Security personnel on Monday arrested a 39-year-old man suspected of attempting to bomb the Radio House in Abuja while three ministers were holding a press briefing within the premises.
The suspect, one John Akpabu from Nasarawa State, had in his possession at the time of arrest a bag containing 37 rounds of live ammunition and canisters suspected to be grenades.
He was said to have later confessed to the police that he was aware of the contents of the bag and that he had wanted to deliver them to someone within the Radio House premises.
The building houses the headquarters of the Federal Radio Corporation, the Federal Ministry of Information and the National Press Centre.
Another suspect named Abdulsalam Salihu was arrested by policemen for wandering in front of the Force Headquarters. Police said broken pieces of bottle, five ATM cards and a vehicle number plate were found on him.
Ministers of Justice, Bello Adoke; Aviation, Stella Oduah; and Youth Development and Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, were at the time of the incident briefing journalists at the National Press Centre on the activities of their ministries in the past one year. The briefing was to mark the first anniversary of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, confirmed the incident and the arrest of the suspect. He said no motive had been established.
Mba told journalists, “Alert policemen were able to prevent a suspect identified as John Akpabu from entering the Radio House, Abuja, with three grenades and 37 live rounds of AK47 ammunition. We have taken him into custody and detectives are working to establish his motive. Police also arrested another suspect near the Force Headquarters around 11.50 am. He was found with pieces of broken bottles, a vehicle plate number and five ATM cards, but no explosives were found on him.
“We want to assure the public that the Nigeria Police Force is ready at all times to protect and save the public from any harm. We have deployed well-trained and eagle-eyed men and officers to thwart any evil plot of criminals around the country.”
Akpabu told journalists after his arrest that the bag found on him was given to him by an unnamed woman to deliver to someone in Abuja.
“I didn’t know the contents of the bag until I got to Abuja. A woman gave me the bag and when I saw that the bag contained explosives, I decided to bring it here so the woman can come and collect it,” he stated.
A mobile policeman who participated in the arrest of the suspect said security personnel had screened Akpanabu’s bag and were surprised to find the live ammunition and canisters.
“We searched everyone going into the Radio House as a matter of routine. I was checking a visitor’s bag when one of my colleagues demanded to know the contents of the suspect’s bag, but he said there was nothing; so we asked him to open the bag only to find 37 rounds of live ammunition and canisters suspected to be grenades,” he stated.
In the case of Salihu, Mba said nothing was found on him to suggest that he was a suicide bomber as widely speculated on Monday.
“We have commenced investigations into the arrest but so far, there is nothing to suggest that he (suspect) is a suicide bomber”, the police spokesman said.
The Force Headquarters where the suspect was found to be loitering was attacked by a lone suicide bomber on June 16, 2011. The terrorist Islamic sect, Bioko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attack in which the attacker and one policeman died. Seventy vehicles were also destroyed in the attack.
Though the ministerial briefing at the Radio House went on uninterrupted on Monday, the incident created fear in many people on the premises.
A lady attending the briefing, Henrietta Utuah, told our correspondent that she did not feel safe enough to remain at the event.