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Ensure Churches, Schools, Others Have CCTV Cameras; Terrorists’ Plans Are Bigger Than Ondo Church Massacre – Falana-led Group

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Human rights lawyer and Chairman of the Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Femi Falana (SAN), has said that plans by terrorists in Nigeria go beyond the massacre of worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State.

Falana in a statement made available on Monday recounted how the Public Relations Officer of State Security Service (SSS), also known as Department of State Services, Dr. Peter Afunanya, on several occasions alerted Nigerians and the Nigerian government of the discovery by the Service of terrorists plans to launch attacks on strategic places including churches, club centres and schools in the North Central and South West.

Falana also recounted how members of Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) have made several attempts to bomb Lagos State and other places in the South West but were foiled by security agencies.

The human rights lawyer, who lamented the killing of over 50 people in the Owo incident on Sunday, called on the Nigerian government to take more proactive measures, and equip the security agents with necessary superior weapons to ensure the security of Nigerians.

He said, “Apparently frustrated with the cavalier attitude of the Federal Government and some State Governments to security reports, the State Security Service (SSS) has recently resorted to alerting the Nigerian people of imminent attacks by terrorists and other nihilist forces. Thus, on March 20, the State Security Services (SSS) said it had discovered plans to cause violence in parts of the country, particularly in the North Central.

“Dr. Peter Afunanya, the Public Relations Officer of the DSS, disclosed that measures had been taken to forestall the plot by the unscrupulous elements in the society. He warned that “While the Service views the machination as unpatriotic, it is on the trail of the agents of destabilisation who are desirous of using violence to achieve ulterior goals.”

“Exactly nine days later, a group of terrorists attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train, killed over a dozen passengers and injured several others.

“In his reaction to the dastardly attack on the train, the then Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi said that he had foreseen the bomb attack but that the Federal Executive Council had turned down his memo on a security surveillance contract! The scores of passengers abducted by the terrorists have not been released except a few whose family members were able to pay the ransom of about N100 million demanded by the terrorists.

“Once again, on April 26, 2022, the SSS alerted Nigerians on alleged plans by some dangerous elements to launch bomb attacks on critical infrastructure and public places like worship and relaxation centres, especially during and after the festive celebrations. The SSS issued the alert in a statement by its spokesperson, Peter Afunanya. Mr. Afunanya said the criminal elements were planning to return the country to the pre-2015 era reminiscent of IED attacks on soft and hard targets.

“As predicted, a group of unmasked armed terrorists stormed the St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State where they detonated explosives in the church and then gunned down worshippers during service on Sunday, June 5, 2022. No less than 50 people were killed while over 100 people were injured.

“After the terrorist attack, the Ondo police command was reported to have deployed officers of the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit, better known as the anti-bomb squad, to Owo local government area. As expected, the Federal Government has condemned the reckless attack on the worshippers and threatened to bring the criminal elements to justice.

“We commiserate with the government and people of Ondo State over the massacre. Our hearts go to the bereaved families who lost their loved ones in the dastardly attack. However, governments at all levels must go beyond issuing threats. It is common knowledge that every country involved in the prosecution of the war on terror is required to train security personnel and acquire adequate security gadgets to protect the people.

“Therefore, the Federal Government should ensure that the nation’s airports, trains, buses, courts, schools, malls, churches, mosques, banks and other public places are provided with screening machines and CCTV cameras. As a matter of urgency, the Federal Government and the various State Governments should promptly act on intelligence reports compiled by the State Security Service and other security agencies.

“Contrary to the general belief, this is not the first time that the terrorists had launched attacks in the southwest. It is on record that the Boko Haram and ISWAP sects had attempted to bomb Lagos but were frustrated by the security agencies. For instance, on August 30, 2015, the SSS confirmed the arrest of over a dozen Boko Haram leaders within two months including nine in Lagos and one in Enugu State.

“The SSS said ‘the sudden influx of Boko Haram members into Lagos State points to the determination of the sect to extend its nefarious terrorist activities to the State and in fact, other parts of the country.’ On July 1, 2021, the Nigerian Army announced that during its standing patrols and raid operations at strategic areas in the southwest zone, including Majidun area, one Mr. Ibrahim Musa, an ISWAP member was arrested at No 31 Abartura Street in Sango-Ota, Ogun State.

“We urge the security forces to continue to frustrate the nefarious agenda of the terrorists. We also call on citizens to be security-conscious and report suspicious security threats to law enforcement agencies. Sometime in 2013, a group of terrorists attempted to bomb Lagos with 17 boxes of explosives. Former Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN (now Minister of Works and Housing) recently recalled this incident as follows: ‘… When 17 suitcases loaded with explosives were brought into Lagos in 2013, law enforcement missed it. It was citizen information, which we did not discard that led to their seizure, apprehension of the suspects and their cargo of terror. They were tried in Lagos without a public show.

“That was the period new courts were being built in Badagry and we prosecuted them there. They were given a fair trial because they had lawyers representing them. They were over 20 and were convicted and this enabled the government put them in a place where they could no longer harm residents of Lagos.

“A lot of lessons should be learnt from that Lagos experience.”

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