‘Nigeria can only win war against insurgents through intelligence’
Mrs. Victoria Ekhomu is the Vice President of American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS). She is the Nigerian first African woman to hold this lofty position. From 2008-2010, she served as the Regional Vice-President in charge of West and Central African. She earlier served ASIS International as Assistant Regional Vice-President (2006-200) and chairman of the Nigeria Chapter (2004-2005). In 1999, she received the ASIS Nigeria Chapter Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award. In this interview with ODITA SUNDAY, the security expert spoke on the ASIS International conference holding in Lagos and other issues.Excerpts:
What is ASIS about? ASIS International is the leading organisation for security professionals worldwide. Founded in 1955, ASIS is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and productivity of security professionals by developing educational programmes and materials that address broad security interests, such as the ASIS Annual Seminar and Exhibits, as well as specific security topics.
ASIS also advocates the role and value of the security management profession to business, the media, government entities and the public. Promote excellence and leadership in the security management profession.
ASIS administers three internationally accredited certifications: the Certified Protection Professional (CPP), Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) and the Physical Security Professional (PSP).
ASIS offers an unmatched scope of professional development opportunities to ensure security practitioners are prepared to meet any challenge.
From webinars and online learning to classroom programmes, ASIS programmes are designed to support career advancement and success.
Insight on the ASIS International conference holding in Lagos? The Asis Africa security conference 2015 which is holding August 25 to 26th at the Muson centre will be addressing various security issues in our region, so it is region specific, we do attend security conferences like the one which will be held around September, October in the U.S, but that will be addressing global security issues, we have decided to hold our own regional conference, because we have regional security issues which we must address.
What are these security issues that would be addressed at the conference? During the conference we have various topics touching on maritime, terrorism, on kidnapping and our democratic dispensation.
We will also be looking at certification and training we have various topics for that, and we would be looking at managing security in an oil mining lease which will be done by the former vice president of Shell.
We have the one on terrorism in West Africa and examination of its impact on Agro-economic development by a CBN director. We have one that will handle maritime security threats in the gulf of Guinea and the strategy to curb the menace: ‘Nigerian waters as a case study’ by the Chief of Naval Staff, then the ‘Theory of practice of managing kidnap incidence’ by Dr. Ona Ekhomu and Security and ‘Democratic Consolidation’ by Mr. Innocent Chukwuma of Ford foundation, ‘Reviewing the global competitiveness indices of the region as it affects security,’ by Dr Franca Otto of UNILAG, ‘Certification and training, key to improving productivity and efficiency of security personnel’, ‘stress management’ and ‘Forensic science application in criminal investigation’ by a Ghanaian.
What has been your contribution to security in the country? In Nigeria we have addressed various things. I recall when we even commenced at the inauguration, one of the issues that we looked at was the Advance Fee Fraud, popularly called ‘419’, and at that time it was a big problem in Nigeria.
I was messing up Nigerians, no matter how good you are, no matter how viable your corporation was, when you travel overseas and you attempt to attract business, they didn’t want to hear about Nigeria a lot of international companies blocked Nigeria.
When you try to get into their network because you are calling from Nigeria, it won’t go through and it was very damaging to our economy and to our reputation.
We have also looked at terrorism; you know terrorism is not new. We have had it in different stages, you remember Dele Giwa? Even then we addressed terrorism and we have continued to address it consequently even at this conference we are still looking at terrorism.
Then we have look at the banking sector, you know we have a lot of bank frauds in the banking sector we have taken that and we have looked at it and addressed it in our conference.
Because when we have event, it is usually covered by electronic and print media and this bring a lot of discourse to the table, when it is aired or published.
We have also looked at anti corruption; the war against corruption you recall during the Obasanjo era, one of his major agenda was anti-corruption.
At that time, one of our conferences was centered on anti-corruption and we had a lot of renowned speakers. It was the first time I met former President Goodluck Jonathan, because he came to represent the then Governor of Bayelsa, Alamiesegha because he was the Deputy Governor at that time. So we have had different conferences, which addressed different burning issues at different times.
How you do you cope, considering the fact that the sector is male dominated? As you know, security before now requires muscular people, you needed to have people who have physical stamina and strength expecting people to use their energy and muscles and all of that, but security has moved from that. Security is now about intelligence.
If you think about Condoleezza Rice Who was in charge security for the whole of America she was a woman, back home the late Dora Akunyili who at a time headed NAFDAC was a woman and she was not only effective but she performed brilliantly well.
We still employ the services of people with muscular strength when the need arises. Today security is no longer for dropouts but for intelligent people which is why the trend today is training and certification because even people who come from Army, airforce, police that come to us for training attest that they don’t have the kind of knowledge that we have in private security.
And when they acquire that knowledge while they are still in service they are able to improve and perform better at their jobs. So my role here as the managing director of the firm is to manage, and I also have the qualification to do so.
I have the Certified Protection Professional (CPP); this is the highest certification you can get in any part of the world. And I have also acquired that knowledge, so I have been equipped to do the job and I have the tools and knowledge, what I do at the firm is put the right pegs at the right holes.
And then ensure that I co-ordinate and run the organisation. We have those trained to take care of the garden operations, they do their reporting, but I ensure that quality and standard is maintained at all times.
We have rules, we have policies and standards to ensure that things are done effectively and we also have evaluation processes. These days it doesn’t matter if you are man or a woman once you have the recruited knowledge then you can do it.
It started when I was still in the U.S; I started working from the U.S. At the time I started in the security field, in the 80’s people got to know my name because only a few women were into security at the time.
Now the sector is awash with a lot of women. I started working with my husband in the U.S, then I was the vice president of the group, my husband was the chairman and president of the company.
But when we came back to Nigeria I became the managing director. It is a man’s field, but for some reasons I have worked in the security sector, I have been able to rise creditably to become the senior regional vice president of ASIS International, so I am the person in charge of West, Central and Northern Africa.
How would you advice women to be security conscious considering the level of insecurity in the country? Traditionally, women are considered the weaker sex and at times you can be taken advantage of, we have to be conscious of that and be alert and vigilant.
Women should cultivate the habit of reading the newspapers and listening to news to know what is happening around them, so that they can know the security trends that are at play and also know how to protect themselves.
We have had cases where women driving luxury cars where other cars will bump on them and while she comes out to know what happened her car is snatched but if you don’t read the papers you won’t know the new strategy used by criminally minded people.
Another thing is that when you are going to the market women must dress appropriately, don’t dress to stand out, women must learn to blend and dress for the occasion, if you standout then you can become a target.
Women must also know when to move around and the kind of parties they attend. With the new administration coming into power, the budget has not been passed, people are watching the economy, people are having problems with their business at the moment, hunger is in the land, so when there is hunger in the land, those who are criminally minded take to crime, and then women will be more vulnerable and become victims if they are not aware.
That is why women need to be proactive because of the times. How do you think government can eradicate activities of Boko Haram terrorists? Terrorism like you know is a global problem and you cannot utilize conventional method to get rid of them.
It is not easy to say this is when it is going to end because it is a different kettle of fish but to bring terrorism to a stop you must utilise intelligence.
Intelligence is a critical tool that must be utilised and then we must infiltrate their mist and this will enable the military collect more valuable information and when you have those information you will be able to infiltrate their mist because you know what they plan and if you know what they plan what do you do, you strike before they do.
But a situation where we are still trying to use conventional methods like when the president ordered the military headquarter to be moved to Maiduguri, that is using conventional method of the military fighting a war, and since the terrorist don’t use conventional methods (a young girl about 10 year old can wear a hijab and walk into that place and blow off all the top brass in a second, it might be a food vendor that sells food that blows everybody off.
For guerilla warfare you have to keep your commanders behind; they have to be alive to plan the way forward. If you wipe away the commanders then you let the Boko Harm win the war.
If you wipe out the generals what happens? The war is over, so the generals are supposed to be protected. Here you need intelligence.
You know one of the main challenges we had in fighting the way was that we didn’t have the right equipment. The former administration had a lot of challenges getting the right weapons and that prolonged the fight.
But he was able to get the right tools in place and the Nigerian Army was able to recover all the territory that was lost to Boko Haram and they drove them into the Sambisa Forest; they almost like disseminated them before the new administration took over.
When they took over with this amnesty report of allege war crimes hanging on our military, because the report is very dicey, some of it might be false information.
It is very dicey because when you are fighting guerrilla warfare, when you see a Boko Haram from a non Boko Haram (they look like you and me) it is when they strike and blow up the place that you know they are not, so the war is a bit tricky.
If you say no I don’t want Amnesty International to accuse our military for war crimes then Boko Haram will take over the country.
It is like what America does when they go for air raids. When America strikes, does the damage pick its victim? No! It is whoever is in the place attacked that is affected.
And nobody is going after America with Amnesty International report. Take the case of Osama bin Laden, how was he tracked and killed? After several attempts that failed, it was intelligence that was utilised to get Osama bin Laden.
It was not the wars, Americans went to Iraq to fight, they went to Afghanistan and killed a lot of innocent people and a lot of American soldiers also lost their lives in return, but they could not achieve the reason for the war, which was to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive.
Did they get him with the war? No! Did they get him with intelligence? Yes. It was with intelligence that they were able to track the courier to Osama bin Laden’s place, know where he was and they used tactical skills to kill just Osama bin laden without destroying everyone in that house. If that worked then without the wars killing them then intelligence would work here too.
Like I said, terrorism is a global trend and you need to look at how these can be applied locally. Obama has been effectively using drones to target the kingpins of this terrorist and then recruiting more of JTF team, because it is easy for them to infiltrate the group.
They are there friends. If you recall during Ihejirika’s time they used lot of JTF and they got the information, killed the Boko Haram so much that when they came back after Ihejirika was removed.
They went after the JTF members because they knew that those people were the ones that leaked where they were and whatever plans they had.
So it is very important that they use intelligence, it is important to use drones, which are very effective in targeting. And with us calling for international support those are things we should be asking for too.
The services of private security should also be employed, if you enroll security operatives at all levels that will give information. Abroad the locals unravel a lot of this threat.
For instance, there was a bomb that was to go off in New York, it was a roadside vendor that saw something that looked suspicious; she call the authorities to look at it that would have taken out a lot of people so if people are enrolled it will go a long way to help.
They should also create more awareness and enlightenment programmes letting citizens know what to look out for. If you recall, the last administration apprehended some Boko Haram in Lagos, was it not through intelligence that they were arrested before they could settle down? The issue of moving Boko Harams that are in jail from one detention facility to the hinterland like moving them to Anambra or Edo State, I think it is a bad security policy because we have to look at the precedence.
What has happened with Boko Haram in jail, they break them out in jail and the prisons are not well fortified, so this Boko Haram people come to break their people from prison.
You are indirectly drawing the Boko Haram into this place and making the problem more difficult to tackle. Right now it is regionalised, so it is easy to focus the military that we have.
One of the challenges we have is that the military, their number is not that many. We say we are not really at war and the recruitment has not been ongoing. There should be continuous recruiting as it is done in developed countries.