John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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What Happened Sunday Morning in Abuja?

by John Campbell
March 31, 2014

A police officer keeps watch during a protest against the elimination of a popular fuel subsidy that has doubled the price of petrol, in Nigeria's capital Abuja, January 9, 2012. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)


According to the Nigerian media, there was heavy gunfire that may have lasted some hours very close to Aso Rock, the presidential villa, starting at about 7:15 a.m. Sunday morning. The gunfire appears to have been centered at Yellow House, the headquarters of the State Security Services (SSS).

An SSS spokesman said that there was an attempted jailbreak by suspected Boko Haram prisoners from the headquarters compound that resulted from failure to follow security procedures. The SSS stated that eighteen prisoners were killed initially and three later died of their injuries. Presidential press spokesman Reuben Abati reported to the media that there is no cause for alarm, and he denied reports that President Jonathan had to flee his residence. He also said that the president has ordered an investigation into the incident.

There is skepticism about the official narrative, which seeks to minimize the episode. Further, the area around the presidential villa and the SSS headquarters is cordoned off and journalists are unable to visit and make their own assessment as to what happened and how extensive the damage is.

Former minister of the Federal Capital Territory Nasir El-Rufai who lives close by is quoted in the media as saying, “Whatever this is, it appears more serious than the attempted jailbreak claimed by the SSS.” Former minister of aviation Femi Fani-Kayode, also a neighbor, is quoted as saying, “I live fifty meters away from the SSS headquarters and the [presidential] villa and what I witnessed with my eyes and heard this morning was a full scale battle.” Another, unidentified source quoted in the Nigerian media, referred to “a sustained gun battled for about three hours.” That source also said that the security services deployed helicopter gunships, three truckloads of fully armed soldiers, and deployed armored personnel carriers, rocket propelled grenades, and “other sophisticated weapons.”

Escape from the SSS headquarters’ compound is implausible. As one press source said, “The truth is that a jailbreak is impossible in the SSS headquarters. It has two fences and is highly fortified.” The neighborhood of the SSS headquarters and the presidential villa is where many ministers, former ministers, and other members of the Nigerian elite live. Access is restricted. It has some resemblance to a “green zone.”

As the Nigeria Security Tracker (pictured above) shows, Boko Haram violence has been concentrated in the northeast. However, in his latest video, Abubakar Shekau called on his Boko Haram brethren to carry the fight against the government throughout Nigeria. He makes specific reference to Abuja. The question must be asked, was this a “Tet Offensive;” a large-scale attack on the heart of the Nigerian government by Boko Haram?

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Chike

    The easiest way for Boko Haram to establish the “Islamic emirate” they so dearly want – is by initiating a series of attacks on Southern Nigeria & taking advantage of the ensuing chaos.

    For some strange reason, they haven’t (or not so strange, if you understand the political economy of Nigeria). After all, they struck Okene – and Okene isn’t too far from either South East or South West Nigeria.

    So “Tet offensive” or “no Tet offensive”, there is a method to all of this.

    In spite of all their lofty rhetoric, it is possible that somebody in the higher echelons on Boko Haram (or maybe their political associates), still wants Nigeria in one piece and wants the “Muslim Ummah” to control the Niger Delta’s oil and gas resources in future.

    We Nigerians can read between the lines. Not everything appears as it actually is. There’s a high stakes political game being played here – and human lives aren’t a consideration, just the currency of transaction.

  • Posted by Diasporajohn

    Sunday morning, March 30, 2014 at approximately 9:30 AM, after being disturbed by the sound of low flying helicopters. I traveled to IBB Golf course which is adjacent to “Yellow House” the headquarters of the Nigerian Secret Police “SSS”. I was alerted by my driver to a military roadblock preventing our movement to our destination; cars were turned around and not being allowed to past in front of the “Villa”, which is home to the Nigerian President, or Yellow House.

    Please note that coming from the Central Business District in Abuja to the IBB Golf you must past several sensitive locations among them being the Villa, Yellow House, and the Three Arms Complex which is home to both the house of Representatives and the Senate.

    I asked the security personnel why the roadblock and their response was that gunmen, believed to be members of Boko Haram had successfully breached security and entered Yellow House. I was told that the gunmen had killed two SSS operatives inside Yellow House in a bid to free their brethren.

    Our vehicle turned around with the intent of entering ASO Drive , the broad leading to IBB Golf, from the expressway side of the Maitama district. Again, very heavy security presence inclusive of Military, police and SSS officers. I was told that Boko Haram had attacked Yellow House but was repealed.

    The security along ASO Drive and UDI Hills was immense, especially in front of the French Embassy with vehicle being stopped and it’s occupants interrogated.

    Yes, I still keep my tee time after all the security scares. In my opinion there was a major breach of security protocol at SSS headquarters and Yellow House was attacked. My opinion is further strengthen by the fact that military and police personnel where actively patrolling both the perimeter and interior of the IBB Golf club.

    I was also told that Boko Haram has vowed to return to resume the attack in the very near future.


    Security operatives should beef up security in this area in order to restore sanity …..

  • Posted by johnny

    Every wise onlooker understands the lies in the words of Marilyn Ogar and her secret committee of liars.
    Firstly, anybody who knowd how the sss operates knows that they dont feed suspects as early as 7.15am to warrant what she claimed, even if they do, they give food to suspects through the iron bars, also armed guards (DSS) do not enter into cells they only patrol the corridors.
    Secondly, it is not in the expected habit of suspects to dare such a break because suspect handling is designed to completely kill self confidence, willigness to resist, mental and phsychological balance, and sanity. It is near unimmaginable for suspects who some have been there for over 3years without even seeing d sun to stage such an audacious attempt.
    Lastly, it is not in the habit of the SSS to admit 2media that its security procedures are licking and not air tight. If what Marilyn claimed is what happened, she will not say that on the press for the reputation the agency so worships.
    The only plausible truth is that it was an attack, even a succesful one. Mrs Marilyn and others at the top echelon have decided to again worship their reputation by telling white lies to beloved and patriotic Nigerians.
    Its a pity that liars are the leaders of this Nation.

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