Nigerians In Abuja Live In Fear After Kuje Prison Attacks


On Sunday, when armed men broke into Kuje prison, freeing hundreds of prisoners, Assumpta Mgbe huddled her children close to her, fearing for their safety.

The 40-year-old woman, who has owned a corner shop in the town for two decades, said, ‘We could hear gunshots and the ground shaking for more than 30 minutes.’

“No one expected it,” she said of the daring July 5 assault claimed by the Islamic State group affiliate in Nigeria, ISWAP, that usually operates far away in the northeast.

There have been several attacks in states surrounding the Federal Capital Territory over the past few months, reminding the six million FCT resident of times when violence was more prevalent.

After the Kuje prison attack claimed by ISWAP, “people are afraid to come outside” to shop and it’s affecting Mgbe’s business as well as that of many others. As the people have lost confidence in the Nigerian security forces ability to protect them.

The residents are worried that It’s not just ISWAP that threaten the life of people who live in Abuja and neighbouring cities but also heavily-armed criminals known as bandits who kidnap and kill with impunity.

“You don’t know what will happen and when it will happen, but everybody is just kind of apprehensive on a daily basis,” said Joseph Umeadi who works in an electronics repair shop in Kuje, off the main road.

Segun Afolayan said, because of the terrorist activities, kidnapping and robberies, many taxi drivers have stopped working at night in central Abuja.

“After six or seven (in the evening), everybody runs back to their houses,” said Afolayan, who has been driving in the capital for over 30 years. “Before it was not like that.”

President Muhammadu Buhari said he was “disappointed” with his intelligence services after the Kuje jailbreak gained worldwide attention, prompting the police and military to take new steps to improve security.

Early August, the Inspector-General of Police Usman Alkali Baba “ordered (the) massive deployment of additional police operatives and operational assets within the Federal Capital Territory and its environs.”

Defence spokesman Major General Benard Onyeuko also told FCT residents they were “undaunted and unrelenting” in “efforts to ensure the safety of lives and properties”.

Kuje residents, however, say that the patrols and checkpoints that were present last month have now disappeared.

There are no obvious signs of additional checkpoints in central Abuja, but checkpoints that appear mostly at night are in place.

For Kabir Adamu, security analyst with Beacon Consulting, a concern is that gunmen “could access the FCT through vulnerable points, unmanned spaces”.

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