The Nigeria police high command has deployed crack anti-terrorist squads to key cities, including the commercial city of Lagos, the inland capital city of Abuja and the oil city of Port Harcourt.
The deployment came in the aftermath of recent revelations by the country’s top cop, Mike Okiro, that the global terrorist group Al-Qaeda plans to bomb some parts of the country.
Though Okiro later backpedalled on the Al-Qaeda threat, apparently following protests from Islamic groups in the country, the local press reported Wednesday the deployment was necessitated by fears of terrorist attacks.
Okiro had told a conference of senior police officers last Saturday that ”security reports” indicated plans by the terrorist organisation to bomb targets in Nigeria.
“The Al-Qaeda network has threatened to send time bombs to Nigeria. The AIG (Assistant Inspector-General) Surveillance should intensify surveillance, while the CP (Commissioner of Police) Airwing, CP Border Patrol and the CPs of all the commands should be on the alert and ensure that these items (bombs) do not pass through their end,” Okiro said.
In Lagos alone, the police has deployed an 80-member squad to help ward off any impending terrorist attack.
”The squad was sent to Lagos by the IG (Inspector-General). I think it is more of a pro-active strategy that the current police administration is adopting to fight crime,” Lagos police spokesman Frank Mba said.
The latest threat of terrorist attack was not the first of such in Nigeria, whose 140 million people is almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims, though the country also boasts of a sizable number of animists.
In 2002, security agents were placed on the alert after the fugitive Al-Qaeda Osama Bin Laden urged Muslims in Nigeria and some other countries to topple their governments.
Last year, some Nigerians said to be linked to Al-Qaeda were arrested on charges of planning to attack some targets in the country and are currently undergoing trial.