Things are no longer at ease for most residents of Lagos, particularly those who live in the highbrow estates that pimple the city. Their fears follow a recent revelation by operatives of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) that Boko Haram insurgents were plotting to bomb some highbrow residential estates in the state.
The revelation, which came on the heels of the recent surge in the activities of the deadly sect in Borno, Adamawa and other North-East states and the arrest of 45 suspected members of the sect identified by the DSS as the brains behind the deadly plot, has created panic among residents.
Investigations conducted by our correspondents revealed that residents of high brow estates in Ikoyi, Lekki and Victoria Island areas of Lagos were visibly shaken by the development and were doing whatever they could to guard against any ugly trend.
According to information gathered, the executive of the residents’ association of Ikoyi and Victoria Island under the aegis of Victoria Island and Ikoyi Security Trust (VIISET) are leaving no stone unturned in their bid to forestall any attack. They had therefore held series of meetings in this regard.
A top member of the group, who attended one of such meetings held during the week, told one of our correspondents that the reported plot by suspected insurgents to bomb the high brow settlements had sent jitters down the spines of the residents.
He said that one of the immediate measures being considered by the security group was to send people who hawk in traffic away from the axis.
He said: “There is no way one would hear such an unpleasant story and handle it with levity. We were alarmed and seriously disturbed when we heard the news.
“But I must say that we are not leaving any stone unturned in our determination to make sure that terrorists don’t succeed in wreaking havoc in any part of Ikoyi and Victoria Island.
“We know that the security agencies are on top of the situation and are doing their best to provide security for the generality of the people, but we would not leave it to them alone.
“We are also looking at what we the residents can do to make sure the security of lives and property is guaranteed.
“I must confess to you that we have come up with a number of measures that would enhance our security. One of these measures is to send all the people that are hawking in traffic in the entire area packing. It is very easy for a terrorist to mingle with them and wreak havoc without anybody suspecting him.
“By the time we rid the roads of these guys, the coast would be clear and one would be able to monitor the movement of motorists and other passersby. The move may appear callous but we cannot sacrifice our security on the altar of being nice to these guys.”
The Executive Secretary of VIISET, Alhaji Abdulazeez Muse, said the body was working round the clock to make sure that lives and property of residents were safe.
He said: “We often hold meetings to brief our members about the security situation in the area. We also have formal relationship with security agents.
“From time to time, we do call the police to draw their attention to dark spots. We also urge our members to constantly observe their environments and report back to us.
“We are working on having a database for every resident in the area, and that would be rounded off as soon as possible.”
He added that the efforts to rid the axis of street hawkers have nothing to do with Boko Haram’s plot.
“It has been an ongoing thing and has nothing to do with the issue of Boko Haram. It is part of our general efforts to bring sanity to the area. We have always worked with the local government authorities to raid these people and bring sanity to our environment,” he said.
Checks on estates like Dolphin, Osborne, Victoria Garden City (VGC) and Oniru, among others, revealed that residents have beefed up security in and around the estates to ward off danger.
At Dolphin Estate, for instance, checks showed that one of the gates leading into the area is now under lock and key since the threat to its security was reported last week. A resident, who did not want his name in print, told The Nation that it was imperative for them to beef up security to make sure no terrorist attack happens in the area.
The resident said: “We have actually stepped up our security arrangement, but they may not be visible to people out there. What we have now is totally different from what we had before now. We are not taking the report likely because whatever is capable of threatening human lives cannot be treated with kid gloves.
“With the new security arrangement on ground, we monitor everybody that comes in and moves out of the estate both on foot and in vehicles. This is the much I can tell you because it is not proper to let out our security plans on the pages of a newspaper. The arrangement is top secret which every responsible member of the estate should keep to his heart.”
An official of the estate’s residents’ association, who pleaded anonymity, said the association had always given the matter of security the priority before now, adding that the revelation of a plot by Boko Haram to bomb highbrow estates had led to a better security arrangement by the estate.
“Even before now, we have always treated security matters with all seriousness. So, this latest revelation has only made us to increase our efforts and put in place more measures that will prevent any attack by any group,” the official said.
A female resident of Osborne Estate said she had been fear-stricken since the matter was reported last week.
She said: “I have not been sleeping with my two eyes closed since last weekend when the issue was reported. My fear stems from the fact that there is no security arrangement that you can put in place that can stop bomb explosion.
“I am not sure there is any technological device in place to stop bomb explosion. In the last one week, I have been preoccupied with the thought of the safety of my children when they go to school. Whenever they are not back when they should, I would be apprehensive and keep calling. If a tyre bursts anywhere around, your blood pressure will shoot up because you would think it is bomb. This past week has been full of anxiety for me because of the news. The whole thing is better imagined than experienced.”
Another resident, who identified himself as Benjamin, says although he appreciates the efforts of the various residents’ associations to beef up security in the area, he would rather put his confidence in divine security.
He said: “The various associations are doing well by working round the clock to upgrade the security arrangement in the area and I really give them kudos for their efforts.
“But I must say that every human security arrangement, no matter how solid, can be breached. This is my firm belief, and developments around the world and even here in Nigeria attest to this fact.
“For this reason, I will rather look up to God for my security than putting my confidence in human arrangement, which is susceptible to all manner of manipulations. It is worrisome that many security providers even compromise at times because of pecuniary gains.”
For Femi, a resident of Victoria Island, Lagos, moving out of the area is not an option to the challenge posed by the threat. Beyond beefing up security in the axis, he advised that security agencies should spread their dragnets across the state to make sure that people with ulterior motives are flushed out.
He said: “Moving out of the environment is not an option at all because security threat is all over the country. The problem shouldn’t be the concern of those of us living in Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi alone; iIt is a challenge that the entire state should rise up to.
“Before the report last week that there was a plot to bomb this area, there had been reports about the arrest of Boko Haram members in different areas on the mainland. So, if everybody begins to move when such developments are reported, where would they all be running to at the end of the day?
“This simply tells us that nowhere is safe from the threat, and the earlier we begin to look at a collective solution the better for us. If you secure the island and leave the mainland without security, you will find out that the area you consider secure will eventually not be safe.
“I want to appeal to the state government to come up with fresh security arrangement to secure the entire state. We must not wait to have Sambisa forest where people can be kidnapped and kept before we start doing something. The police, army and other security agencies should immediately be sent out to comb shady areas across the state.