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MENDing the Nationís Kidnapped Security Infrastructures
By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq.  Published October 8th, 2010

  • In some weird way, MEND, which claimed responsibility for the Abuja bombings may have unwittingly provided the nationís security agencies and the government the opportunity not only to test their security drills in real time as opposed to hypothetical or theoretical exercises, but also to overhaul and upgrade the nationís security infrastructures to worldís standards. The unfortunate part, however, is the deaths that followed, which must be counted as the price the nation had to pay for securing herself in future.óFranklin Otorofani, Esq.

  • It is highly unlikely, in fact inconceivable that the bombing of the nationís capital during her golden jubilee celebrations would have been contemplated let alone executed if the late President Musa YaríAdua was still in power. MEND, which claimed responsibility for the attacks had never gone beyond Niger Delta to prosecute its war not against the federal government per se, but against oil companies and their installations based in Niger Delta region, not in Abuja, with no oil installations or elsewhere in the federation outside the Niger Delta region. And thatís why the attacks are dripping with the oil of politics, using Niger Delta struggle, which is being addressed under President Jonathan as a convenient smokescreen.ó Franklin Otorofani, Esq.

I had long been planning to do a piece on the worsening security crisis in Nigeria, but had to differ putting pen to paper on the subject due to competing demands, not necessarily in order of importance, for nothing is more important than security of lives and properties in any nation, but in order of immediate relevancy and topicality to rapidly unfolding events. 

Presently Nigeria is in the death grip of politics and not unexpectedly politics has held us all hostages to its infinite demands. However, recent high profile security related events in Nigeria have compelled me to move this subject to the top of my To-do list. I could no longer defer it when bombs are going off in Abuja right in the thick of the nationís golden jubilee celebrations in the nationís capital in presence of foreign dignitaries.

And it couldnít be deferred any longer when innocent, under-age pupils, whom the good Lord, Jesus, had declared would inherit the earth on account of their sheer innocence, harmlessness and defenseless, are being attached, brutalized and traumatized by heartless and conscienceless hoodlums, who would rather prefer not to be known and addressed as lawyers, engineers, doctors, accountants, journalists, professors, writers, scientists, technologists, business moguls, movie stars, musicians, poets, inventors, industrialists, clergymen, whiz kids, or some other noble professional callings, but as hoodlums, kidnappers, and outlaws, who are always on the run from the law even when no one is after them. Anyone who cannot stand up in the crowd to disclose his calling and means of livelihood has got to do some serious reality checks on his life and entire existence.

Sadly and tragically enough, thatís the kind of troubled life some able bodied, mentally alert Nigerians, who could put their brains and brawns to better use have chosen to lead in a world where the youths of other nations are at the cutting edge of technological innovations, creative profundity and entrepreneurial sagacity, among others. Their elders have bequeathed to them such atrocious values of get-rich-quick that no one would be proud to be associated with in the public square siring a generation of ďYahoo Boys,Ē ďArea Boys,Ē ďBakassi,Ē ďOPC,Ē campus cultists, hired militants, kidnappers, and what else is out there in the blighted landscape of the Nigerian youth-hood .  

Iím exceedingly troubled and profoundly pained in my heart that those who have it within their intellectual and physical competence to help put Nigeria and Africa on the world map of scientific, artistic and technological innovations in order to help raise the profile of the black race are being utterly wasted in Nigeria. And nowhere is this more profoundly disturbing than in the kidnapping business. Life is too precious and finite to be wasted in criminal activities.

It takes a whole lot more intellectual capital to plan and execute criminal acts and it takes even more efforts to run away from the law in perpetuity than to engage in wholesome activities that would bring glory and honor to the individuals, their families, ethnicity and their country. The usual argument of unemployment in the land predisposing such individuals to criminal behaviors does not hold water because even students from wealthy families have been known to engage in such acts. Besides, theyíre not the only unemployed youths in Nigeria. How come theyíre the only ones engaging in such heinous crimes when the rest are not? Should every unemployed youth take to criminal activities then, rather than finding and engaging in other wholesome activity? Hard times ought to bring out the best in ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovations, not criminality. But the reverse seems to be the case in Nigeria, particularly in the South/East.

The Nigerian nation ought to address seriously its traditional value system that has been destroyed by morally corrupt, degenerate politicians and military opportunists and adventurers in leadership positions over the years. What is happening in Nigeria today is un-Nigerian and un-African. There are crimes and there are crimes. Kidnapping for ransom is not in the cultural make-up of the people of the South/East or any part of the nation for that matter. It just doesnít square up with our traditional value system. But then our traditional values have been upended by political vultures. The nation must therefore find ways to reconnect with its traditional roots in order to put an end to these strange behaviors emanating from our youths.


Abia State as Ground Zero

However, for some reasons that I have yet to fathom, it appears kidnappers have settled on Abia state as their national operational headquarters from where they seem to have grown their business model into a veritable franchise of sorts; rapidly expanding throughout the South/East and moving westward into neighboring Delta and Edo states. With every state governor fighting or pretending to be fighting to create jobs for his stateís teeming jobless youths, choosing Abia state as the headquarters of a business would ordinarily have gladdened the heart of Governor Theodore Orji. But being the headquarters of the nationís burgeoning kidnapping cottage industry is farthest from Orjiís idea of a job spinning industry and would rather its promoters close shop and shop for land elsewhere outside his state to set up shop. That is the Devilís trophy he does not want for his state. 

Unfortunately for him the promoters of this business model donít care about his opinion and his likes or dislikes. They donít need his permission. And why should they, anyway?  They donít need his Certificate of Approval (C of O).They donít need a license from Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to commence operations.  And they donít need all that battery of lawyers, accountants, marketing gurus, board of directors and a pesky workforce to get down to business. In short, they need no legal framework and paperwork because they operate outside of the law. Theyíre outlaws! All they need is a bunch of SIM cards to contact the press and demand ransom from relatives of their victims and a few handguns to terrorize the entire state and smile their ways to the banks. And thatís why laughed his so-called amnesty fashioned after the federal governmentís to scorn. With a business that lucrative who needs an amnesty program from a Governor Theodore Orji?  

They simply set up shop in his state as a strategic location and dared him to use his gubernatorial powers to evict them. And the poor governor has since found out that heís powerless and helpless. That sense of powerlessness and helplessness pervades not only the corridors of power in Abia state, but the entire state whose citizens are fleeing the state in droves. That, in and of itself, is a vote of no confidence in the government of the state, which should be of great concern to the government of the state. Security of lives and properties is the first duty of any government, not road construction, hospitals and schools. Security comes first before any other thing.

As the operational headquarters of kidnappers, therefore, the good people of Abia state have had to bear the brunt of the wrath of kidnappers, who have literarily overrun the state and reduced Governor Orji to a poor, miserable player fretting on stage, seemingly dazed and overwhelmed by the kidnappersí onslaught.

Security wise, these are indeed sad times for the nation. When hoodlums are striking with impunity unchallenged in broad daylight and citizens of a state are fleeing from their homes to the other states and parents are withdrawing their children and wards from schools due to fear of kidnappers, then it is time to get real and get tough. Yes, itís time to take out the gloves and fight back with all the resources at our disposal because the nation cannot allow itself to be held hostage by a few miscreants.  

Therefore, sad and horrifying as these incidents are, they serve to provide the nation with the opportunity to upgrade its security infrastructures. Itís a truism that every action begets a reaction. Security infrastructure is not emplaced in a vacuum but in response to security challenges. The nations with some of the best security infrastructures in the world today, such as India, Britain, Spain and the United States, for example, did not always have such security systems in place. The security systems these nations have today were put in place in response to the security challenges they faced in the past and as well as in the present. Security systems anywhere are built in response to prevailing security challenges not fortuitously or hypothetically. Otherwise they would not have been built at all. Americans have a saying to drive this home: ďIf it ainít broke, donít fix it!Ē And how do we know itís broken if it is not put to the test as has happened in Nigeria? While the loss of lives is regrettable real world test is a whole lot better than terror drills and war games that are at best distant approximations to real time security challenges. In the absence of such challenges government and society become complacent and indifferent to potential threats until doomsday is upon them.

There are places in the United States bristling with security cameras, police patrols and security guards due to high crime rates, and there are equally places in the same country with no security cameras at all and minimal law enforcement footprints, where doors are left open all night and cars parked with keys left hanging out their steering wheels. This is equally true of other places. Such places have no need to invest in sophisticated security apparatus and could therefore become soft targets to would be terrorists.

9/11 provided the wake-up call for the US. Kashmir bombings provided the wake-up call for India. IRA bombings provided the wake-up call for Britain. The Bath Separatist Movement bombings provided the wake-up call for Spain, and one could go on and on. Nigeria will not be an exception. Nigeriaís response to the AbdulMuttab saga with full body scanners at the nationís international gateways shows that it is capable of doing just that as other nations have done when faced with similar challenges. And that is the bottom line.

The ubiquitous close circuit security camera surveillance system in Britain was informed by the nationís security challenges spawned by the IRA, which regularly sets off bombs in London and other cities putting Britain in perpetual state of alert, which has now heightened by international terrorism. The same is true in the United States, which till this day is the singular focus and target of international terrorism from Al-Queda and its affiliates.

And Europe is not left out either. The whole of the EU is placed under NATOís and EU security blanket with the security agencies of member nations locked in a mesh of security networks to deal with both local and international terrorism. Security has become one of the biggest industries in the developed and developing worlds stalked by international terrorism. 

Although considered at the periphery of international terrorism, Nigeria is gradually being sucked into the vortex of international terrorism. With Abdul Mutallabís ill-fated attempt to blow up the Northwest Airline Flight 253 on December 25, 2009, to bombs going off in Warri and Abuja, there is no question that Nigeria will be forced to shed its toga of innocence and complacence and move to emplace robust security surveillance infrastructures just like India, Britain, Spain and the United States, not only at the nationís international gateways, but internally at municipal level as well, in cities and towns.

Deploying full body scanners at the nationís international gateways as the Nigerian authorities have done is therefore a direct response to these security challenges, but thatís only the beginning not the end. Itís just the down payment necessary to keep the nation safe at all times. No investment in security is too much because the very existence of the nation and its people depends on it in the age of global terrorism.

The nationís security challenges have been violently and forcefully brought to the fore by the Abuja bombings and the Abia kidnapping incidents. Both events happening contemporaneously and similar ones in the past, including the kidnap of Lagos based journalists in the same Abia state a few months ago, have served to highlight the inherent weaknesses of the nationís security infrastructures at both retail and wholesale levels.

By retail is meant security infrastructures deployed and operated in private homes, corporate and institutional premises designed to meet their own security requirements as distinct from public security. Wholesale security level on the other hand entails the general security infrastructures spanning across local and state territories all the way to the nationís international borders, which could be likened to a nationís transportation infrastructures.

There is no question that the events in Abuja and Abia state exposed the gaping holes in both retail and wholesale security apparatuses. These holes are so huge a freightliner could go through them effortlessly even while its driver is fast asleep. The hijack of a school bus in broad daylight by a band of kidnappers right under the nose of early morning commuters at 7 am in a presumably traffic choked Aba Township roads and driven around town to a safe haven of the kidnappers, was by no means a fleeting operation conducted in a flash. Itís fair to conjecture that the operation might have taken the kidnappers a few hours to get in and out of town to their hideouts in the woodland. We have since learnt that the kidnappersí hideouts are not in the city itself but outside of the city, somewhere in the wilderness.

With the previous rampant incidents of kidnappings in the state it is inconceivable that the city of Aba had not been placed on a security blanket with all of its entry and exit points adequately policed and placed on twenty-four hour security surveillance. As soon as the kidnap was made, signals out to have gone out immediately to all security formations from a Command Center, and the entire Aba Township completely locked down and cordoned off, with no vehicles or individuals going in and out of the city. This would have enabled security agents to comb the city and track down the kidnappers in a matter of hours, not days. Thatís the business of a well trained, well kitted, motivated professional security outfit thatís alive to its responsibility, not the make believe, lousy patchwork masquerading as law enforcement agencies in Nigeria.     

There is no way a huge school bus could make its way out of the city to the wilderness without getting accosted by security agents in the process. And if the kidnapped kids had been transferred to a different vehicle somewhere in the city before being driven out of the city in a getaway car, there is still no way 15 kids could fit into a single car. They had to be split in different cars to convey them outside of the city to the kidnappersí hideouts. All these take enormous time sufficient enough to activate the security apparatus and spring it into action before the criminals had a chance to get away with their human cargo.

There is no question in the mind, therefore, that hours not minutes, passed between the time the school bus carrying the kids was ambushed and hijacked, and when the criminals finally got out of the city to their hideouts with a busload of terrified kids and possibly the bus driver himself and his conductor. In all emergency security situations, time is of the essence and reaction time of security and/or emergency operatives is critical to success. Any undue lag in reaction time gives the criminals a chance to get away with their crimes. Itís unacceptable that a huge busload of pupils could be waylaid and hijacked in broad daylight and meandered out of the busy Aba township roads with no one lifting a finger to intercept the hoodlums. And it is equally unacceptable that there is total absence of security apparatus at the cityís entry and exit points to intercept the bus and apprehend the criminals in real time.

What is even more appalling in the Nigerian situation is the fact that kidnappers freely use their cell phones to contact the press, issue statements without getting located and apprehended in the process. How is it that in a country rife with high profile criminality there are no location- tracking devices to pin-point the exact locations of hoodlums, who freely communicate with the Nigerian media at will when these devices are readily available in the open market? Whatís going out there, folks? Is it that no one is in charge of the nationís security or those in charge are too busy lining their own pockets before theyíre tossed aside by the powers that be for gross incompetence or other less noble reasons? And why is it so difficult for our security Czars to distinguish themselves on the job so as to make their superiors think twice before theyíre relieved of their duties?

It is a matter for regret that former IGP Onovo sat there at Alhaji Kam Salem House in Abuja for close to two years doing nothing about the nationís security situation. It makes one wonder whether these people are abreast of modern development in security tools and systems that are available in the open markets, or theyíre more interested in corruption than protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians. This writer hereby calls for a thoroughly professionalized Nigerian police establishment from the top down as has been done for the military, because the status quo is too embarrassing and no longer acceptable. It has never been, anyway.  


Governorsí Security Responsibility

The business of securing the state of Abia rests squarely in the hands of the state government and no one else. And that is a constitutional mandate. Governors have a constitutional responsibility to protect lives and properties in their respective states. The governor of Abia state should not be allowed to pass the buck of securing his state on someone else, elsewhere in Abuja. The governor is the chief security officer of his state as per the nationís constitution and it is his burden duty to police the borders of his state and protect the lives and properties of its citizens.  

It is no excuse that he has no direct control of the Nigerian police. He doesnít necessarily need to be in control of the Nigerian police before he discharges his duty to his state. And this, by the way goes for all the state governors. He has not complained about lack of cooperation from the Abia state police command. In any case, this is not just a question of baton and gun-toting federal police looking for hapless motorists to fleece of their hard earned daily income. It goes beyond regular police work of arresting and prosecuting common criminals to a robust security network thatís capable of responding adequately to the stateís unique security challenges.

And you ask: where is the electricity to power such systems? My answer is, itís the responsibility of state governors to provide electricity for their states. And you ask further: where will they get the money to provide electricity in their states? My answer is, itís their responsibility to generate the revenue required to meet their needs including electricity generation and security provisions. No state governor should go cap in hand to Abuja to receive handouts from the federation account in a supposedly federal system of government where states are supposed to be semi-autonomous and semi-independent. The nation cannot afford to continue operating what I would characterize as dependent federalism, which has only succeeded in producing what may be termed executive gubernatorial panhandlers in the nation. Why must the states rely on Abuja for everything from revenue to garbage collection? What do we have state governments for if they cannot perform basic responsibilities assigned to them by the constitution?  

Designing and deploying security surveillance apparatus in the city of Aba and its environs does not require permission of the Nigerian police and the federal government. Rather than donating money and equipment to the federal police in his state that invariably winds up in private pockets the governor is well advised to use his state resources to establish a well articulated security infrastructure in his state with the best expertise available anywhere in the world. And good enough Governor Orji does not need armored tanks and sophisticated firearms to do this. 80% of security work is about intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing, which the state government is lawfully authorized to do without recourse to the Nigerian police. With the spate of kidnapping incidents, Abia state should be bristling with both human and high tech security surveillance infrastructure able to respond to the security demands of the state in real time complete with Central Command Center (CCC), not the ad hoc, fire brigade approach we are witnessing after the fact. 

There is this misconception that security is the business of the Nigerian police alone. Nigerians and the various governments at all levels must come to the understanding that a nationís security is not the business of one single agency, but a network of several security outfits, including, in several cases, even non security related agencies. Nothing stops the Abia state government from setting up its own security infrastructure equipped with modern surveillance systems and adequately trained security operatives to operate within its own borders. They do not have to carry guns to do their job discretely and effectively, because, as noted above, 80% of security work is devoted to intelligence gathering and sharing, not popping firearms and parading armored tanks in the streets to awe and intimidate.

States must demonstrate their competence in handling their internal security challenges. Just like the Statesí Independent Electoral Commissions, nothing stops states from having their own State Security Agencies (SSAs), just like the SSS at the center.   

The Nigerian army has no place in this matter. Itís a shame that the army was called in and literarily took over Abia state while it lasted. Over exposure of the army in matters relating to internal security is dangerous to democracy. The army can only appropriately be called in matters of internal insurrection as was the case with Boko Haram saga in Bauchi and the pogrom in Plateau state, which were clearly beyond the capacity of the police. Anything less should be within the professional competence and capability of the regular police establishment to hand and handle effectively with recourse to the military.  

Internal security is the business of law enforcement agents, who are better trained to deal with civil unrest and crimes and the like with minimal use of light firearms. Although state security operatives might not be allowed to carry light arms, police backup would not be unreasonably denied if requested where there is prior collaborative arrangement on the ground with the state police command in designing and deploying the system. And in the event of failure of timely response by the police, the nation would know where to apportion blame because the state would have done its part.

Itís, therefore, unacceptable to have a situation where a state governor would have to cry to Abuja all the time to call for help when he had all the opportunity in the world of doing the job himself and preventing the hijack of a school bus in his own state in the first place.

I read the newspaper report of how Governor Orji was gushing with appreciation and literarily swooning at the federal authorities in getting the kids freed after he cried to Abuja for help. Pathetic and disgusting, to say the least! It shows how he had abdicated his responsibility to the citizens of Abia state by outsourcing his state security to the federal government rather than manning up to it as the chief security officer of his state.

Running to Abuja for help each time there is an incident in the state shows the Abia state governor as lacking in resources and proactive disposition to security matters in his own state. Those innocent pupils could have been dead before help came their way all the way from Abuja for a matter thatís within his governmentís powers and competence to handle and handle effectively, if, and only if he had been proactive and resourceful enough to get a real handle on security matters in his state. Harassed Abians would want to know from their governor how many more kidnapping incidents he needs to see take place in Abia state before he moves to seize the bull by the horn and take the security of his people into his own hands and not in the hands of Abuja bureaucrats? Other state governors shouldnít wait until their states are turned into Abia state before they put in place appropriate security infrastructures, not mere ad hoc measures.  

State government shouldnít be concerned only about the roads and bridges they have built or for that matter, the schools and hospitals they have established, but about the investments they have made in securing lives and properties in their respective states because no investment will come to their states in an atmosphere of acute insecurity. A governor that is serious about development must start with providing an environment thatís conducive to economic development. Insecurity is antithetical to economic development. Abia state is fast losing its economic competitive edge to other less security challenged states. All the investments made in Abia state will come to nothing if businesses are fleeing from the state due to unrelenting state of insecurity. No sane investor would set up shop in a security challenged state like Abia. And as reported Abia state is already losing its own citizens to other states as well. Governor Orji should and must not rely on the federal might to deal with the security challenges in own state. He can only do so if his own efforts fail to match the challenges at hand in particular instances and not as a matter of course in all cases.

It bears repeating that as the chief security officer of his state it is his duty to do his job of securing the lives and properties of all Abians and the buck stops at his desk. Running to Abuja for help is not the solution but may well be part of the problem in that it beclouds his vision of his duty as a governor. Itís about time state governors viewed security matters of their states as their business and their business alone. The wanton disregard state governors have for the security of their states is reflected in the lack of security portfolio in their cabinets. The fact that there is hardly any state government with security portfolio in its cabinet speaks volume about governors lack of commitment to security issues which they naÔve see as federal concern just because they have no state police under their absolute control.

It would appear however, that one state governor has decided to seize the bull by the horn in security matters in his state. And he is no other than Governor Segun Oni of Ekiti state. How so? Well, as I was rounding up this article this report suddenly popped out on my radar screen as god sent and it made my day. Below is the report as published by the Nigerian Tribune 10062010:

ďEkiti State governor, Mr Segun Oni, has inaugurated the test running of a statewide Integrated Security Alert System designed to trigger-off simultaneous alarms in major police and security formations in the state when crimes are committed.

Speaking at the ceremony held in Ado-Ekiti, on Tuesday, Governor Oni, who called on the people of the state to always volunteer useful information on the activities of criminals to the police and other security agencies, noted that provision of vital information and intelligence reports to security agencies were important factors in crime prevention and detection.

Governor Oni said that a Swift Response Squad (SRS) made up of mobile police men  would patrol the state  in 50 new patrol vehicles recently procured  by the state government and were expected to respond rapidly to  security alarm, and distress calls from members of the public.Ē

Here we go at last! Somebody has finally picked up the gauntlet. Governor Oni has indeed given flesh and blood to what is being advocated in this write-up. Oh, how I wished it was Governor Theodore Orji of Abia state that is behind this new thinking. Sad to say his name has not been linked to this type of project despite the dire security situation in his state. Perhaps he will read this report. Perhaps his press secretary will show it to him. Or perhaps heís just flat out too busy worrying about his second term to worry about the state of insecurity in his state. Or perhaps he will surprise us someday.

Now, it may very well be that the governor already has some rickety security structure on the ground in Abia state. There is no question in my mind that the Abia state government has something on the ground given the spate of kidnapping and general crime situation in the state. But having an anaemic security outfit is worse than not having one at all in that it lulls citizens into a false sense of security to the citizens and thus let their guards down. Itís not enough to have ďsomethingĒ on the ground. Security has gone hi-tech. This is not your grandfather timeís whistle and torchlight night-guard-type outfit. Whatever is on the ground must be robust, modern, sophisticated and effective. It must comprise 24-hour, round the clock monitoring, reporting and response components. Orji and other governors are well advised to borrow a leaf from their counterpart in Ekiti state and even improve on his system. Ekiti is one of the poorest states in the federation yet itís able to invest in a sophisticated security infrastructure as the report shows. Itís all a matter of priority and the political will to pull it through. But I can assure the state governors that investing in robust and sophisticated security network will not break their treasuries. Far from it!    


Citizensí Civic Security Responsibility 

By citizens is meant not just natural, biological citizens but artificial, corporate citizens well. As indicated earlier, security is the business of all not just the government. Both private and corporate citizens need to take proactive actions to protect themselves and their properties. Itís unimaginable that the citizens of a nation suffering from such high levels of insecurity have no individual security outfits for their homes and offices but would rather outsource their security to an inefficient and ineffective state police establishment that cannot even police itself let alone others.

Itís inconceivable that robbers and assassins could invade home and businesses with utter impunity and operate for hours on end with no security camera and surveillance systems in place. And these are supposed to be homes and businesses of multi millionaires not some poor individuals who cannot afford the cost of security surveillance system.

Itís inconceivable too, that Nigerian entrepreneurs have not seized on the huge opportunities created by the dire security environment in the nation to venture into security related businesses. Even with the relative efficiency and effectiveness of police departments in cities and towns across the US, for example, private security firms are the order of the day and individual and corporate firms invest heavily in their own security infrastructures to help and complement the work of the state and local security agencies.

Cops will not come and guard the homes of individuals and corporate organizations. At best they can only do street patrols not mount guard in the homes of individuals or corporate premises. If individuals and corporate organizations leave their behinds open in the hope that the cops will protect them in their homes and offices, they will pay a big price for that and leave their flanks open to attacks by hoodlums.

Itís, therefore, in their own interest to protect their behinds and their assets by investing in well heeled security personnel and materials. And that explains why private security is big business in the United States. Itís not because it has no effective and efficient law enforcement agencies on the ground but because the job of securing lives and properties is not for the law enforcement agencies alone to handle. They alone can do but little in protecting peopleís homes and business establishments or even public places, for that matter. 

Itís about time Nigerians, individual citizens, and corporate organizations alike took their own security into their own hands by investing in security surveillance equipment, men and materials, to help secure their own persons and assets rather than leaving everything to the government. As stated above, government cannot secure people in their homes and offices all by itself and can only respond to events after the fact, which is not good enough. When armed robbers come calling the police will not be there and thatís the reality everywhere in the world both in developed and developing countries. Itís just the reality that we cannot run away unless we want to provide a cop for each and every household and business premise.  

In the same token the police will not be there when kidnappers strike or for that matter, when a bomb is planted in a vehicle and driven to a spot to be set off later. In all these and other cases security surveillance in individual homes, offices as well as in public places, together with hard intelligence work and public alertness, help to expose such activities and nib potential crimes in the bud. Thatís why security is the business of everybody not just state security agencies alone.

And that reminds me of the slogan in some cities in the United States: ďIf you see something, say something,Ē which is an exhortation to members of the public to be alert and proactive by reporting unusual conditions and situations including the actions and dispositions of individuals that are out of the ordinary or out of the norm. It goes to underline the fact that everybody has a stake in security not just official security agencies, because as said earlier, security is everybodyís business.

This could be illustrated by the example of the street vendor in New York who spotted smokes coming out of a pick-up van loaded with explosives parked in the vicinity of  New York Cityís Times Square and immediately contacted the police. But for the vigilance of the street vendor the van might have exploded resulting in mass casualties at the ever bustling ďCrossroads of the World!Ē

Perhaps the Nigerian government needs to start or step up public security awareness campaign rather than remaining complacent and indifferent to goings on in their immediate environments. The two bomb laden vehicles that exploded within the precincts of the Abuja Eagle Square during the jubilee celebrations might have been spotted by some vigilant passersby if Nigerians were a bit more security conscious.

Perhaps the kidnap of a school bus laden with school kids might have been prevented if Abians were a bit more security conscious and had not left everything to the so-called security agencies. It is gratifying to note however that such security consciousness is beginning to germinate in official quarters in Nigeria and hopefully will move into the public domain. Here is a sampler from NNPC, as reported by Thisday Online 10062010:

"In consonance with the health and safety core values of the oil and gas industry worldwide, the management of the NNPC as usual conducted a security drill at the corporate headquarters and all its strategic business units across the country to ward off any possible security breach.

ďThere is no cause for alarm. The drill is a regular exercise that the corporation carries out from time to time to assure our staff and all our visitors that we are on top of our security situation and to heighten our security alertness. The NNPC Towers is well secured and there is no threat of bomb scare anywhere,Ē Ajuonuma said.

It was also reported that the management of the National Assembly has instituted stringent security measures to safeguard the premises from possible terrorist attacks. And just today, 10082010, the report came out that the Federal Government has concluded plans to install Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance system in Abuja!  According to the report by Thisday captioned: ďFG to Install CCTV in Abuja,Ē it quoted the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Senator Bala Mohammed, as disclosing that ďCCTV would be installed in strategic locations within the city to transmit signals that would aid in nipping any criminal activity on the bud.Ē

All these go to buttress my earlier postulation in this article that it takes events like these to awaken a nation to its security challenges. Itís already happening in Nigeria as it happened in the US, India, Israel, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Spain, Germany, not to mention, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq and all other nations that have suffered terrorist attacks in the past and are still living in fear of further attacks. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom from terrorism.


Federal Security Responsibility

Overall, the nationís security, whether external or internal, rests with the Federal Government at the center. It is even more so in Nigeria where the central government is in complete control of security agencies including law enforcement agencies. As such, the federal government has a duty to coordinate security matters with the states in order to make for a seamless operation throughout the country under the jurisprudential doctrine of ďCovering the FieldĒ.

Itís, therefore, necessary for the federal government to help design a common security platform for the states thatís full integrated with the federal security infrastructures. While regular security challenges can be handled at the state and local levels major security challenges such a breakdown of law and order and terrorism, insurrections and the like properly belong to the federal authorities.

It is true that Nigeria is not a terrorist nation and therefore has no experience in handling terrorist challenges as other nations living in the shadows of terrorism. Therefore, her performance in responding to a major terrorist event such as the Abuja car bombings must be seen and evaluated in that light. It is equally true that nations with more advanced security networks have not always succeeded in preventing terrorist attacks as happened in India, US, Britain, Spain and other countries. As security experts have cautioned, terrorists only have to succeed once to get attention and claim victory even if they fail a million times before that. No one credits security agents for foiling terrorist attacks, but they get all the blame when one manages to pull through no matter how insignificant it might be.  

Iím, therefore, not interested in pointing fingers, but to undertake an objective post mortem of the events. Atrocious and unfortunate as the bombing incidents may have been, and while the nation mourns those who gave up their lives in defense of their country, the incidents provide some silver lining that will ultimately be of immense benefits to the nation.

In some weird way, MEND, which claimed responsibility for the Abuja bombings may have unwittingly provided the nationís security agencies and the government the opportunity not only to test their security drills in real time as opposed to hypothetical or theoretical exercises, but also to overhaul and upgrade the nationís security infrastructures to worldís standards. The unfortunate part, however, is the deaths that followed, which must be counted as the price the nation had to pay for securing herself in future.

Although MEND claimed to have issued prior warnings a few hours before the bombs went off, it is clear that those warnings came too little too late. Either that the warnings never got to the targeted audience, who might not be expected to be glued to their laptop screens at that material time or the warnings probably fell on deaf ears. How many people received the text messages and how specific and detailed were the messages?

Itís not enough to generalize the information because Abuja is not a village, but a huge city and specificity is critical to how people react to security intel. The whole of Abuja would not be grounded or all vehicles towed away from the city when the nation was celebrating her golden jubilee with people streaming in and out of the city because of terrorist threats.

The threat must therefore be localized and appropriately dealt with minimal disruptions to normal economic and social activities in the city. In this case preventive actions would probably have been limited to the vicinities of the Three Arms Zone and of course, the Eagle Square, venue of the festivities in the absence of specific intel. But that is by no means a safe bet.

Terrorist could strike anywhere around the city and still have the same impact, same level of casualties and deliver the same message of insecurity to the nation. But the clear political undertone of the action cannot be lost on the nation. There is no question that the strikes were calculated to undermine the Jonathan administration by portraying it as weak and therefore incapable of protecting the nation few months to the general elections.

It is highly unlikely, in fact inconceivable that the bombing of the nationís capital during her golden jubilee celebrations would have been contemplated let alone executed if the late President Musa YaríAdua was still in power. MEND, which claimed responsibility for the attacks had never gone beyond Niger Delta to prosecute its war not against the federal government per se, but against oil companies and their installations based in Niger Delta region, not in Abuja, with no oil installations or elsewhere in the federation outside the Niger Delta region. And thatís why the attacks are dripping with the oil of politics, using Niger Delta struggle, which is being addressed under President Jonathan as a convenient smokescreen.

There are no oil companies and installations in Abuja to have warranted the extension of the war to Abuja, which makes the whole thing look, feel and smell politics through and through, and the arrests made so far seem to confirm this view.    

If MEND was out to probe Nigeriaís security defenses just to send a message about the nationís vulnerabilities, it ought to have issued the warnings publicly through the broadcast media and the newspapers way ahead of time so as to get to the targeted audience well ahead of time. Its failure to do so was a fatal error for which it is now expressing regrets at the unfortunate and senseless deaths that its acts have caused. Those individuals have been callously sacrificed like guinea pigs in a terrorist laboratory. 

It is well within the realm of possibility, however, given the information coming out from the governments of Nigeria and South Africa that the operation might have been executed in a hurry having possibly been detected by British security agencies, which alerted their Nigerian counterparts to the plot. This hypothesis seems more plausible given the fact that the bombers only succeeded in emplacing two bomb laden cars in the vicinity of the Eagle Square, some 500 meters away from the famous Square. If as the SSS spokesperson said in her briefings that some 65 vehicles were towed away from the Three Arms Zone, which she alleged was targeted in the plot, it stands to reason that more vehicles might have been involved in the plot than just the two that exploded.

All of these lead one to the conclusion that the plot was probably conceived to inflict maximum casualties on innocent Nigerians but was thwarted by the authorities who moved in to foil it when the plot was leaked. If this postulation is correct, thereís every reason then to applaud the efforts of the security agencies in minimizing the death tolls to nine. It could have been a whole lot worse.

While every death is regrettable and painful enough, the nation should find consolation in the fact that it could have been much worse. We have witnessed the execution of similar terrorist plots in India, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Britain, and good old US with mass casualties, even with the best of intelligence available to security operatives in those countries.

The Nigerian security agencies deserve a pat on their backs for moving to neutralize the plot and minimize the casualties, where 100% success had proved unattainable in the circumstances. They cannot be blamed for receiving intelligence from the British about the plot and not completely foiling it. Intelligence information is never precise and often vague and it is left for the security agencies concerned to take all appropriate measures as best they can. But as the 9/11 and the Abdul- Muttalab incidents have proved time and again, it is one thing to have the intelligence and it is quite another to interpret and pin point the specific targets of the terrorist threats.

As Iím writing this piece the entire continent of Europe is in the grip of terrorist threats. The intelligence is there alright but no one knows the specific targets and the day and time of their executions, prompting the Obama administration to issue travel warnings to US citizens travelling to Europe. Thatís the messy and indeterminate nature of security intel.


Political Undertone

I would prefer to reserve my comments at this time on the unfolding developments regarding the alleged possible involvement of some high level political operatives of a particular presidential aspirant as indicated in their alleged text messages found in the arrested suspectsí cell phones and the political brickbats that are being hauled at one another by those implicated in the terrorist plot and the presidency. 

All I can say for now is that terrorist attacks have occurred on Nigerian soil and on no account should this be reduced to politics as usual. The Nigerian nation has been attacked and is currently under siege like Europe. That amounts to a declaration of war. As such, anyone seeking to introduce politics into a clear security matter deserves to be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law as an accomplice after the fact, because no one has the right to play politics with the security of the nation and the wholly unwarranted death of fellow Nigerians in the service of their country.

Politics might be dirty, but it has its boundaries nevertheless. Itís one of the most shameful things to have come from the desperate camp of some presidential aspirants who are looking for openings to breathe life into their doomed campaigns to seek to gain some political mileage from these sad events. It is my considered view therefore that those seeking to introduce politics into this have something to hide. But should their desperate tactics still the hand of the law from exacting justice? I donít think so. 

The blood of innocent Nigerians that perished in the terrorist attack is in their hands. Therefore, the incipient campaign of intimidation by certain political desperadoes from certain parts of the country that is designed to obfuscate issues of culpability of certain individuals being linked to the terrorist act must not be allowed to stand and should be rejected by all well meaning Nigerians whose fatherland has been desecrated with the blood of their compatriots.

Iím however reassured by the statement emanating from the bowels of the presidency that ďno amount of blackmail will slow the hands of justice.Ē

Iím further reassured by President Jonathanís own statement appearing on Facebook, where he reportedly wrote that ďwe would be failing the past, present and future generations of Nigerians if we do not get to the root of this dastardly act and seek justice the way it should be done in a civilised society such as ours,Ē and promising that ďWhoever is found culpable will face the full weight of the law..Ē

Thatís all the innocent blood of the dead is crying for at this time. Justice, and nothing but justice! Let justice take its course and the chips fall wherever they may, for the dead deserve nothing but justice handed out in its fullest measures. And, may I add, Nigerians too, whose pristine capital has been desecrated and its peace and tranquility senselessly shattered.

Let justice prevail and heavens will not fall. Weíve gone through this path before in the past with coup plotters. Havenít we? And here we go again!

May God bless and protect Nigeria and her citizens from acts of terrorism.

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. contact:

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