Saturday, December 1, 2012

State of insecurity in Nigeria

By Olatunji Saliu

The anxieties are becoming mountainous. The lights of hope are becoming dimmer by the day. For most citizens, curtains are falling on the confidence being reposed in the Nigeria's security operatives.

Concerns are being raised about the competence, training, capacity building and intelligence of the police and military. The reason is not far-fetched: police facilities across Nigeria and other military bases have now become major targets of attackers and the development has sparked off fears among citizens of the west African country.

For most Nigerian citizens, it is not a laughing matter. Many others think it is disappointing to know that the police, who have the responsibilities to protect lives and properties as well as citizens, are beginning to lose the battle to attackers who often strike both at night and broad daylight.

For the embattled police and military forces, it is highly embarrassing that daredevil criminals often launch massive attacks on their stations, most times, throwing them off-balance. Alas, the situation is appalling!

"The insecurity that has now reached a level at which daring gunmen will attack the police and the military, the very institutions the country relies upon to ensure its internal and external security, is a reflection of the deep rot in other spheres of life in Nigeria," said the West African nation's major opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) party in a statement on Wednesday.

One minute, there is tranquility and the people's fears are allayed. And the next several hours, gunshots will cease to be heard. Sometimes, it starts with a heavy bang, a massive attack or a jailbreak attempt.

In defense, the security forces often claim to repel the attacks of the gunmen. Yet, residents are always held hostage for several hours by defiant attackers. The worries are too many for citizens of Nigeria who are no longer at ease with the current security situation in the country.

Who will save the people in the hands of the attackers? Who will set the people free from the strong hold of blood-thirsty criminals? Who will capture and stop the bombers? Who will reignite the hope of the people on security of lives and properties? Who will rebuild the confidence of the citizens amid very serious security challenges?
These and many more disturbing questions are jostling for urgent answers in the minds of Nigerian citizens, especially as the Yuletide is approaching.

Since Sunday, no fewer than four major attacks were carried out on different security facilities across Nigeria.

In north central Nigeria's state of Kaduna, bombers dared the Nigerian troops and put their might to test when they attacked a St. Andrew Protestant Church located in the heavily-guarded military cantonment in Jaji area of the metropolis.

The military authorities initially said 11 people were killed and 30 others were injured in the twin blasts. But on Monday, the death toll rose to 15, according to Air Vice Marshall Abdullahi Kureh, commandant of the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Kaduna.

The bombers had wittingly beaten the heavy security at the military cantonment's main gate before detonating the explosives laden in a bus and a Toyota Camry saloon car respectively parked at the church premises, rescue officials told Xinhua.

It was yet another bloody attack in Kaduna, a state which has witnessed more incessant bloodletting in Nigeria in recent times.

While residents of the military cantonment as well as other citizens were still condemning the Kaduna attack, leaving the victims' families to count their losses, gunmen struck again on Monday, launching a massive attack on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police headquarters located in Nigeria's capital city Abuja and engaging security forces in a fierce gun battle.

Police sources said the attackers, who attempted to free detainees, stormed the SARS headquarters in a commando-like manner, shooting sporadically and freeing at least 30 suspects cooling their feet at the police facility. Two policemen were also killed in the gunmen attack, according to Frank Mba, Nigeria Police Spokesperson.

The attacked facility, a heavily-guarded detention center with its main gate usually manned by armed-to-the-teeth security operatives, is literally a powerhouse of thorough investigation in Nigeria.

It is a place of aggression, no matter whose ox is being gored. It serves mainly as temporary home to hardened criminals, as its name suggests. It is also known as the detention center where most Boko Haram suspects, including their wives and kids, are usually whisked to before trial in the country's capital city.

According to Mba, the gunmen stormed the SARS headquarters at midnight, but were repelled by the policemen on duty.

He emphasized that no suspect held for terror-related charges escaped from the SARS detention facility, adding that 25 of the 30 suspects in the detention of the SARS were re-arrested after escaping during the attack. The whereabouts of other five escapees were yet unknown, although Mba said investigation had commenced on the incident.

Monday's attack came as a rude shock to the top brass of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Airforce and Police, who had all gathered in oil-rich Delta State for the 2012 Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference to discuss issues bordering on security.

Nigeria's Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar hastily left Asaba, capital of Delta State, to quickly address the situation in Abuja, not knowing there were more attacks underway.

Again, tragedy fell on Tuesday night on the northeastern state of Borno, raising fears on the current security situation in Nigeria.

Five policemen were killed by gunmen who attacked a Divisional Police Station at Rann in Kala/Balge local government area of the restive state, just when news about the SARS headquarters attack was still making the rounds across the country.

"We lost five of our men and an officer was wounded," state police spokesperson Gideon Jibrin told Xinhua.

Residents said the gunmen came to the area on unmarked motorcycles. "We were hearing gun shots and sound from blast at about 3:00 a.m., but nobody could come out," said Aji Shuwa, a local government worker, adding that the attackers used Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to destroy the police station.

Another resident said the attackers also carted away some arms from the police armory.

Known as Boko Haram flashpoints, where the Nigerian government had declared and lifted curfews due to wave of attacks, Borno State and its neighboring Yobe State have witnessed more attacks on police stations and military bases than any other cities spread across Nigeria's six geo-political zones.

In the past, gunmen, mostly believed to be Boko Haram members, engaged the Nigerian troops in gun battles in the northern states of Yobe and Borno.

In southern Nigeria's Edo State, another deadly attack was carried out on Tuesday. In the Auchi area of the state, the daredevil gunmen, this time dared the police and launched coordinated attacks on two major facilities, killing seven civilians and injured two police officers.

The attackers freely used sophisticated weapons and dynamites, State Commissioner of Police Mohammed Hurdi said, adding that dynamites were also thrown at the buildings that housed four commercial banks in the area.

"I want to seize this opportunity to urge the security agencies not to despair over the attack on their facilities," said Speaker of the Nigerian Parliament Aminu Tambuwal, while reacting to the incessant attacks on security facilities across the country.

But, unlike Tambuwal whose confidence in the Nigerian troops is still as solid as rock, most citizens are gripped by fears.

The renewed attacks by gunmen and bombers, perhaps, with the aim of paralyzing the nation's security, has yet again floundered and dashed the hopes of an imminent end to the violence which has claimed hundreds of lives across Nigeria.

While many believe that the new wave of attacks targeted at security facilities came as a result of failed dialogue between the government and the Boko Haram militia to peacefully resolve a three-year old insurgency by the terrorists, others think the Nigerian security operatives need to do a lot more in upping-their- game to regain the people's confidence.

"As far as I am concerned, the state of lawlessness in this country is alarming. Terrorists have begun to hit hard on the police and military because they are bent on paralyzing the nation's security.

"Somehow, my business is being affected by the current situation because I can no longer travel to other parts of the country due to the killings and bombings. Where do we run to when the people we regard as our security cannot even fight hard to protect themselves?" Olayinka Amusa, a Lagos-based business tycoon reported.

On his own part, Chi Josh, a local journalist believes the current security challenge was caused mainly by lack of intelligence. Although he opined that since terrorists cannot be crushed by use of force by the government, the state administrators should adopt better strategies to reduce the attacks to a barest minimum.

"This is where the current argument about state police at the National Assembly comes in. I think if the federal government can really allow this and empower the states to have their independent police, the security operatives will be more efficient. The government should create a large percentage of capital in the budget, for security at all levels, including the states and local governments," he added.

Travelling to his village to reunite with kinsmen in north central Nigeria's Kwara State for the forthcoming Christmas and new year celebrations, is a decision that thoroughly needs a second thought for Bayo Oluwaniyi, a lawyer who works in southwest Nigeria's Ogun State.

According to him, the words he usually gets on a daily basis from his folks in the village have quenched his desire to spend the Christmas and new year holidays at his country home.

"My kinsmen keep telling me that they no longer sleep with their two eyes closed and this is not a very good time to travel back home," he said further.


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