*Customs raised the red flag
*Military dismissed such
By Ralph Christopher
Police authorities yesterday said they have rescued five of the 20 residents of Tungan-Maje, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which was raided by bandits up till Thursday morning.
However, residents of the boarder town between FCT and Niger state, adjacent Zuba community, say 10 of the victims were actually rescued and have reunited with their families.
Gunmen suspected to be terrorists had raided Tungan-Maje, abducting as many as 20 residents, including men, women and children.
The bandits went away with the earlier 20 kidnapped victims after prolonged shooting with the police, before they were overpowered and let off some of the lucky abductees.
DSP Anjuguri Manzah, Public Relations Officer of the FCT Police Command, confirmed that some of the victims were rescued after a police team responded to a distress call.
He said: “The Command wishes to inform the public that when it received a distress call on kidnap of some persons on 10th September, 2020 at about 0130hrs in Tungan-Maje, a village bordering FCT and Niger state, a joint team of Police operatives from the Command Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Rapid Response Squad and Zuba Police Division responded swiftly to the occasion.
“During a fierce gun confrontation with the heavily armed hoodlums, the Police team successfully rescued five of the kidnapped victims.
“The FCT Police Command wishes to assure the public that protection of lives and property remains the core of its policing mandate and it will continue to inject fresh strategies that will place the security of the Federal Capital Territory at its optimum”.
The PPRO added that the police are on the trail of the kidnappers whom he said escaped to the bothering Niger state.
However, some of the residents of the area who would not be named for security reasons said heavy shooting started in the community at about 12.15am on Thursday and lasted more than an hour.
He said members of the local vigilante group were overwhelmed and took to their heels, leaving the bandits to go on looting and kidnapping spree.
Another resident said: “We didn’t sleep throughout the night. It’s this morning (Thursday) that the vigilantes told us that around 20 people were abducted.
“The hoodlums went from house-to-house ransacking, looting and abducting people at random asking them if they have somebody in government that could pay N20 million to secure each of them on ransom”.
A woman who thanked God for the escape/release of her husband, however lamented that the bandits went away with their only daughter of about 14 years.
The attack is coming few days after reports suggested that members of the extremist group, Boko Haram, had infiltrated the FCT and would strike soon, which the Nigerian Army dismissed.
The Defence Headquarters had last Sunday dismissed a security advisory from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) informing their staff of danger and asked them to be vigilant.
Due to the denial by the Military and assurances of safety, Mr. David Attah, Customs PRO disclaimed the intelligence advisory, saying it never emanated from the Customs.
The Defence headquarters had assured FCT residents and people in adjoining states that the military and other security agencies have been placed on red alert for their safety.
The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, who gave the assurances Sunday said the Armed Forces have intensified surveillance of the FCT and other states to checkmate activities of the criminals.
He said the assurances became “imperative sequel to a purported memorandum from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) warning its staff of a possible attack on the FCT.
“The Armed Forces in conjunction with other security and response agencies, particularly the core intelligence agencies, hereby assure the public that preventive and pre-emptive intelligence are on-going.
“The general public is thus advised to go about their lawful businesses undeterred.
“Furthermore, the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies wish to assure the general public that the offensives against the common enemies of this nation will not cease until normalcy is restored in all parts of the country.
“Hence, the public is equally enjoined to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity accordingly”.
The AUTHORITY had last week reported of military raid on camps of the DarulSalam/Boko Haram terrorist groups in parts of Kogi and Nasarawa States.
During the raid, scores of the terrorists and their associates were neutralized, while over 700 of their family members and abductees were rescued.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has in raising the red flags informed their staff through an internal memo of the presence of Boko Haram terrorists in the FCT.
The internal memo titled: “Re: Intelligence on national security,” was dated August 20, 2020 and signed by the Comptroller of Enforcement of the NCS, H.A Sabo.
Sabo had said that intelligence reaching the Comptroller-General of the NCS, retired Colonel Hameed Ali, showed that terrorists were plotting to attack FCT from five identified locations.
The memo stated: “Boko Haram Terrorists are reported to have set up their camps in the following identified enclaves: Kunyam Bush along airport road off DIA Staff Quarters-Abuja; Robochi/Gwagwalada Forest; Kwaku forest, Kuje, Abuja; Unaisha forest in Toto Local Government of Nasarawa State and Gegu forest, close to Idu town in Kogi State.
“Consequently, you are to be at alert and security conscious of your environment at all times.
The internal memo was copied to Zonal Coordinators; Office of the Customs Area Controllers; Office of all CC Marine commands; Office of CC FOU, A, B, C, and D; Office of Coordinators Operation Ex-Swift Response; Office of Coordinators CGC Strike Force; and Office of the CC, Customs Police.
Efforts made to reach the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), DCP Frank Mba, as at last Sunday for comment failed as he refused to pick calls put through to him, but sources at the Force headquarters confirmed the development, adding that “the Police High Command have not rested for a while since they got the Intel.
“We have been working tirelessly, but without making any noise about it. Part of what we did led to the arrest of some terrorists between Nasarawa and Kogi state last week.
“We are working on more tips, including the decoy of these terrorists to pretend to be commercial motocycle riders, who are now spreading in several parts of the country.
“We know that these people are part of the ISIS/ISWAP that are planning to invade the country, but we are up to the game and by the grace of the Almighty, we have done far more than what you people know about, only that we don’t want to make such information public to avoid any panic”.