In the face of the current security challenges facing the country Fred Itua in this report, examines the United States security system since the 9/11 attacks and how Nigeria can take a cue and salvage her situation.
The city of Abuja, Nigeria’s administrative capital, is a beauty to behold. The architectural designs and the vast mountains portray natural serenity at its best. Unlike other major cities across Nigeria, Abuja is in a world of its own. However, that serenity, beauty and unusual calmness are being threatened by the new wave of unprecedented insecurity challenges permeating the entire city.
June 16, 2011 signalled the new wave of insecurity in the land and largely exposed the helplessness and inefficiency of the security agencies in tackling the menace. The case with which the Force Headquarters and the United Nations (UN) building were bombed leaves no one in doubt that we are in for a serious trouble.
On August 26, 2011 the dreaded Boko Haram sect claimed responsibility for the bombing of the UN building in Abuja. In their usual attempt to justify their existence, the security agencies gave contradictory press reports about the incident. “On August 18, 2011, precise intelligence was obtained by the State Security Service (SSS) that Boko Haram elements were on a mission to attack unspecified targets in Abuja,” Marilyn Ogar, spokeswoman for the SSS. While the SSS admitted to have received a series of alert about a potential suicide bombing, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) refuted the claims of ever being privy to such information. The Police Force that has become a toothless bull dog was mute during the blame-trading among the security agencies in the country. This act only exposes the relationship decay rocking the intelligence community in Nigeria.
An average military officer sees a police officer unworthy of his own status and might therefore withhold important intelligence information from the police officer. Same goes for the SSS and others. There is no synergy among them and this poses a great danger to the country. The office of the NSA ordinarily should coordinate the dissemination of intelligence information among the various security agencies in the country. Media relationship ought to be coordinated too to avoid a display of public foolishness and bring the nation into ridicule.
On March 12, 2002, the Homeland Security Advisory System, a colour-coded terrorism risk advisory scale, was created as the result of a presidential directive to provide a comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to federal, state, and local authorities and to the American people. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a cabinet department of the United States federal government, created in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, and with the primary responsibilities of protecting the territory of the United States and protectorates from and responding to terrorist attacks, man-made accidents, and natural disasters. Similarly, the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created. Its mandate was to ensure that all federal agencies shared intelligence and worked together to prevent future attacks.
The director of National Intelligence coordinates 16 separate United States government agencies that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities considered necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States. Intelligence agencies, military intelligence, and civilian intelligence and analysis offices within federal executive departments fall within the purview of the DNI. Remarkably, this clever restructuring of the United States Intelligence agencies has yielded positive results as potential security threats to the US have been promptly prevented. Although the global economic meltdown affected his administration, President George Bush, succeeded in giving the American people a well organised security system.
From the foregoing narratives, it is obvious that security agencies in Nigeria are bereft of new ideas needed in the fight against terrorism. It must go beyond the use of foot soldiers to sound intelligence gathering. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry asserted his belief that although the war on terror would be “occasionally military,” it is “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world.” “Many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug barons, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror.” Many Nigerians have faulted the use of foot soldiers in tackling terrorism as myopic and moribund.
Oluremi Olu asserted that, “Deploying the Nigerian Special Airborne Squad (SAS) on the streets of Abuja will achieve no results, and is indeed a blatant display of monumental incompetence on the part of our security planners. I have said it, for the umpteenth time that what we are dealing with is a case of urban guerrilla warfare, which can only be defeated through intelligence-led operations.” His view is being supported by an anonymous angry Nigerian. The anonymous correspondent opined that, “Whoever ill-advised President Jonathan to deploy soldiers to the streets of Abuja and other parts of the country, does not mean well for him. How does this system of ‘stop and search’ solve the mounting terrorist base in this country. This goes to show that our leaders are indeed bereft of any new idea”.
Sanmi, a Lagos-based telecoms worker suggested another twist to the fight against terrorism. According to him, the government of Nigeria should review their border laws to reduce the influx of questionable people into the country through our borders. “The so- called ECOWAS agreement that allows the free movement of citizens within the region does not favour Nigeria. The SSS has identified some of the bombers in Nigeria as citizens of neighbouring Republic of Niger.” He advised that Nigeria should take a cue from the United States. In spite of the liberal relationship with neighbouring countries like Mexico and Canada, strict measures are in place to check the smuggling of dangerous arms and illegal drugs into their country. “If we can successfully protect our borders and curtail the influx of these people into Nigeria through the northern axis, Nigeria will be a safer place.”
Osaze Austin, an IT expert in Abuja believes that terrorism is a global scourge and should therefore take a global approach. “The SSS has submitted that some of the field operatives of the Boko Haram sect are not Nigerians and are also trained in Somalia. Wouldn’t it be wise if Nigeria started thinking in the line of creating a unit within the intelligence community to act as spies and carry out covert operations in some of these countries that have become breeding places for terrorists attacking Nigeria?” As ambitious as some of these ideas may sound, if well considered, they could hold the key that will unlock a breakthrough in our collective fight against terrorism. In conclusion, the IT expert advised the Nigerian government to quickly fast track the creation of state police to compliment the efforts of the central government. “No sane person will expect the federal government to provide security for a community in far away Edo when ordinarily it falls under the purview of the state and local governments; it doesn’t make sense.”
The attack on the Nigerian Police Headquarters and UN building are just a scratch in the surface as the Boko Haram sect is hell bent on unleashing more horror on the Nigerian state. The incessant harassment of civilians by foot soldiers deployed to Abuja metropolis, its suburbs and other parts of the country cannot solve the security challenges. If the unconfirmed reports hushed in low tones are true, that President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the inclusion of the Mossad into the Aso Rock security guards, then there is trouble. While everyone acknowledges that the war on terrorism involves global cooperation, this act only goes to show how our security nomenclature has failed.
President Goodluck Jonathan must tear down the walls of intimidation and fear so that he could squarely deal with these growing insurgencies threatening the existence of Nigeria.
He should fulfil his promise and mandate his service chiefs to fish out the financiers of this group and make them dance to the melody of the law. More so, if his service chiefs have become a clog in the fight against terrorism by their acts of incompetence, they should be fizzled out and replaced with more competent Nigerians. More than 100 days in office, the president should prove his critics wrong and do the needful.