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Heavy security in Abuja as national confab begins

Boko Haram

Barely 24 hours to the commencement of the national conference, security agencies have tightened security in and around the Federal Capital Territory.

The new security arrangement was put in place even as the Federal Government on Thursday made some changes to the list of delegates to the national conference scheduled to begin on Monday with 492 delegates.

On Friday, the armed forces, police and intelligence services were on high alert in the nation’s capital, in preparation for the conference.

SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the security measure was taken because of the renewed attacks by the Boko Haram sect in the North-East.

Detachments of armed soldiers, mostly drawn from the Guards Brigade, were seen manning checkpoints at various entrances to Abuja.

Checks by our correspondents at some locations revealed an upsurge in vehicular traffic along Kubwa—Zuba and Abuja—Keffi roads, as well as the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Expressway, commonly referred to as Airport Road.

Along the Airport Road, armed soldiers were seen at checkpoints located around Kuje Junction, just as a few of their colleagues were sighted alighting from a truck at Lugbe, a few metres away from the checkpoint.

A similar sight was also observed along Kubwa– Zuba, Giri-Gwawalada-Lokoja and the Keffi-Mararaba-Nyanya-Abuja roads, where troops were also manning checkpoints with high-calibre weapons on display.

On its part, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps said it had deployed 2,000 of its officers and men, as well as 100 sniffer dogs, at strategic locations within the city as part of the security architecture put in place for the conference.

The spokesman for the corps, Mr. Emmanuel Okeh, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja.

“Our men are prepared and they have been mobilised for the conference. We have deployed 2,000 officers and 100 sniffer dogs in strategic locations within the city,” he said.

When one of our correspondents visited the National Judicial Institute, the venue of the conference, on Friday, security operatives comprising regular and riot policemen were conducting a manual search of the premises with emphasis on strategic locations such as the exit and entry points of the complex.

A few men of the Department of State Security Service were also sighted on the premises.

Our correspondents also saw some plainclothes security officials with no tags at the centre.  Two patrol vehicles belonging to the FCT Police Command were stationed on the premises.

The Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 7, Mr. Suleman Abah, also visited the venue on Friday. In a chat with reporters after the visit, Abah said he was at the venue to ensure that there was “tight security.”

The FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Altine Daniel, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the command had put adequate security measures in place to make the conference venue and the various hotels where the delegates were lodged secure.

“I want to assure the general public that adequate security arrangement is in place and we will not relent in our efforts to make the FCT safe,” she stated.

Also, our correspondents, who went round various parts of the Abuja metropolis and some satellite towns, observed increased military and police presence in Kubwa, Central Area and Wuse. They also observed the prominent luxury hotels, such as Transcorp Hilton and Sheraton Hotel and Towers, had been fully booked.

An employee of one of the hotels said, “Leading hotels in the FCT are fully booked because of the national conference. When the oil and gas conference ends, you will see that the hotels will still be occupied.”

When contacted, the Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, said the security arrangement in Abuja was effective enough to give the necessary protection to participants of the conference.

He said, “The security cordon for the Federal Capital Territory is strong and it is capable of catering for such important national events and assignments.”

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