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INSECURITY : Strong presence of foreign guards sparks fear in Lagos, Abuja, PH

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 INSECURITY Strong presence of foreign guards sparks fear in Lagos Abuja PH

 

The recent surge in terror attacks in Abuja has sparked fresh security fears across the country’s main cities over the large number of undocumented foreigners who are mainly engaged as guards and other domestic hands.

Residents and security experts say such foreigners could turn easy tools in the hands of terrorists.

The concentration of the aliens is pronounced in the highbrow parts of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Kaduna, according to an investigation by our reporters.

In Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Banana Island, Ikeja GRA and Magodo in Lagos as well as Maitama, Asokoro and Guzape in Abuja, for example, the gates of many of the houses are manned by such foreigners.

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Some uncompleted houses and those under construction in those areas are also largely occupied by them.

When they are less busy, those on a particular street will usually gather in groups discussing or eating.

Some of the foreigners serve as maids and servants. But because many of them speak passable English or pidgin English, have accent similar to what obtains in some parts of Nigeria, and seem to have assimilated the Nigerian culture, it is sometimes difficult to identify them.

A civil servant, John Adeyemo, who lives in Asokoro, Abuja is not comfortable with the disposition of some of them.

He said he knows a lot of other residents of the area who live in fear on account of the security situation in the FCT and the vulnerability of the foreigners to be used as tools by terrorists.

Adeyemo charged the government to document such people and monitor them.

“The security situation in Abuja calls for concern and the security agencies need to double up. We are living in fear and no one knows who,” he said.

A resident of Maitama, Abuja, who does not want his name in print, said though some of the security guards are good, some are not living up to expectations in line with their security job.

He said: “The security situation is worrisome. Imagine employing a security guard that is not a Nigerian and you do not know where he comes from. Government should intervene and we should have their data for records purposes.

“When residents of the capital city of a country not only move around with a sense of foreboding and fear but also feel uncertain about the capacity of the authorities to deal with the challenge, there is a problem.”

A resident of one of the estates at Atamkpe, Abuja, who preferred to be called Jane, said the foreigners in that part of the FCT usually start with looking for menial jobs especially at building sites, and once they succeed would move into any uncompleted building they can find around.

She said: “Their numbers continue to swell. Although they are not constituting any nuisance, we need to be careful now in view of what is currently happening in the country. It is very important to know who your neighbour is.”

Mr. Ola Oyewole, a business man who lives in Asokoro, Abuja and employed a Ghanaian as security guard, had nice things to say about his employee of 10 years.

But he expressed support for documentation of foreign guards, saying: “The issue of having the data of security guards especially foreigners is a welcome development for security purposes. I am also very careful with my security guard. I don’t expose him to my secrets.”

Some residents of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, charged security agencies to beam their searchlight on the activities of men from Niger whose wives and children beg for alms in day time.

A lady, who identified herself simply as Nengi, said they could be found around Agip, Waterline and other parts of Port Harcourt insisting that in view of the security situation in the country, such persons should be monitored.

She said: “During the day, you see their children and wives begging for alms but you won’t see their men. The men only surface in the night. I feel that their activities should be monitored.

“Besides, there is hunger in town and such condition can make them become willing tools to persons who want to breach the security.”

While employment of foreigners as mai guard is not particularly new in the Lagos metropolis, the large presence of such people, especially in the highbrow areas, is causing anxiety.

There is hardly any street in such places that does not have up to 12 foreign guards.

Some landlords in the densely populated areas of the city also have such foreigners guarding them and their families all day. But some of them are already having a rethink.

Alhaji Hakeem Owolabi, who has a property at Meiran, Alagbado said: “Many of us who are landlords are skeptical about giving our houses or frontage to aliens because of the reports linking them to violent attacks.

“Also, we no longer hire them as security guards to stave off a situation whereby things would get out of hand or go beyond control.”

A resident of Ikeja, Adewale Johnson, bemoaned the influx of some foreign nationals in places like Oregun, Ogba, Ojota, Alausa and Maryland among others.

“The number of these people has increased significantly over the years. If you want to verify my claims, please visit Oregun, Ojodu, Ojota, Ogba, Maryland and Alausa, among others.

“Most of them work as guards in companies, residential buildings and sleep in open spaces and shelter provided by their employers and benefactors.

“With threats of attack by Boko Haram in Lagos, residents and property owners feel that the large presence of these people may be inimical to peace and security of the environment because they cannot be traced in the event that they perpetrate heinous crime and flee.”

A security expert and retired Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Emueze Onyema, called the development a severe security threat.

He believes the porous nature of Nigeria’s borders is largely responsible for the continued influx of foreigners into the country.

Onyema, who is also the Chairman of Clinfex Security Firm, said: “When you understudy the manner these terrorists carry out attacks on innocent Nigerians without any iota of feeling, you will know that they are not Nigerians.

“Have you ever bothered to know how they stash the hundreds of millions of naira they collect as ransom from their victims? It is easy for them because some of them live in the cities, among us.

“They help them keep the money while the terrorists stay in the forest and continue with the abduction of hapless travellers. Government needs to rise to the occasion.

“Let’s hope that the coming national census will help weed out these illegal foreigners.”

A retired official of the Department of State Security (DSS) who does not want to be named blamed poor data gathering and lack of willpower by the government to act on credible intelligence on the movement of foreigners as a major challenge to Nigeria’s security.

“If you look at some of the terrorists that have been arrested or neutralised, you will discover that a sizeable number of them are foreigners.

“You have also heard about how some foreigners working as house helps have murdered their employers in cold blood and fled with their monies,” the DSS official said.

Asked about the way out of the problem, he recommended strong surveillance at the borders and other entry points into the country, to check the influx of such people.

(NATION)

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