The Department of State Services has arrested 20 suspected Boko Haram commanders in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Plateau and Gombe states.
The suspects, who were arrested between July 8 and August 25, 2015, include the masterminds of the suicide attacks in Potiskum, Kano, Zaria, and Jos.
The DSS in a statement by an official, Tony Opuiyo, on Sunday in Abuja, said those arrested were notable commanders and frontline members of the notorious group from different parts of the country.
The statement noted that the group’s new pattern of movement and spread was caused by the pressure being put on it by security forces in its core areas of strength in the North-East.
The service listed those arrested in Lagos to include Bakura Modu who was apprehended on July, 20 at Kara, Ogun State; Mustapha Jamberi, who was picked up on July 24 at Gowon Estate.
Others are Abuyi Sheriff, who was nabbed at Ebute-Meta; Babagana Ali and Babagana Koloye, who were arrested on August, 7 at Eric Moore, Surulere.
The service explained that it picked up Abba Sagma at Ijora Badia on August 9; Grema Abubakar and Tijani Bagudu were apprehended at Amukoko, Ijora Badia the next day, while Baba Alhaji and Abass Ibrahim were arrested earlier on the same day at the Alaba International Market, Ojo.
The DSS stated that a Boko Haram commander, Usman Shuaibu, aka Money, revealed that he coordinated the suicide attacks in Potiskum, Kano, Zaria and Jos, which claimed several lives, with N500,000 that was provided by his Amir, one Isa Ali, who had a direct access to the sect leader, Abubakar Shekau, from whom he collected money to fund operations undertaken by their Markaz.
The agency said, “Shuaibu also revealed that he had participated in several Boko Haram attacks, including the attacks at Gwoza Divisional Police Station in 2014.
“He admitted to being the leader of the team of nine sect members that was dispatched from Sambisa Forest to carry out the attacks. He disclosed that four out of the nine of them were used as suicide bombers in executing all the (suicide) attacks.
“Nigerians and indeed the general public have to note that the arrest of Shuaibu, aka Money, and the core members of his cell, stemmed the spate of bombings by the extremist sect. It will be recalled that Money and his group were arrested on their way to Bauchi State where they had planned to execute another bomb attack, and this was frustrated by the arrest.
“The sudden influx of Boko Haram members into Lagos State points is due to the determination of the sect to extend its nefarious terrorist activities to the state and in fact, to other parts of the country.
“The arrest of these confessed terrorists has, however, helped in no small measure to avert devastating attacks in the area. However, the service is making efforts to conclude its investigations and commence prosecution of the suspects.”
The DSS said a Boko Haram Improvised Explosive Device expert, Ahmed Mohammed, aka Abubakar), admitted to making the IEDs used in the various suicide bombings in the country.
“Mohammed also averred that he was the one who strapped the suicide bombers, notably Sule and his wives, with IED vests, which they used in the attacks in Jos,” the service said.
The secret service further stated that Adamu Abdulahi, aka Babpa, confessed that Shuaibu motivated him to work closely with IED expert, Mohammed, in the preparation of the IEDs used in the attacks under reference.
The service said that another suspect, Ibrahim Issa, confessed that he was the one who carried out reconnaissance on the targets in Jos ahead of the attacks, while Muttaqa Yusuf (aka Mohammed Sani/Mudtaka), disclosed that one Aliyu believed to be Aliyu Gombe in Sambisa forest, was the one that ordered the serial attacks which the syndicate carried out.
He further confessed that he assisted Shuaibu in planning and executing the said attacks.
Other suspects include Ibrahim Audu, who was arrested on August 19 at New Artisan Market, Enugu; Ibrahim Haruna, arrested on August, 21 at Kwomi village, Kwami Local Government Area, Gombe State; Ali Mohammodu, nabbed on August 22 at Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Fagga LGA in Kano State; and Adam Jilbe, who was apprehended on August 23 at Obanikoro, Lagos State.
The agency restated its determination to work with other stakeholders in the fight against terror and other forms of criminality in the country and called on citizens to volunteer useful information to the service and other security agencies.
Meanwhile, the DSS has stepped up covert operations to dismantle Boko Haram cells across the country, particularly in the South-West, South-East and South-South where suspected terrorists are hiding.
It was learnt that the arrest of notable Boko Haram commanders had provided credible leads and intelligence that could assist the service to track down insurgents and their supporters, including ‘sleeper cells.’
A source said, “The recent arrest of terror suspects has provided a haul of information and intelligence that could assist the service to dismantle various terrorist cells. If the security forces can sustain the current momentum, we will destroy Boko Haram; it is a matter of time.”
Residents can arrest suspected suicide bomber – Lagos CP
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, says residents of the state are allowed to arrest anyone suspected to be a suicide bomber, and hand him over to the police.
The CP added that the police had also deployed its surveillance teams to monitor motor parks and other public places in a bid to ensure that there was no incidence of terrorist attack.
Owoseni, who said this on Sunday in an exclusive interview with PUNCH Metro, added that suicide bombers would be recognised first by their unusual movements and inquisitive behaviour.
He said, “The practical step to take when residents suspect a suicide bomber is to alert the security agencies. The police are near to everyone. The residents can also make an arrest before the police arrive. It is allowed.
“One of the signs to look out for is the behaviour. A suicide bomber behaves unusually. He also moves in a suspicious manner. Such people are too inquisitive about the areas where they find themselves. Also, they hardly make friends; they are lone rangers.
“Any car that is parked in an unusual manner should be reported. One of such signs is that one side of the glass is wound down, and other sides rolled up.
“We expect that if residents see vehicles in their areas unattended to, they would raise the alarm immediately. If anyone sits in a parked car without winding down the glass, people should accost him and ask him questions.”
Owoseni said the police in the state had met with the Hausa communities, transport park unions and boat operators to sensitise them on what the police expected from them.
He said, “We have deployed operatives in all the motor parks. We also held meetings with unions like Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria, and the National Union of Road Transport Workers; we are collaborating with them.
“The police met the Arewa communities in the Agege and FESTAC areas, where I told the Imam and the leaders of the Hausa groups that any suspicious face should be immediately reported to the police.”
How to spot a terrorist- Experts
Two security experts, Richard Amuwa and Dr. Ona Ekhomu, have urged vigilance and a more friendly relationship between security agents and residents to tackle threats of Boko Haram, especially in Lagos.
They said vigilance was the only way to recognise terrorists, adding that a friendly relationship would encourage the people to be free to report suspicious objects or persons in their neighbourhood.
Ekhomu, who is the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, advised Lagosians to imbibe the culture of TAPIs ─ Terrorists Attacks Pre-incident Indicators ─ to avoid unnecessary deaths and tragedy.
He said, “Boko Haram members have been with us for a while; so one thing we can do is to be vigilant against the influx of strangers into neighbourhoods. Landlords associations should register okada (motorcycle) riders and keke NAPEP (tricycle) drivers. Give them vests so that any stranger would be picked up.
“Also, ask questions if anyone moves suspiciously in your area. Look out for one another. Everybody must be their brothers’ keepers.”
Ekhomu said the ammunition of war of Boko Haram members was usually the IEDs.
“So, if you see anyone collecting cans; or anyone with bags of fertiliser; or anyone with container of diesel when they don’t have a generator, be suspicious. These are ingredients for IEDs. Boko Haram don’t have easy access to high explosives,” the security expert added.
He also urged Lagosians not to be confrontational if someone looked suspicious. He added that the suspect might be armed and could kill to save himself.
Ekhomu said, “Contact the authority immediately. You can also contact the media to ensure accountability by the security agencies.”
Also, Amuwa said the police should be ready to work with the people without creating fear in them.
He said, “The people should not hesitate to raise the alarm if they see any strange face in their environment.
“People should think less about their problems, and be more conscious of happenings within their environment.”
Amuwa, who is the Managing Director of the Mega Guards Services Limited, also advised the government to ban the wearing of hijab for the time being, saying the veil worn by muslim women, was being used by terrorists to shield explosives.
He said, “The problem is that how do you detect a Boko Haram member? If you are wearing shirts and the terrorist is wearing hijab, how do you figure him or her out? That is why we have asked the government to stop the wearing of hijab for now.”
In a related development sources told our correspondent that the security agencies had been paying attention to some area in Lagos to prevent attacks.
The areas include FESTAC, Apapa, Agege, Yaba, Ojuelegba, Obalende, Ajegunle, Alimosho, Badagry, Lagos Island, Idi araba, Bariga, Bajulaiye, Fola Agoro, Onipanu, Palmgroove, Aguda, Agbado, Ejigbo and Ikorodu, among others.