BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor
IN 2012 like in 2011, activities marking Nigeria’s independence were celebrated indoors – the President did not want to give anyone a chance to repeat the embarrassment of 2010, when Nigeria was bombed while marking her 50th independence day.
Though government officials were in denial, for many Nigerians the palpable pangs of death arising from the reign of terror was the looming reason for the constriction of the Independence Day celebrations to the Presidential Villa.
Only a select few including foreign diplomats were allowed into the presidential fortress in Abuja for the event.
The threat posed by explosions in cities in the North and Abuja, was in 2012 balanced by the surge of criminality (armed robbery, kidnapping) in the South, leaving the Nigerian citizen almost perpetually on the periphery of trauma anywhere he went.
Accepted way of life
Loss of lives from daily bombings of parts of the country became almost an accepted way of life. What did government do? Nigerians heard the talks, and hardly anything more.
As kidnapping turned into a common criminal habit in certain States, it provoked equally hard responses. In Anambra, the administration moved to the demolition of the houses of renowned kidnappers. In Rivers State, the administration erected a security architecture that turned the evil venture into a very risky and lethal enterprise. By year’s end, the spate of kidnapping in those two States was ebbing as a result of the hard reprisals orchestrated by their governors.
Armed robbery had also for long been the pastime of many social deviants in the country. However, in 2012 it transformed into a near national security issue with gangs of bandits staging contemptuous attacks on the police and people.
Lagos and Ogun States were targets in befuddling manners. The police appeared unable to respond and the robbers took real advantage.
The highways – the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Benin-Sagamu Expressway – were notorious for attacks on people. The time of day was unimportant. The police responded with excuses, ranging from inadequate intelligence to inappropriate tools for their work.
Robbers shutdown Auchi at their pleasure. In late November operation, they killed three soldiers, 12 civilians and razed the police divisional headquarters in the town. The robbers who according to some reports numbered about 50, held the town hostage for hours before soldiers arrived. For days after the soldiers came in, Auchi was shutdown. While the soldiers searched frantically for the robbers, the traumatised citizens out of fear kept themselves indoors.
The gunmen left behind several burnt police vehicles, including patrol vehicles and Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs that they saw at the Auchi Area Command.
However, the spate of attacks by terrorists group was by far the most pervading and shocking. Apprehension about the group drew national and international concern. No institution or man was spared attacks from the group in the north where it operated.
The group was believed to have orchestrated the suicide attack on the Abuja and Kaduna offices of Thisday, and The Sun and Moment in Kaduna to mark its grouse with the media.
If that was not shocking enough, the staged attack on the Abuja headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, was even for an already shell-shocked population beyond comprehension.
The SARS building in Abuja, located on the Karu-Nyanya Expressway, which even before the reign of terror was believed to be a well secured enclosure did not bother the gunmen who on November 26 stormed the facility to free their colleagues held there.
Attack of the military church located inside the country’s elite military training school, the Command and Staff College, Jaji was among bombings of numerous church buildings, police stations and other security posts during the year.
It has led to the economic abandonment of that section of the country. Political leaders of the north, both those based in Abuja and its governors, for most of 2012 stayed away from home. Many touched base only on essential visits and then accompanied with the strongest security available to them.
Perhaps, no incident pointed to the reign of banditry in the south more than the kidnap in December of the mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Professor Kamene Okonjo.
Professor Okonjo, wife of the Obi of Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State, was kidnapped, released after five days after. The effrontery of the kidnappers showed the reach and brazenness of bandits that for most of the year held many parts of that section of the country hostage.
Insecurity was a common thread that touched all classes of Nigerians in 2012.
It is our Issue of the Year.