By Albert Akpor
LAGOS — UNARGUABLY, the October 1, 2010 bomb blasts near the eagle square Abuja, that almost marred the nation’s golden jubilee will never be forgotten in a hurry.
The celebrations and the attendant joy of the country’s 50th anniversary was abruptly punctured mid_way, by yet to be ascertained enemies of the society.
The said incident left on its trail, shock, fear, death, loss of property running into several millions of naira and, of course, eternal pains for those left with first degree injury and who survived the attack. The question on the lips of many is; what went wrong, who were the brains behind this seemingly terrorists attack?
Though, investigation has begun in earnest and some arrests have been made in connection with the attack, the Goodluck Jonathan led- government has promised to get to the root of the ugly incident and expose perpetrators.
However, while Nigerians are still pondering over why and who masterminded the heinous act, discreet investigation has revealed that the attack could have been avoided if due attention and relevance was accorded the department of the Nigeria Police Force, directly responsible for bomb detection and disposal.
The Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) units of the police came into existence in the wake of the September 11 2010 terrorists attack on the United states of America World Trade Center, which claimed thousands of lives. The establishment of these units by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was applauded.
It became apparent that the issue of security of lives in the country had transcended the police merely chasing after suspected criminals with guns. It became clear that crime has gone nuclear and in fighting it, the government has to go a step further. But the creation of the EOD and ATS units in Nigeria did not make any difference in the lives of the citizenry nor improve on the security situation.
Unlike the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Commission, ICPC, which came into being in the wake of irreconcilable corruption and corrupt practices amongst political office holders and received due government attention in terms of logistics and funding, both the EOD and ATS units merely existed on pages of the newspapers.
And unlike other countries of the world which recognizes the dynamism of the present day crime and criminality and placed premium on the relevant units of their security agencies by, equipping them to meet with evolving trends and challenges, the Nigeria factor took its toll on the anti-bomb and anti- terrorism units. Little or no attention was paid to the units in terms of logistics and man -power development.
The combined numerical strength of the EOD and ATS of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is less than 900 men and officers. Worse still, no concerted effort has been made to send these men to specialized training schools abroad for training.
Until quite recently, the anti_ bomb command embarked on aggressive in- house training for its men and officers to expose and keep them in tandem with the duties for which they were selected into the unit. As a matter of fact, posting and selection of men and officers into these units was viewed as punishment from the police high authority because, nothing visibly comes to the pockets of the officers other than the monthly wages; unlike the regular police man on the street.
Whereas the EOD unit is striving for relevance through manpower development, it is even doubtful if the sister unit, the ATS has attempted to organize any of such training for its men and officers.
Thus, with all these disabilities; ranging from government lip- service to issues of security to inadequate manpower, lack of logistics and equipment, the question that readily comes to mind is, what magic could the EOD or ATS departments have done to avert the October 1, 2010 twin bomb explosions?
However, in the face of all these, the Commissioner of Police in_ charge of EOD Command, Mr. Chris Olakpe is assuring Nigerians that there may never be a re-occurrence of the Abuja October 1 2010 explosion again going by the present moves by the federal government to check activities of terrorists in the country.
He has assured that his unit was more than ever poised to putting a stop to sporadic explosions in the country. His assurance stemmed from the fact that about 200 men and officers of his command have successfully undergone intensive training on detection and disposal of explosives and have been deployed to various sea ports, airports and strategic locations across the country.
He admitted that though his command was in dire need of more sophisticated explosive device equipment and logistics to match with the evolving trends in criminality, the federal government, he said, was doing its best to ensure that the EOD Department was fully equipped. Aside training, the EOD boss announced that 32 hotlines have been opened nationwide for Nigerians to call and volunteer information on suspected movements.
He said, “Yes like you said, the incident of October 1, 2010 in Abuja while the country was celebrating her 50th anniversary could have been avoided if certain things that needed to be done were done. But thank God for this administration of President Goodluck Jonathan who has attached credence to the issue of security.
We are much more proactive now. The issue of manpower and capacity building is paramount in this regard. And we are doing just that. Let me announce to you that we have successfully trained 200 of our men and officers.
The first batch of 100 have completed the training are now bomb experts. They can detect and dispose explosives of any calibre. These men and officers have been deployed to the nations exit and entry points to beef up security. The second batch have also completed their training and are awaiting graduation. We will train more as the situation demands.
Before now, you know that the EOD command was not into manpower capacity building and so you do not expect much in a situation like that which happened in Abuja.
If there was enough manpower, the whole area would have been extensively condoned and combed before time and every vehicle coming or packed at the venue would have been vigorously searched to forestall the sad incident. But like I said, Nigerians should thank God for this present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, because he has taken the issue of security so serious.
However, my quarrel is that Nigerians don’t compliment government’s efforts. When I came on board as the CP anti_bomb command, I opened 32 hot lines and sent them to the various units across the country and I as speak to you now, no single person has called to say this is what he has seen or not.
The essence of those hotlines is for people to call if they suspect unusual movements of persons carrying bags containing batteries or explosive. But this is not so. However, I am using this opportunity to appeal to all Nigerians to volunteer information to us. We need it. We need collaboration from other security agencies also; so that we will be able to forestall future occurrences of such a national disaster.”