Security expert, Dr. Ona Ekhomu has advised humanitarian/aid agencies operating in the North-East to conduct vulnerability assessments of their operations to avert the seizure of more aid workers by Boko Haram.
“The insurgents are now targeting aid workers and may seize more to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the July 2009 Boko Haram jihadi uprising,” he said.
Reacting to the execution of five aid workers in Borno State, Ekhomu, who is President of the Association of Industrial Security & Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), warned that aid workers have propaganda value for the insurgents and they will seek out that population for execution so as to gain publicity and notoriety.
Ekhomu said that in his new book titled Boko Haram: Security Considerations and the Rise of an Insurgency, it was pointed out that one of the aims of Boko Haram in kidnapping humanitarian workers is to raise funds. “However, Boko Haram tends to execute hostages who do not bring in income, as we saw in the case of other Action Against Hunger (AAH) workers. Boko Haram will execute their captives if they don’t get ransom.”
He argued that the cruelty of the Boko Haram insurgents was not fathomable, saying: “Although Boko Haram demanded a ransom of $500,000.00, they ought to know that it will take some time to put together that kind of money. Five hundred thousand dollars is not five hundred thousand naira. It appears that they wanted the negotiation to fail as a pretext for murdering the captives.”
Ekhomu advised aid agencies to adopt robust situational crime prevention measures to protect their workers against insurgent attacks. He said that aid workers travelling to job sites should have adequate transit security, including armed security personnel. He said Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, field hospitals and other locations where aid is provided should have multiple layers of security to avoid incessant raids and seizure of aid workers.
He said that given that there is credible threat of seizure by Boko Haram, aid workers should have adequate life insurance coverage in case of an unfortunate occurrence.
Ekhomu extended condolences to the families of the murdered aid workers and their employers, which include Action Against Hunger (AAH), Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Rich International and International Rescue Committee.
Ekhomu urged the military to deliver a knock-out punch to the insurgents so that there could be return to normalcy. According to the security expert, a troop surge into the North-East would be useful. He also called for a large force of vigilance personnel to confront the threat.