There was tension in many cities in the North on Thursday as security agents made efforts to prevent outbreak of protests over an amateur film said to be offensive to Muslims.
In Jos, Plateau State; Kaduna in Kaduna State and Kano, Kano State, security operatives intensified patrols, especially at flashpoints in the cities.
The PUNCH learnt on Thursday that fundamentalists in the North had been holding meetings to kick against the film which on Tuesday caused riots in Benghazi, Libya; and Egypt.
The United States Ambassador to Libya, Chris Steven, and three other American diplomats were killed on Tuesday by gunmen who attacked the US consulate in Benghazi.
But less than 24 hours after the Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, put the Police on the alert nationwide, the US advised its citizens in Nigeria not to take the threat of attacks by extremists lightly.
“Extremists may attempt to target US citizens and other Westerners in Nigeria. The US Mission in Nigeria strongly urges US citizens in Nigeria to consider their personal security and to keep personal safety in the forefront of their planning,” the embassy warned in a statement on Thursday.
The statement on the Embassy’s website added, “The US Mission reminds citizens of the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against US citizens and interests overseas.
“Violent and deadly demonstrations and attacks occurred in Cairo, Egypt, and Benghazi, Libya, in the past 24 hours, including a lethal attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi
“Last week, extremists attacked cellular telephone towers in Northern Nigeria, damaging over 30 towers and degrading cellular telephone and internet communications nationwide.
“Additional attacks could further weaken the ability of citizens to communicate through cellular telephones and the internet.
“Land line telephone communications in Nigeria remain limited. US citizens should attempt to arrange for multiple means of communication during emergencies.”
The deployment of armed policemen in the northern states on Wednesday notwithstanding, residents of Kaduna, Kano and Jos as well as other major towns expressed fear that violence might break out, especially after Jumat on Friday (today).
“We are afraid, anything can happen tomorrow (Friday),” a Kaduna resident , who refused to mention his name, told one of our correspondents on Thursday evening.
He said many residents of the city had heard of meetings where the need for Nigerian Muslims to also “rise in defence of Islam” was drummed into the ears of youths.
According to him, participants at the meetings were said to have primarily discussed the strategies to beat the security cordon around the cities.
Security operatives also confirmed the situation in the northern states but assured that everything was being done to prevent violence, especially after Jumat today.
“There will be problem over the controversial film but the deployment of security agents in the region will prevent outbreak of violence in the north,” the source confided in one of our correspondents.
But the Kaduna State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, Aminu Lawan, dismissed the planned protests as “a mere rumour.”
Lawan said the command had fully mobilised its men to forestall any breakdown of law and order in any part of the state.
“Our men are patrolling every nook and cranny of the state,” Lawan said, adding, “I want to say that any group planning such protest should handle it with maturity as the command would not hesitate to deal with any those trying to break the law.”
According to him, the police have been meeting with traditional rulers and other stakeholders to ensure peace.
In Plateau State, the Media Officer of the Special Task Force, Capt. Salisu Mustapha, told one our correspondents that men of the Task Force had been deployed in strategic areas in Jos and Bukuru metropolis.
He said that security agencies were not treating the protests in Libya lightly.
“We are fully abreast of the events and have mobilised our men by securing sensitive targets and vulnerable areas. So there is no cause for alarm,” he said.