Since the inception of Boko Haram in 2002, Nigerians have been plagued with increasing violent attacks to its citizens, Public institutions, Bus parks, religious buildings, Police, Military and politicians. High-profile locations like the UN building and the police force headquarters in Abuja have been targeted. More recently, a very busy bus park in Nyanya Abuja was attacked resulting in the deaths of at least 71 people and wounding 124 people. You can find a detailed history of the Boko haram attacks here as the Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013, and it continues to increase in 2014.
Dr. lionel von frederick rawlins, a forensic criminologist and the Security Coordinator at the American University of Nigeria, Yola provides a brilliant observation in my opinion of the activities of Boko Haram:
It has got to the point where Boko Haram is killing people because Boko Haram is now proving a point that it can kill and get away with it. It has gone beyond religion, politics and ideology. It is a belief: ‘I can kill people and I can get away with it and let me show you I can do it.’ That is what it is now. It is a showman thing. I know most people won’t think of that because they always believe it is religious or political. May be it was at the beginning when they said they were formed by a governor; maybe it was religiously-motivated when they wanted to Islamise the North and bring in Sharia law; all these may be true but it has gone beyond that. It has reached the point of ‘I can kill you and there is nothing you can do,’ and they have proven it; so the more they do it, the more emboldened they become.
After every high-profile attack like the one that happened in Nyanya, Abuja on April 14, 2014, the President Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and many other politicians in power come up with reassuring statements like “Boko Haram insurgency is a temporary challenge… We will surely overcome Boko Haram.”, “Boko-Haram will not disintegrate Nigeria”, and the classic line used by the defence minister Bello Halliru Mohammed stating that once again his men are “on top” of the security situation in the north. These are just words and they are certainly not re-assuring anybody. These words are as ineffective as the measures which they have carried out to eliminate Boko-haram. Measures such as declaring a state of emergency in some Northern states, using Air strikes to bombard certain boko haram sites, calling for dialogue with the terrorists, mounting security check points on major roads, barricading certain buildings with barriers etc. These security measures have done little to reassure Nigerians, rather they cause more grieve, frustrations and inconveniences to “ordinary” Nigerians.
These security measures can be very effective if only they are executed properly and continuously not just when there is a tragedy and the government needs to save its face. These measures also need to be reviewed frequently and updated periodically otherwise we are just going to be wasting our time and waiting like sitting ducks for the next attack to happen. The reason these security measures seem ineffective to the ordinary Nigerian citizens is because they are frustrated and inconvenienced by the measures which seem only to protect high-profile Government buildings and politicians. And after going through the frustrations and inconveniences of the security measures, they still end up being victims when the terrorists strike again. Despite the inconveniences caused by these security measures, they remain absent in many areas of the Nigerian life posing even more threats in the future.
The security of a nation shouldn’t be about protecting building structures and high-profile politicians. It should be about providing security measures that will protect each and every one of its citizens regardless of their social standing in life. But sadly, in Abuja today, the former is the case. There are no visible security measures carried out to protect the ordinary citizens of Nigerians but every major government building, politician, senior military or police officer seem to have some kind of security detail or the other physically guarding them. Most of our motor parks, bus stops, schools, university campuses, parks, clubs and other places with a high concentration of people are left unprotected. There are no surveillance cameras installed in such high density areas so even when tragedy strikes, not much can be done to identify the perpetrators. I wonder if these “false” security measures are even carried out in other states of Nigeria or perhaps we are waiting for tragedy to strike there before we act.
Most government organizations especially in Abuja, Nigeria have placed concrete barriers on the road in front of their entrances. Some of these concrete barriers encroach deep into the road resulting in unnecessary traffic congestions. The emphasis of this security measure seems to be the protection of the building structure rather than the lives of motorists and pedestrians that have been inconvenienced as a result of the use of such barriers. A terrorist could easily target motorists and pedestrians stuck in traffic as a result of the concrete barriers. No matter how small of a threat it is, any scenario where lives can be lost should be taken seriously. A good example of an Organization that has such a barrier that causes traffic congestions and one reported accident is the Nigerian National Petroleum corporation in the central business district of Abuja. You will find many Government organizations with such barriers scattered all over Abuja (I wonder if private organizations are even considered when they carry out such decisions). As stated earlier, the concrete barriers in front our government buildings create traffic congestion for motorists. Some barriers block off a certain section of a street thereby preventing pedestrians and motorist from using the entire street as it was originally designed. Other Barriers prevent motorists from parking in certain sections of the road but end up making other sections of the road congested. I keep going on about concrete barriers in front of government buildings because that is the most visible security measure seen in Abuja. Again, the emphasis seems to be on protecting the building structures and its inhabitants at the expense of the lives of the pedestrians and motorists affected by the barriers.
On the major roads in Nigeria, it is very common to see various forms of security personnel running security check points and occasionally stopping and searching suspicious looking cars. These security check points often cause severe traffic congestions that end up frustrating commuters that could easily be targets for Boko haram. As a result of the bomb blast in Nyanya, Abuja for example, residents of Nyanya have been frustrated by the road blocks set up by Security personnel. vehicles are checked one after the other causing severe delays for passengers coming into town from Nyanya. While the security forces continue to frustrate people living in Nyanya, other parts of Abuja are left unattended. Once again, the Government is trying to save face by concentrating most of its efforts on a single location in Abuja instead of looking at the big picture. When I use well-known public transport services, I sometimes imagine that I am carrying some kind of explosive and on every single check point we encounter, they always let us through after having a look at the driver and its passengers. I guess these major public transport service providers are trusted by the security agencies but the problem is that most of these public transport service providers do not check passenger luggage for explosives and other weapons. They don’t have luggage scanners or any other security measure for that matter. Many Public transport service parks do not even have surveillance cameras. The best security measure they might offer is to attach a security escort to a bus. The Government should have security standards for both Government owned bus parks and privately owned bus parks. These security standards should be enforced by Government agents on Government owned parks and privately owned parks that do not conform to the Government’s security standard should be closed down. Privately owned bus parks should even take it further by implementing their own security measures together with government approved security measures so as to provide even better security to its passengers. If this is done, then the job of the security operatives at the security check points on the major roads is made much more easier. Some examples of security standards that the government can employ includes:
- The use of surveillance cameras covering every section of the park on a 24 hours basis.
- Buses should be parked in segregated sections of the park away from any of the passengers.
- Luggages should be scanned before they are loaded into the bus.
- Passenger should be frisked before they board the buses.
- Security analysts should be employed to carry out security assessment of the parks on a regular basis so as to prevent any possible security breaches.
- Drivers should be trained on security awareness and other health and safety issues.
- Report all luggage, baggage, and packages left on the bus to the office/terminals.
- Drivers should check buses before entering to ensure no tampering has occurred.
- Drivers must pass the same security check points as passengers.
If our security forces can verify that the public transport service providers adhere to the security standards provided by the Government for bus parks, then they can go ahead and allow such buses to cross security check points without being searched. But this should not provide an automatic pass for Transport service providers, the security personnel at the check points have to act at their own discretion.
The Government should also create and implement security measures for public institutions like schools, universities, churches and other public locations. Counter terrorism guides like the one stated by Temitope Olodo in this article should be implemented in every school. Government agents and security personnel should be assigned to make sure that these security measures are implemented effectively. The American University of Nigeria, Yola set up a private army created by ex-US marine Dr. lionel von frederick rawlins to protect their students and staff. Other Private universities and schools should follow suite but the government should create a security standard that they should all follow. Of-course all these suggestions I have proposed cannot be achieved if the underlying problem of corruption and the “Nigerian Factor” continues to prevail. Harry Agina, in his article “The Nigerian factor versus Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda” on The Sun, rightly defines the Nigerian factor as:
The notion that anything and everything can happen at any time in this nation because ‘this is Nigeria’ where shit happens and loads of flies flock around the shit!”.
This basically means once you are in a position of wealth, power or authority, you can do anything you like and get away with it because there is no accountability. A very good example is the Immigration recruitment tragedy that killed unemployed Nigerian youths, up till today, no one has been brought to books. The only way you can be held accountable is if you step on the toes of a wealthier or more powerful individual than yourself. The wealthier more powerful individual would now use his/her influence to hold you accountable.
Corruption and the “Nigerian factor” must be eradicated for proper security measures to be felt by the “ordinary” Nigerian citizens. It is the “Nigerian factor” that gives the impression that only highly placed politicians and top-level government officials are protected. On a certain street in zone 5, wuse, Abuja for example, a compound belonging to a police officer is barricaded by ropes stretching into the pedestrian section of the road. This particular compound has a fence followed by a large section of grassland then a walk path for pedestrians. The barricade cuts right into the pedestrian walking path forcing pedestrians to walk on the main road. This places the lives of pedestrians in unnecessary danger as they could easily be hit by a vehicle. This particular compound is guarded by an armoured truck with at least four mobile police officers. I dare say this compound is hardly a high-profile target for boko haram and apart from that, it is already protected by an armoured vehicle and 4 mobile police officers. there is no need for the security barrier to cut into the pedestrian walking path. If you ask questions about this intrusive barricade, guess what the answer would be? Yes you got it – The “Nigerian Factor”. On this same street in zone 5, wuse Abuja, a whole section of the street is blocked off by two horizontal poles, one on each sides preventing cars from passing through that section of the street. This particular street is a long crescent and this barrier is situated right at the middle of the street. So, because of this barrier, you can’t drive from one end of the street to the other. This particular street is very important because it acts as a short-cut for drivers who want to avoid the traffic caused by cars going in and out of the wuse market region. The houses inside the barrier look newly developed and the fact that the barrier is guarded by mobile police men and army men indicate that a high-ranking army officer, police man or politician lives within the barrier. But whatever the case, that street should not have been blocked off half way as the street is meant to be used by every individual residing there or any motorist who happens to find themselves on that street. I feel it is illegal for such barriers to be placed as it inconveniences the inhabitants of that street and the motorists who use that street. But if you ask questions, you get a resounding “This is Nigeria” another “Nigerian factor-ish” answer.
Many locations like the one in Zone 5, Wuse exist all over Abuja. Such locations inconvenience and frustrate “ordinary” Nigerians whilst acting as protection points for Government buildings, politicians and top officials. These “false” sense of security in Abuja only gives the impression that “ordinary” Nigerian lives are expendable. The roads that were designed to be used by motorists should not be barricaded by security barriers. Each government building that needs to be secured by a barrier should be done so within the confines of their building. It is wrong for motorists and pedestrians to be frustrated or inconvenienced because a single government building needs to be protected. The life of a single Nigerian should not be placed at risk just to protect some other Nigerians.