Security agencies have beefed up security across the 36 states of the federation as Nigeria prepares to celebrate its 53rd Independence anniversary on Tuesday.
Although President Goodluck Jonathan would celebrate the Independence anniversary inside Aso Rock, a police helicopter was seen carrying out aerial patrol of Abuja on Friday as part of security measures.
Also police commands across the country have mapped out various security measures to forestall violence during the celebration by paying special attention to churches, open fields and stadia.
This is coming shortly after the attack on a Kenyan mall that left over 60 persons dead.
The United States on Thursday said the group responsible for the attack, Al-Shabab, had links with the violent Boko Haram sect.
A few days ago, Boko Haram leader, Abu Shekau, resurfaced in a new video, weeks after the military reportedly killed him.
Shekau, in the video, threatened that more attacks would occur.
On Saturday, President Barack Obama described Boko Haram as “one of the most vicious terroristorganisations in the world.”
Already, in Ogun State, the police has put in place an operational order for the Independence anniversary.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, said the order would serve as a guide to the officers and men of the command in performing their duties throughout the period.
One of our correspondents gathered that the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 2, Mamman Tsafe, held a meeting on Friday with the top officers in the command.
Regarding security at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, venue of the Independence celebrations in the state, the police spokesman said men of the anti-bomb squad and police sniffer dogs had been deployed in the stadium.
Similarly, the 35 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Alamala, Abeokuta said its troops had been put on alert.
The Brigade’s Public Relations Officer, Captain Adamu Ngulde, said troops attached to the state’s anti-crime outfit, Operation Messa, were already maintaining tight security in different parts of the state.
Ngulde added that the brigade had enough troops on ground to contain any situation in the state.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Etim Dickson, said the police had deployed more vehicles, particularly the Eagle 1-6, to complement the Quick Response Squad vehicles.
He stated that the QRS operations had also been extended to remote areas where they did not have presence.
“We have deployed more vehicles, particularly in Eagle Patrol 1-6, which were donated by the Niger Delta Development Commission to complement the existing QRS to give adequate security towards Nigeria’s anniversary celebration,” he said.
The Cross Rivers State Security Adviser, Mr. Rekpene Bassey, told Sunday PUNCH on Friday that a combined team of all security agencies had been mandated to guard specific areas.
Even though he did not disclose the ‘specific areas,’ he said, “Deliberate efforts have been made by placing all security agencies on red alert.”
One of our correspondents reports that police patrol vans as well as vehicles with armed soldiers have been patrolling Osogbo and other major towns in the state.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mra. Folashade Odoro, said, “We assure the people of the state of water-tight security during the 53rd Independence Anniversary of our nation. Our men are all over and police presence will be seen.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olufemi Fabode, said some policemen from other divisions and area commands in the state had been drafted to Ilorin, the state capital.
He stated that the command had stepped up motorised patrols, adding that he would not reveal other security measures so as not to jeopardise them.
Similarly, the Rivers State Police Command said it had put measures in place to ensure a hitch-free Independence Day celebration.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad, who spoke in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, explained that the command would leave no stone unturned to prevent crime during Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration.
The Ondo State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wole Ogodo, said the police was in collaborating with military formations towards ensuring a hitch-free celebration.
He said, “We do not know whether the celebration will be low-key or not, but whichever the case, our men will be fully deployed at the stadium and other venues in Akure as well as all the local government areas where the celebration will be held.”
On its part, the Oyo State Police Command said more of its men would be deployed in strategic positions.
The state’s Police Public Relation Officer, Olabisi Ilobanafor, told one of our correspondents in Ibadan on Friday that the Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ndabawa, had directed all divisional police officers in the state to ensure that places of public interest and their communities must be well guarded during the period.
She said, “We are not expecting any public disturbance but as usual, it is the duty of the police to protect everyone. We are in a special period and we are stepping up our work to ensure that the state is safe for everyone.
The Enugu State Police Command said measures were being put in place to ensure the safety of lives and property during the anniversary.
The command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, made this known to one of our correspondents, but declined stating the specific security measures being mapped out for the day.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the Independence celebration event scheduled for Aso Rock would be strictly military.
The military event that will hold at the forecourt of the villa will be the commemorative handing and taking over by the presidential guards.
The President is also expected to sign the anniversary register, cut the anniversary cake and perform the traditional release of pigeons that signifies peace.
On Friday, men of the Presidential Brigade of Guards were seen rehearsing at the venue of the event.They were joined by other security operatives that would be on duty on Tuesday as well as officials of the Protocol Unit of the State House.
Some officials of the Protocol Unit were also sighted dispatching invitation letters to dignitaries that are expected at the event.
Those expected include the leadership of the National Assembly and the judiciary, former heads of governments, members of the Federal Executive Council as well as members of the diplomatic corps, among others.
Workers of the construction company, Julius Berger, who are handling the villa’s maintenance, were also seen on Friday re-painting the walls of the forecourt.
A twin bomb blast had on October 1, 2010 rocked the neighbourhood of the Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of the nation’s 50th Independence anniversary celebration. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the blast.
Although many believed that the government’s decision to hold the 2011 event and subsequent ones inside the villa was a way of avoiding the embarrassment another bomb blast might cause the nation, the government said the decision had nothing to do with that.
Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, had attributed the low-key nature of the anniversary to the fact that Nigeria had had cause to hold two huge national events — the 50th Independence anniversary in 2010 and the May 29, 2011 presidential inauguration that attracted world leaders.
President Goodluck Jonathan had also said the nation’s independence celebration would continue to be low-key until 2014 when the 100 years of the country’s amalgamation would be celebrated elaborately.
The one-year long activities earmarked for the centenary celebration which started this year would be rounded off in January 2014.