Government moves to tighten national security

Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- Escalating ethnic and religious violence in the country and recent terrorist attacks in the US have forced the Nigerian government to take measures aimed at tightening security nation-wide.
The local media reported last Monday that the government had stopped the renewal of arms licences in a bid to stem small arms proliferation, which has been partly blamed for the rising level of violence in Africa's most-populous nation.
In addition, Nigeria Police have decided to re-activate their anti-terrorism unit in the wake of the tragic aerial attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC, in which thousands were killed.
Since returning to civil rule on 29 May 1999, Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented level of sectarian and ethnic violence, which has claimed thousands of lives and resulted in damages to property worth billions of naira.
The latest outbreak of violence was recorded in the central city of Jos, where the Christian indigenes clashed with Moslem Haussa/Fulani settlers two weeks ago, leading to more than 500 deaths.
Reports say that not less than one million Nigerians possess handguns, and that most of the 5,000 weapons recovered from the combatants in Jos, as in other hotbeds nation-wide, were licensed by the police.
But state police commissioners have been barred from granting licences for all categories of firearms, in addition to the stoppage of renewals.
On anti-terrorism efforts, Nigeria Police spokesman Haz Iwendi was quoted as saying that the global threat of terrorism had made it imperative for the force to activate its anti- terrorism squad so that it could work together with other security agencies in ensuring the country's security.
"With the current situation, all relevant security agencies throughout the country, including the anti-terrorism squad, have been placed on red alert," Iwendi said.
The spokesman also disclosed that police commissioners in all 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory had been directed to beef up security, in particular to forestall possible riots and attacks on innocent people by groups sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the attacks in New York and Washington.
Some Islamic fundamentalist groups in Nigeria have openly demonstrated in support of bin Laden.
Sources in the northern city of Kano said that posters of the suspected terrorist leader were circulating freely in the predominantly-Moslem city.
"We are under some tension here because some groups have threatened to retaliate if the US attacks Afghanistan [the country harbouring bin Laden]," a Kano resident was quoted as saying.
Since the attacks in the US, Nigeria police have stepped up security at foreign embassies in the commercial city of Lagos and Abuja, the federal capital.

26 september 2001 12:09:00

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