A surge in terrorist activities

It is heart-rending that kidnappings and terrorist activities are on the rise in Nigeria. Apart from the scourge of quasi-religious insurgency, armed robbery and sundry crimes, there is palpable fear over the menace of kidnappers across the country. The Kaduna-Abuja and the Lokoja-Abuja highways have indeed become notorious as hotspots for violent kidnapping. No less a person than the Federal official charged with internal security, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau, declared recently that the scoundrels who have traumatised some travellers on the Kaduna-Abuja highway are terrorists. This is no cheering news. Nigerians are puzzled that the Federal Government has abysmally failed to protect life and property on land and sea in the country.

Kidnappers, wherever they operate, are human beings. With good intelligence gathering, they can be fished out and punished. Sadly, they have operated on some roads in the country at the cost of too many precious lives on Abuja-Kaduna expressway, Abuja-Lokoja expressway and on Benin-Sagamu expressway. In some instances, they operate as robbers for hours. Often after they have done so much damage security forces feebly proclaim their inability to properly take on the criminals because of poor arms and ammunitions. Ikorodu in Lagos State has become a haven for a secret cult, Badoo, that takes fetish delight in violently and crudely terminating innocent lives. The six students of Igbonla Model School who were released from their kidnappers’ den recently have also given an account of their harrowing experiences in the hands of criminals. When will this barbarity end? When will the Nigeria Police wake up to effectively take control of this environment? It took the intervention of the Acting President for the governments of Edo, Delta, Ondo, and Lagos to work in unity for the release of the boys.

All over the civilised world, security forces develop new strategies to combat crime. Criminals tend to work extra hard than men of the law to outwit society. As a result, security forces never go to sleep, they fashion out ways and means to protect the citizenry.

Currently, Nigerians have little faith in their security forces. Most communities have therefore set up their own informal security bodies, the equivalent of community police. In most cases these have proven more efficient in containing criminal activities than the regular police force. This is because of their familiarity with the terrain and the faces of almost all persons in the geographical area. How come the Nigeria Police has not been able to contain the scourge of organised crime and violence on the nation’s highways? It is tempting to suspect collusion between some men of the security forces and criminals.

Intelligence gathering is key to successfully containing the criminals. This requires the cooperation of the civilian population. It is on record, however, that sometimes criminals manage to find out names of patriots who provide information to security. This breach of trust between informants and security agencies is dangerous to a nation’s survival. It ought not to happen. Whenever it does, strong steps should be taken within the agency concerned to punish leakers of information. The villagers whom the Internal Affairs Minister met complained that some compatriots who had volunteered information to security forces were later killed by members of the criminal gangs.

What is currently going on is a fight over the soul of Nigeria. Both internal and external forces are locked in combat over the future of the country. Sometimes these security challenges help to promote the narrative of a failed state. Violent and unexplained deaths, failure to apprehend criminals, the emergence of terrible cults and their occult practices, are manifestations of failure of the state. A sort of low intensity warfare is on-going in the land. Boko Haram has not been defeated.

Reports that the insurgents have reassembled in the Sambisa Forest are disheartening. If they were technically defeated as the President once proclaimed, the Nigeria Army did not do enough to secure the liberated territory. No organised army fights a war and leaves its flank or conquered zone open to enemy attacks and re-occupation.

The security forces must therefore rise to the occasion. There must be a fit and proper response to specific types of crimes. The stretch of road between Abuja and Kaduna and between Abuja and Lokoja should not be difficult to patrol. With constant patrol, electronic and manual surveillance, the menace can be dealt with.

As challenging as the security situation is, CCTV cameras have not been deployed nationwide. What kind of government abandons its people to the gruesome activities of criminals? Is the government waiting for a highly-placed individual in government to fall victim before taking the proper actions? This is not acceptable at all. The life of every citizen matters.

In sum, the Nigeria Police should step up, reform and strengthen its surveillance and monitoring duties. Communities should be involved. A reformed Police Force would gain the confidence of the communities and responses should be rapid. Modern techniques of policing have made security less manual. Appropriate equipment should be acquired and deployed to protect life and property. Community policing should also be encouraged in the present structure while the ultimate goal of different layers of policing in a proper federal arrangement is being pursued.

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