A plot by the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram, to extend its operations to the southern part of the country has been uncovered by security agencies.
The sect had chosen some southern cities such as Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Onitsha and Warri for attacks.
It was learnt that following sustained attacks on the sect’s strongholds in Borno and Yobe states by security agencies, its members had dispersed to other parts of the country.
Security sources said that the group, which had carried out several devastating bombings and gun attacks in Kano that claim over 185 lives, was looking beyond the North in its future terror campaign.
One of the reasons for spreading its operation to the South, it was learnt, was in order not to limit its campaign to an ethnic agenda.
A top security source told PUNCH that there was likelihood that the Boko Haram might have some of their backers resident in the South.
The source said that the mastermind of the Christmas Day bomb attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, Kabiru Sokoto, was sighted in Lagos after the incident.
It was learnt that security agencies were leaving no stone unturned in checking the moves of the arrested terror suspects and drawing probable inferences from them.
The source said, “It was not a coincidence that Sokoto, who had been on the wanted list of the police before December 25, was sighted in Lagos.
“His presence in Lagos was not for fun. This is one of the angles security agencies are working on.
“I think the group has noticed that security is not tight in the South and there have not been bombings. They are out to cash in on the laxity.”
The Senate Committee on Police, which probed the escape of Sokoto from custody, had last February said that the suspect was seen in Lagos on December 13.
The committee chairman, Senator Paulinus Nwagu, had, while presenting the report of the probe said, “Police intelligence revealed that prior to his arrest on January 14, 2011, Kabiru Sokoto had been on the wanted list of security agencies.
“Sokoto was reported to have been noticed within the vicinity of Snake Island, Lagos, and left Lagos sometime on December 13, 2011 and disappeared from surveillance monitoring until January 11, 2012.
“He was later traced to Abaji in the Federal Capital Territory.
“Police detectives traced him from Abaji to Abuja on the same date and further traced him to Asokoro-Abuja, where he was finally apprehended at about 0240 hours (2.40 am) on January 14, 2012, at the Borno State Governor’s Lodge at Iro Dan Musa Street, Asokoro, Abuja.”
Intelligence report had revealed that Boko Haram sympathisers had moved to the South, from where they coordinated operations of the sect in the North.
It was learnt that the sect decided to shift to the South in order to divert the attention of security agencies, who are on the trail of its members in the North.
A security source stated, “Since the heat has been turned on them, they have been moving to Lagos and other cities, where they mix with unsuspecting northerners residing in those cities.”
He said that the sect’s plot to attack the South was aimed at further creating the impression that there was instability in the country.
The source said, “You will observe that activities of the sect are ebbing due to unrelenting efforts of security agencies.
“But Boko Haram is also devising another method. This time around, it is looking at ways of attacking the South.”
He, however, lamented that security agencies would have recorded more successes, if not for pro-Boko Haram elements in the Presidency.
According to him, some people, who are sympathetic to the Boko Haram cause, are frustrating security agencies’ plans to “deal a final blow on the sect.”
President Goodluck Jonathan on January 8 had said that the sect had infiltrated his government.
He had said, “Some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government while some of them are even in the judiciary.
“Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house.”
When contacted, the police on Friday denied knowledge of any moves by the Islamic sect to spread its mayhem to the South.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olusola Amore, said he was not aware of such a move and did not say anything further.
But a top security source said that there was a security alert all over the country and not just the South-West.
The source said that security agents were not expecting the sect to disclose its next move before steps were taken to stop it.
According to the source, the leadership of the Muslim community in the South-West has commenced an awareness campaign through the imams against acts of terror being perpetrated under the cloak of religion.
The source recalled that the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Raji Fashola, had pulled down three places of worship near the seat of government at Alausa because of incriminating security reports against the sect.
“There is security alert all over the country, not only in the South-West; the so-called plan is something we don’t expect them to execute before we take proactive steps.
“Security agents are aware of their advanced plans and are nipping them in the bud.
“The southern Muslims have value for human lives; they know that nobody can fight for God. They are not inconsiderate. The Muslim leadership in the South are putting their members on the alert; imams are already doing that,” a leader of the Muslim community said.
In Port Harcourt, a leader of the Muslim community, Alhaji Sarki Gabas, denied that Muslims were using their mosques as armoury for the sect in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday.
Gabas reportedly denied the reports linking Muslims in the Rivers State capital with perpetrators of terror acts in the society.
Gabas had said, “It is not true that Victoria Street (in Port Harcourt) Mosque is being used for training Islamic militants and it is not true also that the Islamic school in Mile 3 houses militants and that Elelenwa Mosque is used as armoury.
“All these are lies. We do not believe in violence.”
Source : Vanguard