We Were Not Prepared For Terrorism, says Gen. Azazi


 General Andrew Azazi, the National Security Adviser, spoke to journalists after the National Council of State meeting on the measures that will be implemented to tackle the Boko Haram challenge and the ongoing investigations into activities of the group on his briefing to members of the National Security Council

I was asked to brief the council on security issues across the country. We reviewed what we believe was the true situation. There are security issues all over: problems in the Niger Delta, crisis in Jos, kidnappings in parts of the country but I think the focus was on what was considered topical at this point – explosives everywhere, especially at the Police Headquarters and UN building. Although there are claims as to who was responsible, the important thing is that we as a nation should realise that we are facing challenges that are relatively new to us. It has happened in different parts of the world but today it is happening in Nigeria. And we must resolve as a nation to solve these problems. There is a lot of sensation in the media as to what has been happening – people arrested, people not arrested, people who died and all that. The Police at some point will reveal names of those who died, people arrested and as people go to court, you will get to know who and who is being prosecuted. But we don’t want to make the nation feel so unsafe. These problems of religious sect and all that could have started maybe over 15 years ago and have escalated up to this point. The problem is that we were not as a nation prepared for this new level of terrorism. In the buildings we have, in the public facilities we have, we were not prepared for that, so when these things happen there is a lot of devastation. All over the world, especially after 9/11 and the July 7 bombings in London, public facilities have been improved with restricted access but we have not had that.

On what is being done to counter the emerging terrorism trend in the country

To solve crimes, sometimes you need a national identity database; we are trying to put that together. We are also talking of putting a strategy on protection of critical national infrastructure, what to do, what guidelines do we give to the nation on what to do. We are talking of public enlightenment. Is it possible to enlighten the Nigerian public to make them more aware of the (security) challenges? The security challenges are here to stay. But while we don’t think they will go away overnight, the more the public is aware of their responsibilities, the better they could serve the security services. If the people are more aware, they could pass information to the security services. But the security services themselves also need to improve – even in our attitude towards the public, in the performance of our routine duties, there is need for improvement. And it is not just one of the security services; it could be the police, the SSS, the armed forces. We are discussing seriously how we want to meet the aspirations of the Nigerian public. At some point, it is always very difficult when you face these terrorist activities, but at least we want to make sure that the security services are provided with enough information from which you can produce intelligence and to be more proactive and once you are more proactive, you can do a lot to stem the tide.

On investigations by the security agencies so far on the spate of bomb blasts across the country

A lot of work is being done by security services but when investigations are not complete it may not be the proper thing to start to expose the level of investigations to the media. But from time to time, we have tried to engage with the media either from the services themselves or myself, not necessarily publicly. I have talked to media persons at different levels, I have engaged the nation on security on radio talk shows, to give the public certain level of confidence. Security is a continuous thing, you don’t take all the measures one day. There is the need to create awareness even in the states, that even at their level they have to take measures to improve public safety. Generally these were the issues that were addressed in the Council meeting. We recognise the need to re-jig the security architecture – what are the steps to be put in place to make sure that the security services are more effective? We agree on the use of technology, but you don’t acquire those things overnight. Issues like registration of sim cards should be properly addressed. We talked about border control – how to help Immigration to make sure that there is proper border control; we talked of security in maritime environment. Those issues were addressed. But the critical thing is to keep everybody abreast that there are challenges and everybody must stand up to face the challenges together as a nation.

On the arrests of those suspected to be the masterminds of the bomb attacks

Unless you have evidence you cannot begin to talk of who and who are behind the attacks. People have been arrested. I can tell you categorically that for the Suleja bombing at the INEC office, everybody involved has been arrested. By the time you see them being prosecuted you will see that. There is no deliberate attempt by the government not to prosecute those behind the insecurity in the country; everybody is concerned. I can assure you that we have made arrests and we will let you know in due time.

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