The past week hasn’t been the best time to be an Abuja resident as five first-world countries raised alarm about possible terror attacks. The United States has gone as far as evacuating government staff back home and the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland have reduced consular services. It’s indeed a very critical period in Abuja.
To gain a sense of how life currently is in Nigeria’s capital city, Citizen spoke to four Abuja residents — Elizabeth, a 24-year-old who lives in Garki, Noa, a 34-year-old who lives in Karu, *Jane, a 25-year-old who lives in Gwarimpa and *Stephen, a 36-year-old who lives in Kubwa.
Do you think the terror alert is credible?
Elizabeth — marketing intern
“I believe it’s a rumor because foreigners can’t be trusted, and they tend to say things to suit you when they mean something else. Our country could very well be blindsided on this terrorism thing.”
Jane — product manager
“I don’t think there’s going to be a terrorist attack, or at least not in the areas people think. When the terrorists want to attack and notify the government, it’s either one of two things — the terrorists won’t attack where people think or there’s no terrorist attack happening at all. Or maybe it’s not going to happen in Abuja, but somewhere else in Nigeria. This is because they know that when they notify the state, the state will tighten security and that’s literally a death trap.
“There would also be an issue in the sense of weapon sophistication because these guys can’t carry armored tanks like the army. So, even if they attack at all, it may be in remote areas like Buari, Kuali, or any of the remote towns.”
Has the terror alert affected lives personally?
Noa — businessman
“The terrorism alert hasn’t really affected me or my business because we’re going about our day as usual. The bars are open and even new ones are springing up on a daily basis. I know I saw one yesterday that was full to capacity. The joints are still there and people are eating roasted fish. We’re really not bothered about the terror alert.
Stephen — logistics and cab driver
“The security alert has really impacted negatively on the transportation sector. For instance, I was expecting to receive customers that used British Airways to arrive in Nigeria on Saturday and Sunday, but the flights were canceled. It hurt because I was expecting to make a lot of money. Even the Jabi Lake Mall has been closed due to the alert, and that’s an income source for me too.”
“On Sunday, my family members said we shouldn’t go to church but I bluntly refused and went anyway. We’ve been getting warnings not to go to specific places and police hotlines were sent for every area in Abuja, which has made my family extra cautious.”
Are people on edge with everything going on?
“There are some people that are more cautious, there are some that haven’t reacted, and there are some that are very indifferent, like me. People have even been going to Halloween parties and posting themselves on social media. In my neighbourhood, there’s not much of a difference.”
“We all know our neighbors, and we know when new faces come into the area. It’s not just this terror alert. We’ve been vigilant since the whole issue of terrorism began. We once had a bomb blast at Nyaya, close to where I stay. Since then, we’ve been very vigilant about new faces in the area. We’re not really scared.”
“There’s a lot of fear in the air. There’s news going around that the last time the U.S. told its citizens to leave, there was a bomb attack immediately after they left. For the U.S. to tell its citizens again to leave, something is really about to happen. For me, I could easily pack my bags and leave Abuja because I have a family waiting for me in Lagos. But for most people here, this is their only home. They have no other choice but to stay here. People are trying to stay at home a bit more and be on the lookout.”
Has the government responded well?
“We see the Nigeria Police and the Army doing patrols on a daily basis, which is a good thing. Gathering intelligence is never easy, so I guess they’re good at what they do. As long as they’re not harassing us, and we’re law-abiding citizens, I guess we’re fine with them doing what they have to do to prevent this.
The street boys that hawk on the street or push wheelbarrows in the markets can be seen at night with axes and cutlasses guarding the neighbourhood. I can also say that it’s a form of preparation for the terrorists when they come.”
“I have mixed feelings about this. I feel a bit secure because back when I was at the Law School in Bwari, some terrorists sent us a letter. The government placed enough security personnel around the school and I felt safe. So, at least, I know that the government can actually respond well.
Now, as to why I don’t feel safe, how many military officers do we have? Can they really protect the whole of Abuja? But with the presence of Aso Rock, there’s some assurance of safety. Bombing Aso Rock is just like bombing the White House — there’s a very rare chance of that happening.”
“I can’t say there’s been so much extra security presence that really struck me. But there can never be anything like enough security measures. If there’s a bomb, no matter how many soldiers in the army or policemen, it would still explode; unless they have bomb detectors, and they’re actively checking for bombs.”
What should the government be doing better?
“I feel they should do more to calm the level of hysteria around here. I think there should be an official document which tells us what to do in case there’s a terrorist attack and the full details of the situation. There should also be the appearance of military tanks and weapons in public places like mosques, schools, and churches if they have the manpower too. But, this will be hard for a government that doesn’t believe there’s anything like a terrorist attack in the first place.”
“The fact that these malls are closed and flights are cancelled shows there’s a considerable amount of panic. Lai Mohammed should not tell us to just disregard it completely. He needs to tell us how we can cope with this. US and UK and all those oyibo countries can’t be wrong.”
Can Nigeria contain terrorism?
Nigeria hasn’t had it easy with terrorism in 2022 with a number of attacks recorded all over the country, including an attack on Kuje Prison in Abuja that freed many terrorists in July.
More recently, on October 29, terrorists attacked a Nigerian Army base that housed suspected terrorists in Wawa, Niger State.
In response to the recent terrorism alerts, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, initiated a Counter Terrorism Incident Simulation exercise codenamed “Operation Darkin Gaggawa.”
[Image source: Sahara Reporters]
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, dismissed the alerts and assured Nigerians the government is in charge. Only time will tell.
**Subjects’ names have been changed to protect their identities.