- Category: Opinions/Interviews
- Published on Monday, 21 November 2011 13:26
- Written by Ndubuisi Orji/Daily Sun
- Hits: 380
These are not the best of times for Nigeria and Nigerians. Both the government and the citizens are grappling with serious security challenges. Nigerians have never felt so insecure as they presently feel.
Basically, no one and place is considered safe. While those in the southern parts of the country grapple with kidnapping and other violent crimes, Nigerians in the North live in utter panic not knowing where and when the next set of bombs will explode.
Ironically, even places hitherto considered security fortresses are not spared the assault of the bombs. This raises the question, who is really safe in the country?
Lagos based lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) told Daily Sun that the security situation in the country today is very worrisome. According to him, insecurity pervades the length and breadth of the country. “There is the issue of kidnapping, which has not been brought under control at all. It might have reduced in Abia State, but it is cropping up in other parts of the country. Delta and Edo are particularly bad right now, and nothing is being done about it. The same thing with the upsurge in armed robberies. There is terrorism; bombs just going off in places where there are human beings”, he laments.
The advent of terrorism
But of all the security challenges facing the country, terrorism appears to be the most worrisome. The new wave of security challenge plaguing the country emerged in October 2010, during the nation’s golden jubilee anniversary. Bombs exploded very close to the Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of the celebration, throwing the nation in panic. Several lives were lost in that attack. Pronto, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a militant group based in the oil rich Niger Delta region of the country claimed responsibility for the twin bomb attacks. The MEND leader, Henry Okah is presently standing trial in a South African Court for alleged complicity in that bomb attack.
But that will not be the first time the Niger Delta group would be disrupting a government function. Months earlier, a security summit organised by the Vanguard Newspaper and held in Warri, Delta State was disrupted mid way, when the MEND bombs exploded at the venue. It was pandemonium all over as all the governors and other dignitaries ran helter skelter for their lives. Before the October 1, 2010 bomb explosions at the eagle Square, MEND bombs are known to have gone off sporadically in the Niger Delta, though their attacks are targeted majorly at oil installations in the area.
However the activities of MEND was soon to pale into insignificance with the advent of a sect known as Boko Haram. The group which started in Borno state in 2009 had had a relentless war with the security agents in the state. The offensive against the state is said to have stemmed from the way the crisis that heralded its early activities were handled, resulting in the death of its founder in police custody.
On June 16, a lone suicide bomber forced his way into the Police Headquarters in Abuja. He exploded the bomb in the Police headquarters, and left in its trail, sorrow, tears and blood. The sect claimed responsibility for the bomb attack. Since it made a rude entrance in the country, the fundamentalists have made live hellish for residents of the North Eastern State of Borno and its environs.
On August 26, this year, the sect launched what could be termed its most audacious attack in the country with the bombing of the United Nations building in the nation’s capital. A fourth night ago, the group struck in Yobe State. Though there are conflicting figures on the casualty, no fewer than a hundred persons died in that attack.
A public affairs analyst, Mr. George Diogu says the activity of the group is a fallout of the upsurge in global terrorism. According to him, unfortunately, the Al-Qaeda terrorist group through the Boko Haram has made the country a strategic base.
“These people have made Nigeria one of the targets. For instance, the bombing of the United Nations building in Nigeria is an attack on the international community. The insecurity in Nigeria, is not purely a Nigerian issues, it is an international issue. The handling of international issue in a state by the domestic government is not an easy task”, he explains.
No doubt, terrorism has become a global phenomenon, individual countries have taken serious steps to combat it. For instance after the September 11 2011 bomb attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States of America, USA, the country launched a relentless war on terrorism. Many wonder why Nigeria appears not to have taken any concrete steps to tackle terrorism.
Diogu shares that sentiment. He says the Federal Government under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan has not taken decisive steps to stem the tide. In his views, the activities of the group is pushing the country toward the precipice, which has made it imperative for the government to rise up to the occasion. Consequently, he urged the president to act fast and arrest the ugly situation before it consumes the country. , “It should be obvious to Jonathan that the foremost thing is to tackle the issue of security before moving into any other thing”, he admonished.
But going by the admission of National Security Adviser (NSA), General Owoye Azazi(rtd), the main problem confronting the country in the war against terrorism in the country is that the county actually never prepared for it.
Reacting to the menace of terrorism in the country, Azazi had in chat journalists reportedly stated that “The problem is that we were not as a nation prepared for this new level of terrorism. In the buildings we have, in the public facilities we have, we were not prepared for that. So when these things happen there is a lot of devastation. All over the world, especially after 9/11 and the July 7 bombings in London, public facilities have been improved with restricted access; but we have not had that”.
But Sagay would hear none of such explanation. He said the views attributed to Azazi smacks of a failure of security at the highest level in the country. The Senior Advocate said the country’s security agencies should leverage on intelligence from America and other countries at the forefront in the fight against terrorism.
His words: “It was totally unacceptable and very improper for such a statement to come from such a source. A man in that position is supposed to be abreast with the latest in security thinking in the world. After the 9/11 case, in 2001 when the twin towers were destroyed by terrorists, all the various security agencies in the world became more alert, and Nigeria should have become more alert.
And we should have tapped into the enlightenment and knowledge and intellectual resources and information of an organisation like the homeland security department of the United States of America to know the latest thinking in anti-terrorism, and to use their information and thinking in planning our own in order to avoid situations like that.
We might not have the resources that America has, but that doesn’t stop us from having our thought process, because that is what is available to be borrowed. So the lack of awareness which the national adviser on security has confessed to, is a very grave confession of incapacity and of failure, and I am really very disappointed in him”.
For President Goodluck Jonathan, the incidence of terrorism in the country would fade away soon. Jonathan who spoke at the at the 17th conference of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) in Abuja last week that “It is important we recognize that terrorism is a global problem. It is just that the problem of terrorism is new to us in this country. We are acquiring the right infrastructure to effectively combat”.
“We are working very hard to provide a conducive atmosphere for investors. Although we currently have the Boko Haram problem, just like terrorist activities in other parts of the globe, but I can assure Nigerians and the global community that we will soon overcome. All those involved in the 2010 Independence Day attacks have been arrested. We admit that our primary responsibility is to provide security and we are working on it. Boko Haram is a temporary setback.” he said.
However, the question is how best should the problem be tackled? While many have suggested dialogue with the sect, others have suggested a headlong confrontation with the group.
For former governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the federal government should adopt a multi-faceted approach in solving the issues posed by the Boko Haram sect. He said while dialoguing with the sect, the government should also apply coercion.
“Everything on earth is carrot and stick. You cannot give up the stick. But at the same time you must be ready to talk. You must have a carrot in your hand. It is not either or, it is both. We must do both. We must seek with all the coercive forces in our hand to contain the situation, but we know that we will not bring a permanent solution”, the former governor stated.
Diogu added that “Those who are behind these attacks we have identified where they are from, they are from the North. We have northern leaders who are credible in their locality. I as a president will direct the leaders from the area where the uprising is coming from, to go and handle it as their brothers. So that they will be in a position to tell the people the implication of what they are doing. So by sending these people, we will be able get them to solve the problem.”
In as much as many are calling for a dialogue, a step taken in that direction by former President Olusegun Obasanjo ended in tragedy. Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha says the solution to the myriad of security challenges facing the country is a decentralization of the nation’s security apparatus. The governor would want a decentralisation of security , so that the governors and local government chairmen can function efficiently as chief security officers of the respective areas.