Sequel to the warning issued by the United States of a possible attack on Sheraton Hotel in Lagos, security has been beefed up in strategic locations across the state. Such strategic locations include worship centres, market places, shopping malls, hotels, financial institutions and government installations.
US had issued a warning at the weekend urging its citizens to avoid travelling to Adamawa, Yobe and Borno, three North-east states under state of emergency due to deadly attacks by Boko Haram. It also warned of a possible attack on Sheraton Hotel in Lagos. Though the US warning did not state which of the two Sheraton Hotels in Lagos may be targeted, security operatives in the state are not leaving things to chance.
While the military Headquarters and the State Security Service (SSS) in Abuja and Lagos respectively said they would not take the warning lightly, the Lagos State Police said they were yet to get empirical evidence that gives credence to the warning issued by the US government.
Currently, there are about 103 Boko Haram members at the Kirirkiri Maximum Prison, Apapa, who were arrested by security personnel of the 81 Division under the command of the then General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major General Obi Umahi.
Also, THISDAY had exclusively reported last year March on how plans by Boko Haram to simultaneously bomb 16 landmarks in Lagos with well trained suicide bombers were uncovered and the kingpins including the armourer were arrested. The security operatives which included the Army, DSS and Operation Mesa had carted away a large cache of explosives with their detonators.
Months later, the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika, had in an interview with THISDAY disclosed that the insurgents smuggled in the explosives through empty fuel tankers, thereby beating the eagle eye of security operatives.
At the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja yesterday, security men at the main gate were seen using metal/bomb detectors to screen vehicles coming into the premises. There were also plain-clothes security operatives keeping watch on movements in and around the hotel.
Attempts to get some of the hotel staff to comment on the security beef up were not successful.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said though the command would not despise the US information, there were still no concrete proof of a possible attack.
She said: “As a responsible law enforcement agency, we do not trivialise information, though there is nothing empirical that gives credence to that information.
“While we are evaluating this information, we have taken proactive measures by tightening up security in strategic places such as worship centres, market places, shopping malls, hotels, financial institutions and government installations.
“Lagosians are advised to go about their normal duties as enough security and intelligence have been put in place by the state Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko.” In a telephone conversation with THISDAY, the Director, Defence Information (DDI), Major General Chris Olukolade, said the defence headquarters could not confirm the accuracy of the US claim.
He said: “Let the embassy confirm their claim. However, we are generally alert because any information imperative for the nation’s security is taken seriously.”
Asked whether there were plans to evacuate the hotel and if people could still lodge there, he said: “We are not disposed to telling people to lodge or not to lodge.”
Also, the state Director of SSS, Mr. Ben Achu-Olayi, said the choice to lodge in a hotel was purely a personal decision for individuals to make. He said: “People can still lodge there. If you say a car will have an accident, you still cannot prevent people from entering the vehicle. They are safe.
“We are an intelligence-driven organisation. When we pick up any information, we start working on it. We don’t want to discountenance it. The important thing is for us to have a peaceful environment. We are not waving it off and we are not taking it lightly.”