Security forces yesterday imposed a 24-hour curfew on Potiskum, Yobe State, as they went after suspected Boko Haram insurgents thought to have slipped into town with large quantity of explosives.
Members of the Joint Task Force cordoned off a part of the town and began a house-to-house search for the insurgents said to be planning to unleash terror on residents during the Eid-el-Fitr festival.
Spokesman of the JTF Captain Eli Lazarus, disclosed this after issuing a statement declaring a 24-hour curfew in Potiskum, the largest town in the state.
The development followed intelligence report that suspected insurgents had sneaked into the city with explosives they allegedly stole from a Chinese construction firm during a night raid.
“The Joint Task Force announces the imposition of 24-hour curfew commencing from today (Monday) 5 August 2013. Residents of Potiskum town are enjoined to remain calm and cooperate with security agencies by remaining indoors until the curfew is lifted,” spokesman Lazarus said in the statement. He later disclosed to our correspondent that the curfew followed an intelligence report of a planned attack by suspected Boko Haram insurgents ‘who sneaked in with Improvised Explosive Divices (IEDs) to create panic in the town during the Eid-el-Fitr celebration’. He said security operatives had already cordoned off suspected areas of the town where search operation is ongoing.
Just last week, the JTF issued an alert warning residents of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital that insurgents were planning massive attacks to coincide with the end of the Ramadan fasting.
It is also being reported that GSM communication had begun to cease in Potiskum as at the time of filing this report.
GSM services only returned about three weeks ago after they were cut in May shortly after President Jonathan declared state of emergency in three states including Yobe.
The latest curfew came exactly one year after similar one was imposed on Potiskum and the Yobe State capital, Damaturu, which was partly responsible for the successful military operation that led to some level of peace in the last several months.
Last year’s dusk to dawn curfew which lasted for over 48 hours subjected residents to severe hardships and grounded both government and other business activities.
Motorists that usually passed through Potiskum on their way to or from Maiduguri and Kano were caught in between, forcing many of them to return home or to take alternative routes which are longer and very difficult to drive on.
Following Monday’s curfew, most residents expressed fear that their perishable goods would spoil because the restriction of movement will prevent them from selling.
Speaking to Daily Trust on telephone, Malam Hassan Maidankali who sells Irish potatoes at Potiskum central market appealed to the JTF to allow them to visit their shops to properly store perishable items.
“We left our shops hoping that we would go back early in the morning for sales but today we are asked to stay indoors. Our concern is that our vegetables and fruits will go bad due to intense heat because the shops are too stuffy. When it happened last year no trader received compensation or assistance from government,” he recalled.
Malam Abubakar Inusa who also spoke to our correspondent said majority of residents depend on daily businesses to fend for their families .”Very few people in Potiskum have stored what they could eat for more than two days and even those with that kind of capacity may not have made preparations due to the short notice,” he said.
But Hajia Aisha Abubakar said she is ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of security and peace.
“It’s only when there is peace that people talk about business and job; go to Syria and see if people care about business,” She said. She appealed to residents to sacrifice their comfort during the few days of the operation.
The military has been in fierce battle with the Boko Haram insurgents since it launched an operation that pushed them out of territories they ‘captured’ and hoisted their flags.