By Christopher Oji and Vera Wisdom-Bassey
It was a gathering of stakeholders in the security and defence sector in Nigeria at the Banquet Hall of Sheraton Hotel, Lagos.
At the event were personnel of the police, Nigeria Army, Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Department of State Service (DSS), Civil Defence Corps and private security agencies. There were also journalists, bank executives and people from all walks of life at the event where various experts brainstormed on how to manage security challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gathering, hosted by the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN), was described by speakers as the first of its kind, as stakeholders converged to proffer solutions to Nigeria’s security challenges.
The guest lecturer, a former director of the DSS, Mr Dennis Amachree, advised that people should not travel during this Christmas season as danger was all over the roads, villages, towns and cities.
Amachree said that the security agencies had no capacity to tackle the current security challenges because they were overstretched, adding that people travelling at this period would be doing so at their own risk.
He said: “As you are aware, soldiers are in 32 states fighting terrorism, while the police are manning internal security. Yet the policemen are not enough. We have about 400,000 police personnel deployed in various parts of the country with a population of about 220 million, but a country like Egypt has about 1.3 million policemen.
“We should remain where we are until the government is able to do something about the security situation and rejig the police force that has the responsibility of protecting life and property.
“If you must travel, you should be very careful and watch out on these roads that are hot spots for criminals, especially kidnappers, armed robbers and killer herdsmen. Lagos-Ibadan road is prone to accidents. Lokoja-Okene and Abuja-Kaduna roads have high rate of kidnapping. Ibadan, Enugu-Port-Harcourt road experience frequent accidents. I think the first solution is to safeguard yourself. So, remain where you are and don’t travel anyhow.”
Amachree advised Nigerians to avoid travelling for the Yuletide, considering the prevailing insecurity all around the country.
He warned: “The year 2020 is a unique year and if I have to give any security advice, I would recommend that you stay where you are this festive season. The roads are not safe, airfares have skyrocketed and the pandemic is entering a second wave globally. Prevention is better than cure.”
The former secret service top brass also raised the alarm over looming food scarcity in Nigeria if the continuous attacks of Boko Haram terrorists are left unchecked.
“The advent of COVID-19 has heightened insecurity across the land, with an escalation in kidnapping, terrorism, highway robbery, banditry, militancy and piracy, which have become commonplace in the country. The Zabamari massacre in Borno State underlines the state of insecurity in the country and has further disillusioned the citizenry about the safety of their lives and property.
“This particular massacre has the implications of an impending scarcity of food in the country. This is the plot of the terrorists and it is coming to fruition.
“Boko Haram sent out a propaganda, informing villagers that the lockdown was a ploy by government to stop them from following their faith.
This narrative gave Boko Haram leverage to recruit more adherents from the poor and unemployed lot that are readily available.
“Nigeria has been classified as the third most terrorised country in the world, according to the World Terrorism Index, which is not good as the most populous black nation in the world.
“This shows that our security and law enforcement agencies are over-stretched in their bid to provide security to the citizenry,” he said.
Amachree stated that the protracted conflict in the north-eastern part of the country has continued to devastate the lives of civilians, resulting in a humanitarian crisis affecting 7.7 million women, men and children.
He also noted that the separatist agitation against the Cameroonian government had driven more than 300,000 refugees into Nigeria.
“The pandemic has exposed a range of new security challenges in the country. The notable aspect is the level of preparedness that government has made to square off the pandemic. The individual and family unit has been worst hit in trying to understand what COVID-19 is and how to handle it.”
On his part, Assistant Inspector–General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan, Lagos, Ahmed Iliyasu, commended CRAN for bringing together security agencies across cadres to seek solutions to security issues posed by the pandemic.
“This is a very serious and challenging issue because it is not only affecting Nigeria, it is affecting the whole world.
“This is the first type of gathering and it is unprecedented, bringing together various security agencies to proffer solutions to tackle insecurity resulting from the pandemic.
“It has caused a lot of global economic problems, with resulting negative fallouts across the globe such as recession and poverty, among others,” he said.
Ilyasu, however, assured citizens of the country that the police were committed to the protection of life and property during the yuletide, in spite of the challenges.
“Our officers and commissioners of police have been directed through Operation Special Order under which each and every area commander and divisionional police officer is mandated to perform specific duties.
“In view of this, we will continue to collaborate with CRAN, in the spirit of community policing, in finding solutions to problems,” he said.
Ilyasu urged everyone to play his role as a component of the security architecture of the country in ensuring security in all communities.
President of CRAN, Mr Odita Sunday, said the association would continue to be proactive in proffering solutions to security challenges and would continue to preach synergy among security agencies as Nigerians have no other country than Nigeria.
In his contribution, Comptroller of Customs, Mr Olugboyega, said the most important aspect of the programme was the synergy between the security agencies, adding that it was paramount that they shared intelligence.
“The key message of today is intelligence sharing,” he said. “This event by CRAN is worthy of accolades. So, we are going to take home what we learnt today and pass it to our subordinates. I commend CRAN for this worthy event. We have learnt something of intelligence gathering and sharing.”
During his keynote address, the chairman on the occasion, Dr Bone Chinye Efoziem, MD/CEO, Strict Guard Security, remarked that at the height of the pandemic, security agents were on hand to safeguard the citizens, including medical personnel regarded as frontline workers. But he regretted that nobody took note of the security men even though “without security men there is no economy.” He said there were threats such as the kidnapping ravaging areas like communities in Borno where people could not set up their businesses.
He also regretted the problems thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic. His words: “Joblessness leads to poverty, poverty leads to crime, crime leads to violence.
“I will call on the government to do something urgent about intelligence. Intelligence is what we need to fight crime. It is not by carrying AK-47 up and down. The government should include private security guards for intelligence. We have about 400,000 policemen and 300,000 soldiers fighting crime, but all over the streets across the cities and towns, we have an average of five private security guards. If we put the numbers together, we are talking of millions. So, if we use them in intelligence, it will help a lot, because there is nothing that happens in the streets that private security guards don’t know.”
Group Managing Director, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr Kenedy Uzoka, advised security agencies to be proactive and fight criminality to a standstill.
Uzoka, who was represented by head of corporate communications, Mr Ramon Nasir, described CRAN’s event as one of the best. He advised the security agencies to work in harmony to defeat the enemies of Nigeria.
The royal father of the day, Oluwo of Iwoland, Osun State, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Adewale Akanbi, advised the government to take care of the welfare of the police, as it was the only way of encouraging them to do more.
His words: “The welfare of our security agencies, especially the police, should be paramount. They work under the rain and in the sun. They watch over us while we are sleeping.
“Another point I want you to take home is that COVID-19 pandemic is still ravaging the world, so, we should observe all COVID-19 protocols.
“Finally, CRAN should be commended for this epoch-making event that has united security agencies.”