It is truly reassuring that the Federal Government is ramping up security measures to thwart any possible terrorist attack in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and other cities during the Yuletide. British and American governments had alerted their citizens in Nigeria to plots by terrorists to bomb Abuja during the festive season.
To calm the nerves of Nigerians, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted that the security agencies have not let down their guard despite the fact that there has been no terrorist attack in Abuja since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in May 2015.
The US mission also stated its concerns about potential attacks in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe till the end of the year, and warned travellers to avoid the states till then.
We commend the Minister of the FCT, Abuja, Muhammed Bello, for putting the security agencies on red alert and ordering them to comb hotels and other places terrorists are likely to hide. He also asked them to ascertain the security preparedness of hotels and resorts in and around the city. It was also wise of him to hold an emergency meeting of all the agencies to prepare them for the task ahead.
Security alerts, warnings and risk assessments from the US and the UK governments deserve attention because they are usually sourced from credible intelligence. They may have been picked up from the many sources available to those countries. That they may not be specific is clearly a weakness which, nevertheless, imposes on our security agencies the duty to embrace intelligence.
Because the terrorists choose the place and the time of their attacks, it is the duty of the security agencies to plug every security hole and ensure that all the vital precautions are taken. It is now considered a reckless breach of security not to install metal detectors at entrances to places of religious worship, markets, parks, airports, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, transport hubs, camps for displaced persons and busy workplaces. Whenever possible, people are advised to keep away from crowded places.
The ultimate aim of the terrorist is to have as many casualties as possible, and any measure taken to avoid crowded places is considered prudent in the circumstance. Terrorists still try to sneak in and kill even in a city as meticulously protected and guarded like New York City. We urge Nigerian governments to invest in close circuit television (CCTV) not just as an investigative tool but as a pre-emptive tool. Criminals who know the CCTV cameras is watching tend to be a little more restrained.
Much as we fear the onslaught of Boko Haram and its foreign associate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levante (ISIL), it is a matter of deep regret that the destructive trail often left by violent Fulani herdsmen, somehow, seems to fall off the radar. It is the primary duty of the government to protect its citizens.
Nigerians, wherever they may be in the country, are entitled to the protection of their lives and their property. The spate of bloodshed by terrorists in the year has been horrendous, and the number of deaths in the last 30 months has been conservatively placed at 15,000. The Federal Government’s reticence on herdsmen’s attacks is insensitive and dangerous. It has gone on for too long.
Just last week, 95 Nigerians were buried in Adamawa State, victims of the Fulani herdsmen’s reprisal against the alleged attack by Bachama youths. Seven villages were burnt by the herdsmen. Last Friday witnessed another bloody weekend in Kogi State when herdsmen invaded Ogabifo village near Agbenema community in Omala Local Government and another community in Yagba Local Government Area. Several persons were killed. Farms and houses were also destroyed. Almost simultaneously, the herdsmen sacked 200 families in Obio Usiere and Eniong Abatim in the Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State. There again, 10 persons were killed and 3,500 Nigerians rendered homeless by the herdsmen.
Thus, it is not enough to assure Nigerians verbally of their security or to be told that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated,” while every week, the carnage continues in the form of suicide bombings and armed attacks on defenceless communities.
It is vital to secure Abuja. But, it is equally important to reassure the farmers in all parts of the country that they can go to their farms without fear. As things stand today, we don’t think the government can give such assurance. This should not be so.