Before Returning to Emab Plaza

Mohammed Abubakar, Inspector-General of Police

Abuja Capital Territory administration spells out conditions under which business can return to the shopping mall at Emab Plaza which was bombed on July 25 by a Boko Haram suicide bomber

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Aug. 4, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

IT may take much longer than expected for business activities to resume at Emab plaza, a popular shopping mall in Wuse zone 2 area of Abuja. The plaza went up in flames on the evening of Wednesday July 25, 2014 when a Boko Haram bomber riding on a power bike attempted to force his way into the shopping mall. The bomb exploded as security officers manning the gate attempted to stop him. The impact of the explosion shattered many of the shops and other facilities within the surroundings. When the dust settled, 21 people were confirmed dead while several others sustained various degrees of injuries.

Other than the huge losses the business owners suffered as a result of the blast, their hopes of getting back to business hangs in the balance as the plaza, which was shut by government officials after the blast, is yet to be re-opened

. After a meeting between security agents and the traders in Abuja, it was agreed that business owners in Emab and other shopping malls in the city should improve their security. The traders were advised to install some security gadgets to forestall further attacks.

The gadgets range from door frame metal detectors, handheld metal detectors, under vehicle search mirrors, steel bollards, security (CCTV) cameras, vehicle scanning systems, portable jammers, boom barriers and X-ray baggage scanners. Though the business owners have started the installation of CCTV cameras and other gadgets for enhanced security at the plaza, their headache now is how to acquire two portable jammers that cost N24 million, as well as X-ray baggage scanner, vehicle scanning system and other very expensive gadgets which officials of the Capital Territory administration insist must be installed before the plaza is re-opened for business.

Emab Plaza; Abuja bomb blast
Emab Plaza; Abuja bomb blast

Realnews gathered that without the installation of the needed security gadgets, the plazas will remain shut until the traders are able to meet the stringent conditions. The decision of the authorities not to reopen the plaza for business until all the required gadgets are acquired and installed has placed them on a collision path with the traders. The traders are complaining that the officials are being unnecessarily inconsiderate by asking them to cough out such huge amounts to acquire security gadgets after  losing so much  in the bomb blast.

Felix Mbielu, Chairman of Emab Shop Owners’ Association, , said though they have started the installation of CCTV cameras and barricading of the fence, their greatest problem now is how to fund the installation of portable jammers and vehicle scanning system at the plaza.

“We have already started barricading the plaza with iron rods. We have also started the installation of CCTV cameras but the only problem we have now is the portable jammer and vehicle scanning system. For the X-ray baggage scanner, I know it’s the kind of gadget that is mostly seen at the airports, so I don’t really know if we need that. We will not also be able to buy the E3500 explosive trace detector because it is very expensive.”

Aaron Ekele, another trader at the plaza, who deals in phones, said: “I honestly don’t know why they still don’t want us to resume our businesses. What has happened is very unfortunate but life must go on. What is more annoying is that we have done the ones we can afford at the moment but they are insisting that we do everything at once and that is not possible. We need to make money in order to do everything they are asking for and if we don’t open, how do we make money?”

On how traders are contending with the aftermath of the blast, Mbielu said, “Work is in progress but the traders are worried about the reopening of the plaza. The incident which happened over two weeks ago caught us unawares.

“The plaza is yet to be opened because we are trying to put security gadgets in place. Even if government did not say so, what we are doing right now is very important for the plaza and is also good for us too. Just like I said, there are things that we are supposed to do like barricading the place, installing of CCTV cameras and hand-held security checks, but as for  bomb jammer and vehicle scanner,  I know many  plazas will not be able to acquire them because one of the gadgets alone costs about N12 million depending on the range. We need about two to cover the plaza.  I think it will not be easy for us or the management of the plaza to afford such a huge amount of money.”

Mbielu wants the federal government to assist in the acquisition and installation of the equipment. “We are appealing to the government to help us and install the equipment because some of them are not easily available but they know where and how to get them. The coverage range we are told to get is about 300 metres which is N12 million, and we need N24 million to purchase only two bomb jammers.

“The traders should be security conscious and make sure that they secure themselves because government will do for them. Personally, my movement is now restricted because of what is happening. So as I am managing myself, I also urge every person to do so.”

Another trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered why they were compelled to bear the cost of installing multi-million naira security gadgets at the plaza arguing that it was the responsibility of government to guarantee maximum protection of lives and property all over the world.

She expressed worry that despite the sensitive nature of her goods, she was denied entry into the plaza by the security personnel at the gate  and appealed to the federal government and the FCT minister to wade into the issue immediately.  “How long do we have to wait before this plaza will reopen for business? Some of us have sensitive items inside the market and if we don’t sell them fast, their value will diminish. I have made several attempts to collect some of my goods but I was refused entry by the security men at the gate.”

She added: “They have even told us that we should not be hanging around the plaza, so how do we feed? Several times, our customers have come around to buy goods but we are unable to collect the items they need from our shops.”

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