomb an unnamed higher institution in the state. Although the army chief did not specify where the Boko Haram members were arrested, he stated that they had been transferred to the army headquarters in Abuja.
On Thursday, the Lagos State police command disproved the claim.
The image maker in charge of the command, Bala Elkana, while speaking on the alleged arrest of the Boko Haram members, insisted that the police in the state had no record of any arrest of any Boko Haram member in any of its divisions and other formations but assured residents of the state that the police were ready to protect their lives and property.
“I don t know where you got that information from but what I can tell you is that the Lagos State police command has no record of any arrest of Boko Haram members. The arrest was not documented with the police and we don’t know anything about it,” Elkana said.
The open lack of synergy between the military and the police regarding the matter, considered as very serious security concern by residents and stakeholders is what is now keeping tongues wagging amidst increasing fear that the knowledge that the security agencies are not together could embolden the insurgents, who have almost laid the entire north-eastern part of the country in total waste, to keep trying until they succeed in striking a major part of the state.
At the height of the insurgency in the North, there were reports of an attempt at bombing the popular Third Mainland Bridge connecting the Island with the Mainland, which was reportedly nipped in the bud as well as other reported attempts elsewhere on the Island where the rich, famous, influential and powerful live.
The only explosion that was almost connected to the insurgents’ bombing pattern happened at a gas depot on the Island belonging to a popular businessman which was later disproved as a mere gas explosion, although there were injuries to some workers within the factory when the explosion took place. That was years back.
News available to Saturday Tribune claimed the most recent suspects were arrested around Kara, the popular goat market at the border community between Lagos and Ogun State, but their target was said to be a higher institution of learning. The general suspicion was that their target was the University of Lagos, Akoka, but it is not yet clear why they chose Kara as their planning spot.
A senior officer in the state police command who pleaded for anonymity, while speaking with Saturday Tribune, expressed his suspicion with the reported arrest of the Boko Haram members. The police chief said: “It sounds incredible that eight Boko Haram members were arrested in a community in Lagos and the story is not anywhere. We do not want to engage the military in any argument over a security issue. We are not aware of any arrest. At least the local division where the arrest took place should be notified if not by the military but by the people living around there.” The police officer said further that before now, there were reported cases of arrest of suspected Boko Haram members who escaped from the northern part of the country to communities like Ijora, Kara, Agege Abbatoir and the residents witnessed such arrests.
Further information sourced by Saturday Tribune revealed that the arrest of the said suspects was part of the controversial ‘Positive Identification’ project of the Nigerian Army which a federal high court in Lagos halted a few days back. The disclosure was thought to be a publicity agenda by the army authorities to give a semblance of objectivity and sincerity to the project which would have required residents of Lagos and elsewhere all over the country to carry an identification tag everywhere they go. To cement the military’s claim that it was targeted at routing out criminals everywhere, the supposed Boko Haram members were believed to have been arrested and quietly moved out of town, before residents and stakeholders would start asking questions, particularly about their identity.
Police know there are Boko Haram members in Lagos Security expert
Celebrated security expert, Ebere Francis, said with all confidence and security knowledge that there was undeniable presence of Boko Haram in Lagos State and the police know some of the members.
“Lets start from the obvious question, which is, do we really have Boko Haram members in Lagos State? The answer, of course, is yes. And I can tell you for free that with the increasing influx of cyclists into the state, the number of such sect members has tripled. I have spoken with senior policemen, especially at the Festac axis, who confirmed that the confrontational stance of most of these cyclists showed that they have military training.
“According to the policemen, these cyclists often looked them in the eyes and dared them to do their worst. This was in spite of the policemen being armed with their rifles. While some of these senior policemen believed these hostile and confrontational cyclists are fleeing Boko Haram members, others believe they are displaced members of JTF from the warfront in the North. Whatever the divergent beliefs of these officers, they agreed on one thing; that these cyclists are always armed. These arms are believed hidden under their clothes or under the seat of their motorcycles.
“Policemen, especially at the FESTAC axis, are scared of them. Most of these events and operations are done quietly so as not to cause panic among Lagosians. Boko Haram members are presently firmly rooted in Lagos and many of them are posing as commercial cyclists.
“If security agencies, especially the police, work on this information, then they will be extra-vigilant. After all, it is their duty to protect the citizenry. Aside from the IRT, I strongly feel other intelligence gathering units of the police is poor and lamentable. Now, coming to the question of military declaring that it arrested eight Boko Haram members in Lagos and police denying being aware of it, it is possible. According to the military, the arrest was made two weeks before the disclosure.
“The disclosure by the military and the denial of such knowledge by the police underscores the lack of synergy between the two sister-agencies and it is really a shame. Repeatedly, it has been stated that one agency alone cannot and will never be able to ensure the security of a state. These agencies need to synergise, but then again, there has always been a cold war, rivalry, envy and jealousy between the military and the police.
“No matter how they pretend to be friendly towards each other, that coldness continues to fester. They try at every opportunity to outdo each other. Imagine what they will achieve if they channel such energy into the same goal. Their displayed friendliness is just a smokescreen, a façade. Intelligence gathering and sharing will definitely help both agencies. Security is not about the agencies but the state and its citizenry.
“Perhaps more saddening is the fact that every security agency wants to be seen to be working and achieving great feats. If the personnel continue with this mindset, they will keep trying to outdo each another, instead of working together. In the end, the nation, the state and the people will pay dearly for these actions of these uniformed personnel.”
Still no cause for alarm Police, govt
While disputations rage over the alleged arrest and the open disagreement between the army and the police in Lagos, divergent reactions have continued to trail the controversy. While some residents of the state saw the reported arrest as a wake-up call to security agencies, others expressed their concern at how the police in the state were not carried along by the military.
But the police authorities in the state are allaying the fears of the public by assuring that there was no cause for alarm. The state Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Muazu, an Assistant Inspector General of Police of police, assured residents that the police were on top of the situation.
The state government also issued a statement assuring the residents that all would be well, despite the threat posed by the reported continued invasion of suspected sect members.
In what suggested that the state government believed the arrest story, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu paid tributes to the gallantry of the officers who allegedly arrested the suspects.
In a statement signed by his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, Sanwo-Olu praised the gallantry of officers of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army who foiled an attempted attack on one of the universities in Lagos.
Referring to the operation that led to the arrest of the Boko Haram suspects by military operatives, the governor maintained that the security apparatus of the state had strategies in place to forestall any threat to the peace that exists in Lagos.
Omotoso assured residents that Governor Sanwo-Olu will continue to provide the equipment and resources that are necessary to fortify the security machinery of the state, maintaining that Lagos remains safe and residents should maintain peaceful coexistence with one another.”
The state government also pushed out some toll-free lines for residents to report any influx of unfamiliar people to law enforcement agencies because security is the responsibility of all.
We won’t shield criminals among us Sarkin Hausawa
The Sarkin Hausawa, Shashaland in Alimosho Local Government Area of the state, Alhaji Ilyasu Isa-Kira, while reacting to the reported arrest of the Boko Haram members, called on the residents in the community and Lagos in general not to nurse any fear.
The Hausa leader, while speaking with Saturday Tribune, called on Lagosians, including those from the northern part of the country residing in the state, to be more vigilant and be prepared to expose any criminal elements that may want to unleash havoc on any part of the state.
He pledged sustained cooperation with the security agencies in fishing out dangerous people, while calling on his subjects not to cover up dangerous elements.
According to him, it is when there is peace in Lagos that every resident, including non-indigenes, can go about their businesses without fear of any attack. The Sarkin Hausawa called on the residents in the community not to allow the latest arrest and the foiled attack plan to worry them. He said all Hausas, Fulanis and other foreigners from the neighbouring countries residing around Shasha community in particular are under his control every day. His kinsmen, according to him, are peace-loving people who came to Lagos to earn a living and not to attack their host communities.
We will secure Yorubaland OPC
On its part, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) (Reformed) said even though the report was suspicious, Boko Haram had no business not only in Lagos but the entire Yorubaland. The governor of the group in Lagos State, Mr Olaosebikan Balogun, allayed the residents fear in an interview with Saturday Tribune.
According to him, people should not live in fear. They should believe they are very safe and therefore go about their legal activities without entertaining any fear both during the day and at nighttime. They should have their deep sleep, with two eyes closed, he advised.
«No Boko Haram can come to Lagos or any of the south-western states and be successful in carrying out their atrocities like they do in the North. Never. This is not possible. We the OPC (reformed) stand for all the Yoruba and we are giving our assurance that there is no shaking. And this is not a sweet (but frank) talk. Boko Haram has no place in Yorubaland. And if they think they want to try, let them come, they will meet their waterloo before carrying out their evil plans,» Balogun said.
The OPC chief, who spoke in Yoruba language, said it was not that Yoruba people were cowards for appealing for peace to reign as the inability of the Federal Government to stop Boko Haram insurgents from their evil activities could necessitate the region adopting the policy of self-defence to secure its people and their property.
He, therefore, warned the group not to dare coming to any part of Yorubaland because «they would meet their waterloo.»
On his part, the Baale of Tabon-Tabon, Orile Agege, in Agege Local Government Area of the state, Chief Simeon Itogbe, said he was not aware of the report but expressed the belief that the people of the state would not joke, and have not been joking, with their security.
He said he regularly sensitised the people of his community on the need to be alert and security-conscious in and around their environment. He explained that the government security agencies, especially the police, were not reliable enough to be left with the protection of lives and property. «So, I will only encourage people of the state to be more security conscious,» he stressed.
Army spokesman, Colonel Sagir Musa, neither picked his calls nor responded to SMS sent him by Saturday Tribune seeking militarys position on the claim of Lagos State police command.