There have been heavy gunfire exchanges around the vicinity of Nigeria’s presidential palace and the headquarters of the Department of State Services in the Asokoro District of Abuja in the past one hour, security sources and residents of the area said.
The expansive headquarters of the State Security Service, popularly known as Yellow House, is almost adjacent one of the remote gates of the presidential villa.
Residents of the nearby Aso Drive Area said the gunshots were either coming out of the SSS headquarters or the presidential villa.
A resident of the area said, “We don’t know what’s going on here. Heavy gunfire has been coming from the direction of the villa. The entire area has been barricaded. SSS operatives are scampering out of their headquarters as the gunshots get louder.
“Soldiers are now heading in the direction of the SSS headquarters with Armoured Personnel Carriers. Those of us living around here have been asked to stay indoors and not venture out.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, could not be reached for comments.
But the spokesperson of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said the gunshots were triggered by attempted jailbreak at the Service’s headquarters by suspected members of the extremist Boko Haram sect.
She said, “What happened was that the suspects handlers went to feed the detainees here but suddenly they attacked him with their handcuffs, disarmed him and started shooting.
“The military was quickly called in before they could do any harm and that is responsible for the shootings you heard.
“It was an attempted jailbreak but it has been brought under control.”
It is however not clear how detainees, held in the highly fortified complex, got guns with which they shot at soldiers and SSS operatives for over an hour.
It is also not known whether there were casualties in the attack.
Military helicopters have now been deployed and are now hovering around the area.