20th June, 2011
Those who were in doubt that terrorism had taken a firm foothold in our country can now have a rethink after Boko Haram militants last Thursday, 16 June struck at the heart of the nationâ€™s security â€“ the Police Headquarters, Louis Edet House, Abuja, Nigeriaâ€™s capital.
The religious extremists bombed the car park of the police headquarters barely 24 hours after the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim boasted that â€œthe days of Boko Haram are numbered.â€
Before the attack, the extremists replied Ringim by saying that they are going to wage jihad (holy war) across all northern states and Abuja. This they have done successfully to the chagrin of all Nigerians.
The bombing of the police headquarters, which is very close to the Aso Villa, Nigeriaâ€™s seat of power, has sent a powerful message to whoever cares to hear, that these fundamentalists have the capacity to hit any target they wish. The attack on the police headquarters which ought to be one of the safest sanctuaries in the country is not a mere slap on Ringim but a mortal kick on his groin by a rag-tag outfit that ordinarily should not stand toe-to-toe with our security agencies.
It shows that something is awfully wrong with our security agencies in terms of intelligence gathering and pre-empting such an embarrassing attack. The incident has driven home the well known fact that our nationâ€™s security agencies are inefficient and often work at cross-purposes. They are only good at harassing, intimidating innocent Nigerians and chasing shadows.
After bombing military barracks in Abuja and Bauchi, last Thursdayâ€™s blast was an affront taken too far by this sect that is intent on doing the impossible: Islamising the entire Northern Nigeria. Nigerians are apprehensive and awaiting how the Federal Government would respond to the grave challenge posed by Boko Haram. The stick-and-carrot approach the Federal Government promised to adopt to whip the terrorists into line will not work. A more drastic measure would do.
If President Goodluck Jonathan had acted decisively as the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces since the sect began their ceaseless blood-letting in the north, we wouldnâ€™t have been in this mess by now, considering the number of people so far killed and the property destroyed.
The police authorities are concerned about the safety of their men by ordering that all seized vehicles parked at police stations across the country should be removed immediately. That canâ€™t solve the problem. The solution to the spate of bombing should be more holistic. A nation that is serious about the safety of its citizens would not condone the kind of terror being unleashed on the people of the north by Boko Haram. A northern governor recently acknowledged that the sect was the creation of the Northern elite and apologised to Nigerians for the havoc the sect is wreaking in the region. That governor should assist the security agencies to rein in the fundamentalists.
More crucially, the Federal Government should address the root cause of the discontent leading to all the rage. Part of this is a total disconnect between the unemployed youths and their governments.
The other part is the helplessness of the police that is not only badly equipped but centrally controlled. This is the time for all those against state police to have a change of mind. The country is too large and complex to be policed from Abuja.
Community policing should also be taken seriously as this could go a long way in curbing crime at the grassroots. Security of life and property is a collective duty and should not be left for the security agencies alone to perform. Every Nigerian should be security conscious at all times and must be prepared to report any threat to peace or breach of security to the security agencies. The security agencies should treat the information they receive discreetly to safeguard the lives of those who give them such information.
Intelligence agencies should infiltrate every organ of our society so that any sinister plan being hatched could be nipped in the bud. Boko Haram is not a faceless group that cannot be tracked down and dealt a mortal blow. The menace posed by the sect is a serious threat to the nationâ€™s democracy and if not checked immediately, it may snowball into a conflagration that could consume everyone.