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Insecurity: What Buhari must do now

By Seye Olumide (Ibadan), Adamu Abuh, Odita Sunday (Abuja) and Benjamin Alade (Lagos)
02 April 2022   |   3:50 am
Against the backdrop of the bombing of an Abuja-Kaduna train last Monday night, security experts and concerned Nigerians have reinforced their calls on the Federal Government to stop handling...

President Muhammadu Buhari (right); Chadian President, Lt. Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby; Director General, NIA, Amb. Ahmed Rufai and Nigerian Ambassador to Chad, Sadique Abubakar during Deby’s official visit to the State House Abuja…yesterday PHOTO PHILIP OJISUA<br />

Name, Prosecute Terrorism Sponsors Without Further Delay, Says Yoruba Ronu
• Rejig Heads Of Security Agencies To Reflect Federal Character, HURIWA Demands
• Declare Total War On Terrorists — Oji
• Ashiru: States Should Have Stronger Control Over Security
• APC Upbraids PDP For Alleged Politicisation Of Kaduna Train Disaster 

Against the backdrop of the bombing of an Abuja-Kaduna train last Monday night, security experts and concerned Nigerians have reinforced their calls on the Federal Government to stop handling the current security challenges with kid gloves and devise pragmatic means of restoring peace in the northern part of the country.

Although few days after the bombing, the joint intelligence service announced that it had uncovered scores of makeshift facilities and forest settlements serving as camps for armed bandits and kidnappers terrorising travellers along the Abuja-Kaduna highway and train routes, pundits have maintained that security agencies could have gathered the intelligence long before the disaster.

According to a former Director, Department of State Security Services, Mr. Dennis Amachree, the time has come for President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on insecurity and deal with the situation.

“Nigeria is really bleeding. President Buhari has always directed the military to deal with the insecurity situation decisively, but it looks like the bleeding is not stopping. The president should have the political will to stop the hemorrhage. The president should declare a state of emergency and deal with this situation before the general elections,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bulwark Intelligence Solutions, Tanwa Ashiru, also told The Guardian that the current development was very disturbing, adding that it reveals three major issues.

“First is that the bandits’ threat has evolved to full-blown terrorism. They have gone from wielding locally manufactured guns and knives to semi-automatic weapons, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and utilising Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

“The second disturbing fact is that while this dynamic threat was evolving and the terrorists were enhancing their asymmetric capabilities, our law enforcement agencies did not reassess their strategy and tackle the terrorist threat with the necessary multi-stakeholder coordination required to see tangible results.

“This new deadly development was bound to happen, because of the continuous case of locals reporting an issue and the government and security forces ignoring those reports or cracking down on those who expose the government’s complacency.

“This brings us to the third disturbing fact, which is that information, warning intelligence, recommendations and advisories often go ignored by responsible stakeholders.

“The intelligence, defence, law enforcement agencies and even local community members claim the imminent threat of an attack on the railway station was disseminated to the various stakeholders and responsible parties. But they claim these warnings were not heeded.

“If you ignore a wound, it is bound to fester. The activities of these bandits had been largely ignored and now it has evolved into a deadly group conducting coordinated complex terrorist attacks, which are now threatening the nation and its socio-economic development,” she said.

Ashiru blamed the country’s weak judicial system for the current turn of events, stating that failure to apprehend perpetrators and bring them to justice exacerbates the problem.

“The Nigerian government has a very weak judicial system, which has led to bad actors and criminals going unpunished and many Nigerians not receiving justice. There have been numerous cases of communities getting attacked and nothing being done to apprehend the perpetrators, and/or compensate the victims. This has ended up exacerbating conflict across the country and spurring dangerous narratives that keep fueling insecurity.

“Another issue is the government’s unwillingness to decentralise security and allow the state governments to have stronger control over the security of their states. It is interesting to note that with all the conflict ravaging the North West, there are still some states that have managed to minimise the level of crimes and attacks within those states. The Federal Government does not take the time to listen to the solutions of the states and implement local solutions. Instead, they want to wield total control of all security operations even though half the time they are not able to conduct operations without the help of local vigilantes,” she added.

She noted that in view of recent developments, securing critical national assets would require continuous surveillance and quick response. “The security of these critical national assets requires two actions: continuous surveillance and quick response. Security personnel will require constant visibility of the areas of interest in order to detect any threats, then a team must be on standby to respond and provide immediate ground interdiction.

“The issue is, this solution is expensive and for a government that already has a heavy debt burden and minimal funding, whatever high tech expensive solutions they implement will be unsustainable.

“This is why the government must get creative about surveillance and quick response options that are local and effective for sustainability. This includes using local community members, local security providers, local security networks, etc. More should be done to encourage local tech innovation so that we are not constantly taking money out of the country and sending it to other countries for them to give us security tech solutions that could be easily developed here with the right support. The government should invest in and encourage local companies to provide these solutions.

“In addition, the government should be more open to synergising with private sector security providers. They can play a major role in reinforcing the activities of the local police and vigilantes. Finally, the government should be more sensitive to the plight of Nigerians who have been victimised. Many families have lost everything in a bid to pay ransom to these terrorists. Other families have lost their homes to terrorists that have raided and occupied their communities.

“The government should not ignore the problem, because the victims have chosen to explain their suffering and the government’s neglect, through religious and tribal narratives. Instead, local council structures must be strengthened to ensure there is community governance, and they should work with civil society organisations to assist in providing much-needed relief and resources to these remote communities,” Ashiru added.

She called for recruitment into the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), noting, “the police must have a presence everywhere.”

“We have been talking about the need to increase the number of policemen across the country because there simply are not enough policemen to support the country’s population. That means there are numerous remote communities across Nigeria that are not policed and are being taken advantage of by terrorists.

“One way the police can be more involved in this fight is to begin cultivating trusted relationships with local communities. People need to feel that when they come forward with information, it will be acted upon. They need to know that if they share information with the police, they will be protected and not neglected, especially if the terrorists decide to come back and punish the community for cooperating with law enforcement.

“The level of distrust between the public and the police is still staggering. Tackling terrorism is about gaining the support of the people. The police should take the time to win the trust of the Nigerian people and show that they are indeed committed to securing the nation, regardless of which political party is in office.”

On his part, a security consultant, Christopher Oji, stated that the current administration has not done enough on the issue of welfare and logistics for the military and sister agencies, especially the police.

“In many occasions, we have seen on social media the military personnel protesting about the condition of service of officers. Presently, the police are threatening to go on strike because of poor salaries and benefits.

“The military personnel had many times protested against using obsolete equipment while the terrorists are using highly sophisticated calibre ammunition, including rocket launchers and explosives. If something drastic is not done, terrorists will take over the country and that is why the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces should declare total war on terrorists. There should be massive aerial patrol of our boarders and more security personnel should be employed,” Oji said.

Speaking in the same vein, an academic and philanthropist, Prof. Christopher Imumolen lamented that Nigeria found itself in the current situation because the leaders failed to improve the security architecture over the years.

 
“A lot of people have asked if Nigeria has security or if it has collapsed. There was no plan to reinforce security in Nigeria since 1960. We are not growing our security strength on par with the population growth. Any little security challenge cannot be curbed, because we are not growing security infrastructure.

“It is not a matter of collapse; there was no deliberate growth to ensure that the security of Nigeria matches up with the geometric rate at which Nigeria is growing. The Nigerian government needs to begin to work very fast to ensure that Nigerians are safe. The only way to move this country right is to begin to think of leadership. We need to ensure that the right persons are put in position.”

Imumolen, who spoke at a press briefing in Lagos, said Nigerians were no longer safe, adding that the lackadaisical attitude and incompetence of those who currently lead the country also contributed to the rising insecurity being witnessed across the country.

According to the presidential aspirant under the Accord Party (AP), it was high time Nigerians began to speak the truth to revive this country.

“If 1000 men can be kidnapped, many killed and no one knows where they are at this point, it means the country at large is not safe. We are in a time where the president, vice president, governors and senators should not be sleeping because we are under attack and war has been declared on this nation. If we decide to keep quiet, it might just be your turn, who knows?” he added.

Also, the National Coordinator/Executive Director of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, blamed the inability of the Federal Government to totally subdue the terrorists on the headship of the security agencies.

Onwubiko said: “The domination by Muslim northerners as heads of internal security institutions and the fact that those carrying out terrorist attacks are of the same Muslim northerners from the North West and are Fulani, goes to show that there is a conspiratorial plot between the armed non-state actors and those heading the security agencies in terms of the internal security perspective because weapons are smuggled into Nigeria from northern borders by these terrorists but they are allowed to have a field day.

“Aside from the activities of the core terrorists like Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani terrorists, there are also foreign and local and Fulani herdsmen unleashing violence in the Middle Belt states of Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and other adjourning states and these mass murderers are allowed to have free reign. But the government has decided to focus the operational base of the military to target the largely unarmed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the armed wing of IPOB known as ESN whose focus, according to them, is to ensure that armed herdsmen stop the killings of farmers in the South East of Nigeria.”

On way forward, he noted: “What must be done is for President Buhari to rejig the heads of the security agencies to appoint competent professionals based on merit, competence and adherence to the Federal Character Principle. The internal security heads have compromised with the terrorists terrorising Nigerians from the North West so these heads should be subjected to investigations and if any is found wanting, then the law should be made to take its full course.

“There are, however, strong doubts that President Buhari is determined to do what is right. He has so far over the last seven years refused to comply with the Federal Character principle in the area of appointments in the internal security institutions. He has just less than a year. So, if his plan is not to scuttle the election by allowing terrorists to continue to operate freely, he needs to do what is right and the time to do all these is now.”

In a similar submission, the Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum has warned the Federal Government and critical stakeholders who believe in the indivisibility of the country that the incessant attacks by Fulani bandits and Boko Haram insurgents in different parts of the North portray nothing but a gradual ostracising of the region from the rest of Nigeria.

In a conversation with The Guardian, President of the forum, Akin Malolu, said it was now obvious that the rhetoric and platitudinous speeches of several northern leaders and government officials that they were on top of the incessant incursion of Boko Haram terrorists in several parts of the region were mere talks especially when those trained in the art of war were reluctant to fight on.

Malolu said: “The truth today is that the leaders in the North have accepted to live with the menace of religious bigotry and extremism. What is, however, left in their mind is for the South to accept the ignorance of their wishes and that what they have unfolded upon themselves be seen by the South as tolerable. We can safely say, therefore, that from the available circumstances, comparisons and observations so far, the North of Nigeria is almost no longer part of the country called Nigeria. It may be what we could call ‘New Afghanistan’ in West Africa.

“We have watched with deep concern that President Muhammad Buhari, who made a global promise to convoke sociological enquiry in 2016 at the Togo ECOWAS security meeting, has however retreated from the idea without giving any reasonable reasons or rather his government has been carefully muted over such an idea though suggested by him.”

Malolu added that the importance of such an investigation on banditry and Boko Haram would have provided the intelligence necessary for taking important decisions on how to stem the rising trends of brigandage and bloodlettings commonly experienced today.

He noted that Nigeria has spent fortunes acquiring weapons for a military that was afraid of engagement.

He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to convoke a conference of all political leaders, religious leaders and academics to review the failures observable in the North, abrogate the classifications presented in the open and give equal treatment to everyone.

Other suggestions made by the forum include naming and prosecuting terrorism sponsors.

Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has upbraided the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for allegedly politicising the attack on a Kaduna bound train by terrorists.

APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, in a statement, yesterday, noted that it was unfortunate that the PDP chose to profit from the tragedy in its desperate quest to seize power and plunge the “country back into ruinous looting ways.”

APC reiterated its commitment to working with relevant authorities to bring perpetrators of the despicable acts to justice.

The party said: “It is outright unconscionable, insensitive and irresponsible for the PDP to seek to politicise a terrorist attack that cut short the lives of our dear ones for its own base interest. 

“Granted that Nigerians have become accustomed to PDP’s arrant flippancy, the occasion of a national tragedy is not exactly a good time for puerile rascality.

“While the PDP digs deep in the mud trying to find electoral gold, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a swift response to this tragic event, met with Security Chiefs and directed the immediate conclusion of all processes for implementation of the integrated Security Surveillance and Monitoring System (ISSM) solution for Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line as well as the extension of the ISSM solution to cover the Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line.

“The President further directed the rescue of all kidnapped passengers and ordered a manhunt for the perpetrators of these acts of terror. The management of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) was also directed to speedily repair the damaged lines and restore services without delay.

“Several senior administration officials visited and condoled with bereaved families and extended support and care to those injured in the attack while the PDP continues to engage in idle mudslinging.”