The uneasiness in the Federal Capital Territory triggered by the terror alerts by the United States and the United Kingdom is beginning to affect businesses in the capital city, Sunday PUNCH learnt on Saturday.
Despite the repeated assurances by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the various security agencies that there was no need to panic and that people should go about their business without fear, many residents of Abuja seem to be staying away from large gatherings, shopping malls and fun spots in response to the alerts.
Our correspondents who visited different parts of the city noted that there were fewer vehicles on some major roads while there were only a few individuals at some gardens and relaxation centres.
The usually busy Lokogoma Road has fewer motorists, commuters and pedestrians, likewise the Berger, Wuse and Gwarimpa areas of the city.
Also, the Shoprite Mall, Apo and the Novare Centre at Wuse, which used to witness a flurry of activities, had fewer shoppers than usual on Saturday. The situation was not different at several other shopping centres visited by our correspondents.
Attendants at some of the malls told our correspondents that patronage and sales had dwindled since the terror alert was reported.
A sales attendant at Novare Centre, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that in contrast to what the kind of patronage they used to have, only a few customers came to the mall in the past few days on account of the terror alert.
Another attendant at Shoprite Mall, Apo, noted that her boss was considering closing the shop due to poor sales. This was however unconnected with the cost of running the shops with no corresponding sales or patronage.
A shopper at Shoprite, Lugbe, who gave her name only as Betty, noted that the turnout was low compared to what they had the previous week.
She said, “The mall is somehow dry today. If you were here last week, you would easily know the difference. People sometimes come around to take pictures outside but they are very few today. Also, people used to be in a queue to buy bread at the mall, but today there was no queue. I also noticed that the payment point which used to be crowded had very few people.”
One of our correspondents also visited Tiger Bar in Lugbe and the popular Magicland Amusement Park, where there were only a few fun-seekers.
Meanwhile, the Director of the National Children’s Park and Zoo, Aminu Muhammad, said the park conducted a search on visitors and closed at 6:30pm to make sure everyone left “in good time.”
He stated, “We make sure everyone going in is checked thoroughly, and if we suspect anything, we report it immediately. You noticed we have an army checkpoint before you got here, so we are in constant synergy and we close in good time, at 6:30 pm.”
At the Millennium Park, one of our correspondents observed two armed policemen and private security guards at the gate. A staff member explained that the park maintained its regular closing time of 6pm.
At Central Park, one of our correspondents saw five bouncers at the gate, all with tactical gears. One of them held a dog on a leash, while two others scanned visitors and vehicles with electronic detectors.
Two armed policemen and other security operatives in tactical gear sat at different points in the park. Efforts to speak with the manager were not successful as he declined comments, insisting he was busy.
Meanwhile, a construction company, Julius Berger, has closed down operations in the capital city.
In a statement on Saturday by the company’s Managing Director and Corporate Security Manager, Lars Bichter and Poul Nielsen, respectively, the company advised its staff to avoid public premises during the weekend, adding that temporary relocation to other sites might be considered.
The statement added, “It is advised to avoid all public events within the FCT environment, including supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, bars, clubs and other areas where many meet. This advice is applicable from 28.10.2022 in the evening until Monday, 31.10.2022 in the morning.
“It remains possible to move to other JBN work or residential locations throughout the weekend. Your safety is our primary concern.”
Julius Berger is the second to close down its operation following the terror alert.
Following the alerts, Sunday PUNCH observed that the military has mounted checkpoints at various locations, including Wumba in Lokogoma District and at Kabusa Junction.
This was in addition to the patrol by troops, police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the ongoing counterintelligence operations by the Department of State Services and other intelligence agencies.Our correspondents also observed the presence of policemen in the Wuse, Gwarimpa, Kubwa, Apo, and Berger areas of Abuja.
Speaking on the heightened security, FCT police spokesperson, Josephine Adeh, said it was a measure to boost residents’ morale. She stressed that there was no cause for alarm.
She stated, “There is no cause for alarm in the FCT. The heightened patrol by our men is to boost residents’ confidence, although we have always had our patrols even before now. We urge residents to go about their lawful business peacefully.”
Meanwhile, the Force headquarters has described as false reports that bombs were being planted across the FCT.
In a statement on Saturday, Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, warned against spreading the report, saying, “I don’t think it will do our country any good to continually spread such rumours to further create more panic among citizens and residents of the FCT and Nigeria at large.
“We reiterate that the Federal Capital Territory is safe and there is no imminent threat, neither is the FCT being saturated with bombs as speculated in the news. We, therefore, urge residents of the FCT and Nigerians at large to disregard this fake news which was purportedly sponsored to create fear in our people and heat up the polity.
“We will continue to adopt all effective operational strategies to decimate the activities of non-state actors and other criminal elements in the country.”
Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, Unity Advocacy Group, on Saturday expressed confidence that the Armed Forces and other security agencies would respond adequately to the terror alerts issued by the US and the UK.
UAG in a statement by its convener, Ifeanyi Aigbedion, said the enemies of the country would lose the war.
The Taiwan Government has also warned its citizens against traveling to Abuja and Sandton in South Africa following terror alerts issued by the United States and some other Western countries.
Focus Taiwan, a news agency of the Republic of China and influential news organisation in Taiwan, reported on Saturday, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Taiwanese citizens on Saturday against traveling to Nigeria’s capital Abuja and to Sandton, the financial center of Johannesburg, following terror alerts issued by the United States and some other Western countries.
“The ministry also instructed Taiwan’s representative offices in Nigeria and South Africa to alert Taiwanese living in those countries of possible terror attacks so they can avoid going to the targeted areas, according to a statement issued by the ministry Saturday. The US, UK, Canada, Australia and some European countries have issued a security advisory to their citizens in Nigeria due to an “elevated threat of terrorist attack” in Abuja.”
The Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Nigeria, Hidayet Bayraktar, has said that drones and helicopters from Turkey will soon arrive in Nigeria as part of efforts to strengthen the security architecture.
Turkish is one of the countries with the best drones, as some of their products have been in use in the Russia-Ukraine war.
NAN reported that Bayraktar spoke during the commemoration of the 99th National Day of the Republic of Turkey in Abuja on Friday, where he described Turkey’s security support to Nigeria as part of the gains from the defence cooperation contract signed between both countries in 2021.
Bayraktar stated, “The defence contracts signed between our countries last year marked a historical record. Taking this opportunity, I am proud to announce that two of our flagship defence industry platforms, Bayraktar (TB-2) drones and (T-149) ATAK helicopters, are set to arrive in Nigeria.
“We are confident that the new Turkish defence products will support the efforts of the Nigerian government and contribute immensely to the peace, prosperity and security of fellow Nigerians.”
Bayraktar said the Turkish Government is also expecting the Nigerian Government to reciprocate its legitimate security concerns by taking the necessary steps against the strong presence of “the FETO terrorist group in Nigeria.”
“Remaining as the sole obstacle hindering our bilateral relations to develop further, we call on Nigeria not to let terror groups undermine our excellent ties by allowing this terrorist group to fund their illegal aims and activities, by generation of revenues in this country,” he added.
Bayraktar said 2022 which marked the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Nigeria, gained momentum with the reciprocal high-level visits of President Recep Erdogan in October, 2021 and Buhari’s in December, 2021.
He said with the current pace of increasing commercial relations, he was confident that Turkey would soon achieve the target of $5bn bilateral trading volume with Nigeria, one of its top trading partners in the Sub-Saharan African.
“These mutual high-level visits have provided the opportunity to underline our shared goal of strengthening our bilateral ties in every field, especially in terms of commerce, defence industry, energy, construction, manufacturing healthcare, education, tourism and culture,” he added.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada, affirmed that Nigeria and Turkey witnessed increased trade and bilateral relations since the high-level visits by both Presidents in 2021.