The Department of State Services (DSS) yesterday raised the alarm that National Assembly members would be targets of kidnappers and bandits during the Yuletide.
The security service also confirmed plots by elements it described as desperate power seekers to cause a breakdown of law and order in the country.
Also yesterday, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Babagana Monguno, listed the three religious groups backing terrorist organisations in Nigeria and other Sahel countries.
Miffed by the worsening insecurity in the Northwest, governors from the region met to discuss the crisis. Also, three Northeast governors stormed Aso Villa, Abuja, to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the security challenges in their states.
Last month, the DSS said it had uncovered plots by marauders to attack military formations in border communities.
At a news briefing in Abuja, DSS disclosed that intelligence at its disposal showed that National Assembly members were primary targets of kidnappings and assassinations during the Yuletide.
It also warned that students would be targets for recruitment into banditry and other crimes during their vacation
DSS Public Relations Officer Peter Afunanya said some desperate power-seekers were using wrong and skewed narratives to mislead citizens and heat up the polity.
He said the unscrupulous elements are exploiting and politicising insecurity in many parts of the country for pecuniary reasons.
Afunanya said: “The Service, therefore, warns that those who are involved in these (plots) should desist from such destabilising acts. It also enjoins politicians to play by the rule and avoid statements or activities capable of inflaming the fires of division and violence, prior to the 2023 elections.
“Opinion molders like the clergy, religious and traditional rulers are also to guard their utterances and avoid inciting pronouncements.
“In a related development, it is common knowledge that criminal elements will heighten their inglorious activities before, during, and after the festive periods.
“Therefore, religious and community leaders, hoteliers and operators of markets, parks, recreational and relaxation centres are to be on the alert and watch strange movements and activities around their facilities.
“As schools vacate and students return home for holidays, there is the likelihood that subversive gangs will target them for recruitment for undesirable intents. These may include, but not limited to financial crimes, armed robbery, civil disobedience and violent protests, substance abuse, banditry, and kidnapping.
He added: “Aside from students, members of National Assembly/ Houses of Assembly and other public/private sector workers on vacation may be predisposed to threats of various degrees.
“This also applies to Nigerians who may travel from within and outside the country to join their loved ones for the celebrations.
“These individuals are susceptible to kidnapping, hijack, assassinations, armed robbery, and political manipulations. They are advised to be security conscious in order not to fall victims of these attacks and destructive political maneuvers.”
Afunanya accused the legal team of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, of misleading the public with fake news on how their client is being treated in custody.
He said contrary to the rumour being peddled, Kanu is not being starved or ill-treated in any way.
Afunanya added: “We deny all the inciting allegations by IPOB and states that Nnamdi Kanu is not, in any way, maltreated in custody. Accusations of maltreatment negate the service standard operating procedure on the implementation of rights of a suspect.”
Monguno named Jama’at Nasr al-Islam Wal Muslimin (JNIM), Islamic and Muslim Support Group (GSIM), and ISGS as sponsors and supporters of terrorist groups.
He urged “Ulamas, preachers, and community leaders” to preach on the negative effects of insecurity and canvas support for the ongoing counter-terrorism operations.
He said: “There’s no gun more powerful than enlightenment and education at the grass-root level,” he said during the 14th Workshop of the League of Ulamas, Preachers, and Imams of Sahel countries.
Monguno said alliances between the clerics and security forces “should be the backbone to rebuilding our terrorism-infested communities”.
He said: “Terrorism and the rapid escalation of violent activities by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel since 2016 have been primarily driven by the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS), which mainly operates in Mali and extends to the Niger Republic and Burkina Faso.
“It is bolstered by activities of groups such as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam Wal Muslimin (JNIM), the Islamic and Muslim Support Group (GSIM), and ISGS, which have continued to pose an imminent threat to the stability of the region.
“In Nigeria, Boko-Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) dominate terrorist activities, especially in the Northeastern..
“The situation in the Sahel has never been grimmer, extremist violence continues to spread; the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is growing, and food insecurity is affecting more people than ever before. There are several not entirely congruent working hypotheses underpinning foreign and regional government strategies.
“It is imperative that Ulamas, preachers, and community leaders in your localities key in to support efforts of our security forces, in order to end this menace.
“Just as collaborations between governments are boosting the advance of security forces in the fight against terrorism, alliances and group effort like LOPIS should be the backbone to rebuilding our terrorism-infested communities.”
*Bandits kidnap 30 travellers, kill community leader
Bandits on Monday night killed a community leader and kidnapped about 30 travellers along the Kaduna-Zaria Highway.
The bandits were said to have opened fire on the vehicle conveying travellers, leaving many of injured.
Kaduna State Police Command was yet to confirm the incident at the time of filing this report.