Barrister Mike Ejiofor, FSI, PNM, is the Chairman/CEO of Apex Safety & Security Consultants Ltd. He is a retired Director of State Security Service with over 37 years of experience in Security, Intelligence and Consulting within the Security Industry.
He was part of the Federal Government Observer delegation to the Liberian Presidential Election, which brought Charles Taylor to Power. He served as the Chief Security Detail to Pope John Paul II during his official visit to Nigeria in 1998.
In this interview with Moses Nosike, Ejiofor reveals why the country is facing a lot of security challenges. Excerpts:
The killing of innocent Nigerians by the so-called “Gun Men” is alarming, even with the recent killing of the police in Nasarawa. Why is it happening now that Jonathan is the President and what should FG do to secure the nation?
“Gun Men” could refer to militant groups, ethnic militias, or Islamist terrorist groups such as the Boko Haram sect. Either way, it is true that there is a present security challenge confronting the country particularly with the emergence of terrorist groups such as the Boko Haram and ANSARU.
These groups did not start with this present administration. The escalation of hostilities and sophistication we might be seeing from the Boko Haram and its affiliates show you that they were an evolving process that took years to get to this point. In other words, their unchecked activities (in the past) were bound to explode at some point which happens to be now. Nigerian Security Agencies have however made significant headways in the fight against terrorism and the Federal government has further taken more proactive measures to deny terrorist any breathing space.
For example, recently in a broadcast of Tuesday, the 14th of 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a State of Emergency on three states in Northern Nigeria in response to the escalation of violence and terrorist activities occasioned by the violent Islamic sect, known as Boko Haram. It is believed that this will go a long way in addressing some of the security challenges in the country.
On the other hand, the issue of Nasarawa State is quite different and to a larger extent, an isolated incident when taken into consideration other security challenges affecting the country. Security agencies have so far officially confirmed 46 police officers and men as well as 10 operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) killed in the May 7 attack in Nasarawa State by members of the Ombatse cult as they were on their way to arrest their leader. The State Police Commissioner was quoted in the media as saying that the mission was in response to the frequent attacks on Churches and Mosques by the cult accused of forcing people to swear to an oath at the shrine. Investigations are still on going so it is hard at this point to say what exactly happened. Presently the IG of police has ordered an intensive manhunt for the killers of the security operatives. It is believed that when they are arrested and interrogated (especially their ring leader) much more will be revealed.
So when you take all this into consideration, you will understand that firstly, there is a security challenge but at the same time most of our security operatives that died in all these states died as a result of trying to curtail an escalation of hostilities. If not for their sacrifices the situation would have been worse than this.
It was revealed also that “boys” are being recruited from neighbouring countries to partake in this bizarre killing going on in the country, what does that suggest to you?
Yes, this brings me to the issue of our porous borders. For example, during a recent debate for and against border fencing in Nigeria, a Federal Lawmaker advocated the fencing of 3,140 square kilometres of borderlines which he claimed allowed illegal immigrants access into the country through “1,497 illegal routes.
It will be recalled that about twenty illegal immigrants, suspected to be terrorists were on the 26th of March 2013 arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) in Lagos State. This arrest followed a statement by Military Service Chiefs (while addressing the Senate) that the plan by Boko Haram to bomb Lagos was real. The suspects were reportedly hiding in a trailer filled with goods when they were intercepted by men of the State Security Services. That same month, illegal aliens suspected to be terrorists at Ijora area of Lagos were arrested by security operatives. The suspects, who are Malians and Chadians, were occupying a three-storey building owned by a state government. The arrest led to the recovery of arms and explosives. Earlier, the State Police Command and the State Task Force on Environmental Offences had arrested a total of 92 suspects from various parts of the state. Among the suspects were 57 Nigerians and 18 Malians, who according to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) are illegal immigrants, living in Nigeria without required documents.
So, it is true that illegal immigrants have access into the country to perpetrate crime. But we must also acknowledge the fact that it is Nigerians like you and me and legal immigrants that often provide a safe sanctuary for these people to operate. That is why it is continually said that the war on terror depends more on who the community decides to cooperate with, i.e. either they choose to aid security agencies in providing valuable and timely information (intelligence gathering), or on the other hand choose to be passive and active supporters of terrorists within their midst. Notwithstanding, the building of a border fence as agitated by some is out of the question considering the enormous cost and logistics involved. Most security experts support the use of a combination of satellite imaging, enhanced border patrols, community cooperation on intelligence matters and more rigorous anti-corruption campaigns as better and more cost effective alternatives to border fencing.
Some Nigerians are of the view that why the killing is escalating especially in the North is because the President is slow to act; should he had declared state of emergency before now?
I wouldn’t say the President is slow to act. The Nigerian society is dynamic and the President is only displaying his democratic culture by carefully studying the situation before acting. History has proofs of countless leaders all around the world who have made hasty and rash decisions and ended up regretting it. This to some extent is also the case in the declaration of a State of Emergency. The President had to explore all other options while the “carrot and stick” approach was used. Before the declaration of the State of Emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, the President had set up an amnesty committee on Boko Haram despite oppositions. The President therefore displays maturity before taking any action. His attribute should not be misconstrued for weakness.
FG set up a committee for Boko Haram to embrace Amnesty, was that a wise decision considering the number of families who had suffered losses without compensation?
Many factors were taken into consideration before the decision to grant amnesty, so I would not subscribe to the fact that it was unwise. Firstly, the group never solicited for amnesty. Also prominent Northerners such as Shehu Sani and Datti Ahmed who would have made a huge difference refused to serve in the committee faulting both the composition and structure of the committee, and Government’s un-seriousness in implementing Reports in the past. That aside, the ‘faceless’ nature of the sect has practically made it very difficult for any real and significant form of amnesty to take place meaning that the sect members have refused to show a commitment to integrate fully into the Nigerian society. However, the Amnesty Committee is going ahead with its assignment. It is hoped that they might achieve results, but I personally have my doubts.
If these killings are not stopped now, do you see any sign of civil war?
Nigeria has experienced a civil war and cannot survive another civil war. Besides, on what premise is there going to be civil war? The greatest security challenge facing Nigeria is the issue of terrorist acts of Boko Haram that intends to impose Islam on Nigeria. Don’t we have Christians in the North, so how is the war going to be fought? Nigeria cannot fight any war along religious lines. We are only passing through a phase that we must overcome.