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Why terrorists overwhelm security agencies

By Olawunmi Ojo, News Editor
10 April 2022   |   4:22 am
As Nigeria continues to count its losses from the recent spate of attacks by bandits on public facilities, military formations and innocent lives in Kaduna State, some ranking members of the intelligence community have identified reasons it might be difficult for the country...

[FILE PHOTO] Nigerian Army

• Buhari Lacks Will Power To Stop Terrorists, End War – Experts
• Failure Of Intelligence Compromising Security Sector – Stan-Labo
• ‘Executive Order To Solve Manpower Challenge Is Vital’
• Poor Collaboration Of Agencies Fueling Bandits, Exposing Citizens To Attacks – Ex-US Airforce Chief

As Nigeria continues to count its losses from the recent spate of attacks by bandits on public facilities, military formations and innocent lives in Kaduna State, some ranking members of the intelligence community have identified reasons it might be difficult for the country to win the war against terrorism.

While they listed manpower challenge and lack of collaboration between security agencies as part of the problems on the one-hand, they undercsored failure of intelligence within the security sector and lack of will power by the political leadership to end the war as key obstacles.

Recall that bandits unleashed repeated attacks on Kaduna last week, involving the Kaduna train station, an Abuja-Kaduna-bound train, Kaduna airport, and military formations, leading to loss of lives, with several kidnapped citizens still held captive.

But the Kaduna attacks are only recurrences of several such incidences across the country, which the security agencies now seem not to have answers to or the wherewithal to thwart or repel.

One of such attacks was carried out sometime in June 2021, when suspected armed bandits invaded Igangan Community in Ibarapa area of Ibadan, Oyo State in the dead of the night and unleashed mayhem on unsuspecting residents.

In the process, 11 persons were killed, while some vehicles and buildings including the Palace of the Asigangan of Igangan town and a filling station were torched. Residents alleged that the gunmen stormed the community with over 20 motorcycles. News later made the round that information about the impending attack was passed to the appropriate quarters but no action was taken to forestall it .

In a nation with a gamut of intelligence and security agencies, equipped to intercept information or gather intelligence with a view to using such to thwart attacks by bandits and/or terrorists, it is confounding that “unknown gunmen” or “bandits” would repeatedly launch attacks on public facilities and innocent lives, leaving in their trail deaths and destruction.

Reacting to the recent attacks, a retired army intelligence officer, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo reasoned that failure of intelligence could be the explanation for the “attacks that came in piecemeal one after the other.

“What could be wrong with the intelligence community entirely? It beats my imagination as an officer that we would still be talking about things like this at this time. More so, these are attacks that came in piecemeal after the other. It beats me hollow and it is something that anybody that belongs to the intelligence community should bury his head in shame for. Even if intelligence has gone to sleep, once an incident happens, it wakes everybody up. Leadership immediately directs on what needs to be done, they spread their tentacles and begin to read the minds of the enemy and envisage their next step.

“Like in the case of the rail incident, without even being an intelligence personnel, any one would know that all traffic would immediately be diverted to the Kaduna expressway. And the enemies we are fighting are reading the battle correctly; while we moved to the rail after their attack, they moved to the road and they got us. That is good thinking and good operational delivery,” Stan-Labo said.

The retired officer noted that manpower issues, which had always been identified, are still bedeviling the entire security sector and remained the main reason why the terrorism war is yet to be won.

He said, “A country of over 250million Nigerians that is fighting a long-drawn terrorism battle is still bedeviled by manpower issues. Could that country be said to be serious? I expect that the entire 30km stretch of the Kaduna-Zaria road, consisting of those three notorious communities that are giving us headaches, would by now have been embedded with plain-cloth security personnel. This ought to have been done in such a way that when you are walking on any road or footpath in the communities, for every five people you pass by, three should be intelligence personnel, ranging from a man that sells Kolanut to people that sell groundnut, hawking all sorts of things. You set up your intelligence systems with these people in the communities and in no long a time, you would have vital information required to thwart attacks. This is the way intelligence is done, not the executive intelligence we are practicing these days. Before you talk to some of our personnel, he has already introduced himself as a DSS officer. In those days, you hardly know them.”

Stan-Labo said he was at a loss as to why security agencies do not have personnel embedded in those communities already. While asking what it required to employ and train people for this purpose, he challenged government to rise to the manpower challenge.

Stressing the seriousness of the challenge, he canvassed for an executive order from the political leadership for the nation to overcome manpower issues in the security sector.

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“Or are there ulterior motives for making sure that the security sector is starved of manpower such that certain lines of action cannot be carried out. Some of us are beginning to read meanings to this disposition by the federal government. If we can bring out N219b to feed school children even when they were not in session, and when education budget is only N109b, how come we cannot bring out money and recruit people into the security sector?

“Something is just wrong with us. Will power is lacking; interpretation of the realities on ground is blurred by all sorts of sentiments, ranging from ethnicity to religion. Let 2023 just come and let us see if God would give us a leader who would be ready to bail this country out. We wasted eight years under President Goodluck Jonathan, we have wasted another seven under President Muhammadu Buhari. It is even far worse under the current administration. One expected that Nigeria would fare better in terms of security under a retired General but it has been unfortunate. Great nations that fought wars turned to their generals when they were challenged and they were rescued with those generals as presidents. In our case, President Buhari has not just been disappointing, he is a total failure. The little reputation he had before becoming president has been marred.

“We bought 12 Tucanos, where are they? They are busy gathering dust instead of pursuing terrorists in the forests. I expected that by now, each of the Tucanos would be making 60 turn-around of bombings every week. By the time 12 Tucanos are making 60 by 12 bombings of every nooks and cranny where the bandits are, within three months, we would have been done with the war. But when we have other ulterior motives, this is what we would have to contend with. The military has what it takes in terms of capability. The airpower we have is also superior to what the enemy has. It is the willpower that is lacking. Government must take a decision to get this war done with,” Stan-Labo said.

Former intelligence analyst with the United States Air Force, Tanwa Ashiru, however, observed that from information available, there was adequate intelligence about the Kaduna attacks, but the intelligence failed because the information was mishandled.

She declared that majority of the problems the nation had at the moment stemmed from “taking little to no action on threats to human life.

“Information and the subsequent intelligence derived must be acted on swiftly, especially when there is threat to human life. But it seems the intelligence agencies are swifter to act on intelligence that are a perceived threat to the entity of Nigeria than direct threats to human lives,” she said.

Suggesting ways of stopping the recurring attacks, Ashiru, who provides defense, intelligence and security solutions as chief executive of Bulwark Intelligence, stressed that intelligence agencies must go out of their way to illustrate the intelligence and the threat of inaction more convincingly to powers-that-be.

She added that the agencies must also provide a well thought out action plan that can be taken to mitigate the immediate and longer-term risks.

Ashiru also bemoaned the poor collaboration among security agencies, noting that the country had finally reached a stage where the lack of adequate collaboration is directly affecting the safety and security of the lives of the citizens.

She said, “The adversary has evolved to a level where the response from the government security forces requires intentional coordination. Much of the internal security effort is being lopsidedly placed primarily on the military. But involving the military increases collateral damage and often exacerbates the problem. A number of criminals often trace their initial reason for joining these criminal groups to violence from the military or other law enforcement, which personally affected their lives.

“The Police need to step up their role in internal security. They are supposed to have good relations with the local communities and gain their trust, working with them to root out criminals. But this too is lacking. Border security has a huge role to play as well in preventing the transnational flow of fighters and weapons that has brought us to this point.

“The defense, intelligence and various law enforcement agencies will need to put their differences aside and better collaborate for Nigeria to see results.”

Ashiru’s position on collaboration was echoed by Captain Umar Babangida Aliyu (rtd.), a former military intelligence officer and Chief Executive of Goldwater and Riversand Consults, who said the nation needed to revamp and reinvigorate other arms of security service to complement what the army was doing.

Aliyu noted that, as seen in recent attacks, the Armed Forces, particularly the army, have been spread thin. “The Armed Forces are probably doing the job of the DSS. Our soldiers are not just being killed, they are dying everyday because the Police, Civil Defense and the multitude of other security and law enforcement agencies are not measuring up. Otherwise, we would not see almost back-to-back consistent slaughter of soldiers. It’s unfortunate.”

He stressed that Nigeria was not getting the desired results in the terrorism fight because one security agency seems to be doing the role of all other agencies.

“The real challenge today is not about our army not being capable but about the army battling alone. There must be the DSS counter-terrorism component and the civil defense component. Even religious leaders and traditional rulers have roles to play. But in this particular situation, other security agencies have to come to the table. We must challenge other agencies if we are to win this battle. The bandits are exploiting the fact that our army seems to be the only arm running helter-skelter to combat. Fighting terrorism should not be left to the army alone, it has other components that the other agencies should attend to,” he said.