Protesters in Nigeria’s north-central Niger state are currently demonstrating along the Abuja-Suleja-Kaduna expressway over incessant attacks by armed men in the state, with no less than 25 people reportedly kidnapped in Suleja during Monday morning’s raid.
Suleja is less than an hour’s drive from the heart of the West African country’s capital.
Reports suggest that the heavily armed gunmen invaded the town and the immediate villages around 7:30 am.
They stormed the area on motorcycles and were reported to have shot sporadically into the air to scare people and moved from house to house to carry out the raid.
While some of the villagers succeeded in escaping, few others who were trapped were reportedly abducted.
The incident which occurred in Suleja is less than 10 minutes away from the nation’s federal territory and 43km away from the three arms zone where the Presidential Villa, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court are situated.
Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello has in recent weeks warned of an invasion of “Boko Haram elements” in the state he governs.
The terrorists hoisted their flag after taking over a number of villages, Bello said. They intended to use the area as a base, just like Sambisa Forest in the Northeast of the country, regarded as a Boko Haram stronghold.
Last week, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba said in a circular to commissioners of police in Abuja and Jos, the Plateau State capital, that the force received intelligence report revealing plans by Boko Haram terrorists to attack major cities in the country, particularly Abuja and Jos.
Mr Baba in the memo directed the commissioners of police to review their security architecture and beef up security around government facilities particularly in the mentioned cities.
“The proposed attacks would be coordinated by the duo of Muhammad Sani, a Boko Haram commander, domiciled in Sambisa Forest and his deputy, Suleiman, hibernating around Lawan Musa Zango, Gashua, Yobe State,” Mr Baba had said.
The rising cases of insecurity in northern Nigeria had forced states including Yobe, Kano, Niger and Zamfara to close down schools.
Nigerians have also taken to Twitter to express fear and displeasure over the rise in insecurity across the country and its closeness to the country’s seat of power.
@UNCLE_AJALA said, “When they said bandits were moving close to Abuja I thought it was a joke, now there’s tension in Suleja after bandits kidnapped some school children, and Suleja is less than 20 mins from Abuja. If Buhari didn’t tackle this insecurity with all seriousness, it may consume us all.”
Omo Ekiti #PadAGirlByBUTA @BookieFlair said “Series of kidnapping and butchering has been going on in Suleja for days now, no media outlet is saying anything. Nobody is talking about it.”
Number1ChelseaSupporter @Omoniyi_13863 on Twitter said “Abuja-Suleja-Kaduna Road Blocked, As Heavily Armed Bandits Storm Niger State, Move From House To House, Kidnap Several Residents, Whisk Them To An Unknown place. #Gauraka
Gbénró Adégbolá ن @GbenroAdegbola also took to Twitter and said “Irate youths in a Niger State town went on a protest this morning barricading the busy Kaduna-Abuja road with bonfire & logs, insisting to stay until insecurity is addressed.
“They’re angered people are being abducted from house to house there on a daily basis. #TheLoomingAnarchy”
He added “They’re further angered that despite the presence of Zuma military barracks in the area, residents are helpless and cannot sleep well.
“The situation has led to heavy traffic congestion on the road. The affected community is located around Gauraka, Suleja area. #FragileState”
By Abel Ejikeme