Who shall protect us?
By Pini Jason
AFTER leading a delegation of African National Congress, ANC, to visit President Goodluck Jonathan, the National Chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, told State House correspondents that his party was worried about the growing insecurity in the country.
He should be worried! We, the ordinary citizens, are also worried. But when he says “growing insecurity” it gives the impression that the phenomenon is a problem that is just in its infancy.
Truth is that Nigerian has known violence since independence. Violence in the country has become a growth industry, always with escalating audacity.
On Sunday 25 November 2012, St. Andrews Anglican Church right inside the bowels of elite military base, the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State, was bombed.
As the nation tried to tally the death toll, which as at that time stood at 15, we were told that the borders of the Military College was not fenced and therefore porous! This explanation was given apparently to debunk an earlier speculation about how the bombers fooled the security at the gate to gain entry to the Military College.
It was reported that the College was surrounded by “several villages” through which arms and ammunition are sometimes smuggled in and out of the military facility” (Thisday Tuesday 27 November 2012).
Gra-gra for nothing
While the two main gates were said to be “heavily manned” it turned out that the usual gra-gra we see at the gates of such establishments was a mere show as the porous borders offered intruders easy access!
It is not as if the Command was not aware of this security lapse; yet they rather chose to do nothing about it. Even in these days of heightened security challenge, the unfenced borders of the College was not manned by any guard, it would appear.
And in the very usual Nigerian way of doing things, the fencing of the borders had been “in the pipeline” for several years. That College was not built yesterday.
And one would not be surprised that the fencing has been featuring in previous budgets of the College or the Ministry of Defence since it was said that it was being handled by “a higher authority”.
All told, incidents such as the Jaji bombing have a tendency to dent the confidence of citizens in the ability of the nation to defend and protect them.
As if the Jaji bombing was not bad enough, 24 hours after, gunmen struck at the Headquarters of the usually dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, inAbuja!
Two police officers were killed in the incident and 30 people held in custody reportedly escaped, although 25 were re-arrested through what Police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, called “tactical and coordinated effort”, whatever that bragging meant! Reports say that following the shooting, there was “a massive security cordon” at the detention centre, just as in movies where the police arrive with sirens and blinding dome lights long after the hero had battled the evil forces alone and won! But here the would-be heroes, two police officers, were killed by the evil forces! The question on every lip now is, where next will they strike?
While we wondered how gunmen could burst into the Command andStaffCollegeand bomb a church and walk up to the SARS Headquarters in the Federal Capital and shoot up the place, speculations of insider collaboration began to make the rounds! Does that corroborate President Jonathan’s lamentation sometime back that Boko Haram had infiltrated his government? Some soldiers and police officers were reportedly arrested by the Army and Police.
The Commandant of the Command andStaffCollege, Air Vice Marshal I.A Kure and the Infantry Corps Commander, Major General M.D Isa were relieved of their commands. It is unfortunate that this was not seen as strictly professional measures that had nothing to do with religion or ethnicity. This, however, would be mere cosmetic unless their negligence was established and future lapse prevented.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, shortly after visiting the Armed Forces Command and Staff College was quoted as describing the bombing incident as “sad and least expected in such military environment”.
He was further quoted as saying: “Perhaps with the lesson now, we could not afford to take anything for granted”. Now, that is exactly the problem I have with our security behaviour.
So, after the Police Headquarters bombing, we did not learn any lesson? We continued to take things for granted? After the bombing of the UN building for which we are sentimentally going to spend our N5 billion rebuilding, it seemed that we did not learn any lessons?
We continued to take things for granted? Every page of the newspapers these days is littered with gory stories of Nigerian killed by gunmen, including armed robbers. We are yet to learn any lesson? We are still taking things for granted! Police stations have been routinely attacked by gunmen who killed police officers and carted away caches of arms, yet we are clueless about stemming that.
Does it mean that since all these years, the security has not established any pattern in the operation of the gunmen? Does it mean that the security has not been able to enter the heads of the gunmen to figure out and pre-empt their strikes? I said it before that if the United States of America were to be Nigeria, Al Qaeda would still be blowing up important places, and may be even bomb the White House!
Responses not cosmetic
The Chief of Defence Staff set up a board of enquiry to investigate the Jaji bombing. The Minister of Federal Capital Territory was reported to have summoned an emergency security council meeting over the attack on SARS Headquarter. One hopes that these responses are not just cosmetic, with the sole intention to make the public believe that something serious is being done.
The authorities should get to the roots of why we seem not to be proactive in dealing with insecurity in the country. Why has it been impossible for security agencies to secure even their own premises?
If armed soldiers and policemen cannot protect themselves and their premises against attacks, why should we, the idle civilians, have confidence that they can protect us? Why are policemen on sentry duty in their stations mere sitting ducks for armed intruders, yet they would easily beat up photographers armed with only cameras? Our entire understanding of security and behaviour in times like this must be thoroughly reviewed.
With these attacks and our apparent inability to put effective counter measures in place, no one should be left in doubt as to how deep the rot in the nation is! The power behind every violent crime is not ideology but the guns! We must go after illegal arms now!