Govt. moves to tighten national security

Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- Escalating ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria and recent terrorist attacks on the US have prompted tighter security measures in the West African country.
The local media reported Monday that the government had stopped the renewal of arms licences in a major move to stem small arms proliferation, partly blamed for the rising level of violence in Africa's most-populous nation.
In addition, Nigeria Police are re-activating their anti-terrorism unit in the wake of the 11 September deadly aerial attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC, which killed thousands of people.
Since returning to civilian rule 29 May 1999, Nigeria has witnessed a high level of sectarian and ethnic violence, which has claimed hundreds of lives and resulted in damage to property worth billions of naira.
The latest was in the central city of Jos, where clashes between Christian indigenes and the Moslem Hausa/Fulani settlers two weeks ago, resulted to more than 500 deaths.
Reports say some one million Nigerians possess handguns, and that most of the 5,000 weapons recovered from the combatants in Jos, as in other trouble spots nation-wide, were licensed by the police.
Police Commissioners in the 36 federated States, have now been barred from granting new licences for all categories of firearms and renewal of old licences have been halted.
Nigeria Police spokesman Haz Iwendi was quoted as saying that the global threat of terrorism had made it imperative for the force to re-activate its anti-terrorism squad so that it could work 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.
He also disclosed that Police Commissioners in the States and the federal capital territory (Abuja) had been directed to beef up security, particularly to forestall possible riots and attacks on innocent people by groups sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi Arabia-born Afghanistan-based fundamentalist named by the US as prime suspect in the 11 September attacks.
Some Islamic fundamentalist groups in Nigeria have openly demonstrated in support of bin Laden.
Sources in the northern city of Kano said Monday that bin Laden's posters 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 Christian resident said.
"I hope (this) does not mean an attack on us (Christians)," said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Following the attacks on the US, Nigeria police have stepped up security at foreign embassies in the commercial city of Lagos and Abuja, the federal capital.

24 september 2001 15:54:00

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