Insecurity has become the cardinal subject agitating the minds of Nigerians following the unimaginable level of bloodshed last seen in Nigeria during the civil war.
While Nigerians should have been feeling more secure with the menace of Boko Haram seemingly stymied by the security, they are even more apprehensive about their personal safety now more than ever before, with the widespread bloody attacks by suspected herdsmen, cattle rustlers, bandits, cult gangs and kidnappers.
Even more worrying is that the apparatuses of state security seem not just incapable of detecting and preventing the attacks before they happen, but that even when they have intelligence about the raids, they seem unwilling, or incapable – or both – of taking pre-emptive actions.
Three governors in Nigeria – those of Enugu, Benue and Zamfara – had cause to cry out that despite giving security agencies advance notice about impending armed attacks in their states, little or nothing was done until the harbingers of death struck.
On April 24, 2017, Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi claimed to have passed credible intelligence to the heads of the security agencies in the state about the planned attack by suspected herdsmen at Nimbo in Uzo-uwani local government area. But despite assurances from both the police and the army that they had deployed troops to the community, the militia struck the next day as foretold, killing over 40 of the villagers.
Early this year, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom made a similar complaint after 73 villagers were murdered in his state by suspected herdsmen. And just this month, Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, also lamented that despite giving the security agencies intelligence a day before the attack on Biran village, in Zurmi LGA, the bandits still stuck, killing about 40 residents.
After Boko Haram slaughtered 59 schoolboys at Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, in February 2014 and kidnapped 276 schoolgirls at Chibok, Borno State, two months later, the security agencies launched the ‘Save Schools Initiative’ in the north east to forestall any further such attacks, yet another 110 schoolgirls have just been abducted in Dapchi with the army and police trading blames.
In the incidents mentioned above, the authorities usually announce – sometimes with fanfare – the deployment of security personnel to the scenes of the attacks days after the assailants had melted away. Later, the arrest of one or two suspects will be announced – with fanfare as well. In the attacks on Enugu, Benue and Zamfara, the survivors said the attackers came in their hundreds.
It is pertinent, in our opinion, that providing security is not about chasing after the criminals days after the commission of the crime, it is about crime detection and prevention. The maxim – prevention is better than cure – holds everlasting truth and wisdom. Preventing one innocent life from being wasted is more useful than clamping 100 criminals in jail.
To detect and prevent crime, we are compelled to admonish the security agencies on the need to be proactive in their strategies. They need to identify areas susceptible to criminal attacks; profile and keep surveillance on possible criminals; gather intelligence from the locals and act on the intelligence in a swift and effective manner in order to thwart the commission of crimes. This is in addition to inter-agency cooperation and the deployment of high-end technology in security operations.
That the security agencies did not act swiftly on available intelligence in the above-mentioned incidents is unacceptable in any civilised country.
And it could have grave consequences: it will breed a breakdown of trust between the security agencies and the affected communities as was the case when the convoy of the Governor of Yobe State was stoned in the wake of the most recent abduction in Dapchi.
Furthermore, such failure to act on credible intelligence may discourage people from offering useful information to the security agencies. The people may even resort to self-help as a way of defending themselves which, by any standard or procedure, is a veritable recipe for anarchy.
We are aware that the security agencies have operational challenges, but when it comes to taking action to prevent avoidable deaths, we urge them to approach the issue, especially with regard to volunteered information by the people, with the seriousness it deserves. That is the way to go in the maintenance of law and order needed to safeguard lives and property.
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