Nigeria’s Comedy of Error on Terror – By Emmanuel Onwubiko

The last two years or so in Nigeria could easily be described as the worst period of unprecedented terror-related violence and general state of insecurity in which thousands of innocent Nigerians have lost their precious lives and property especially in Northern Nigeria.

 

Because of the increasing spate of bomb attacks targeted at churches, government institutions and other flashpoints in the North East and North West of Nigeria by armed Islamic rebels, most Nigerians are now apprehensive and fearful of the unknown.

 

In most states in the South, the dare- devil activities of criminal gangs that have unleashed a regime of violence, armed kidnappings for ransom payments and armed brigandage has now made most people to be unease and the inability of the operatives of the security agencies to combat this upsurge in violent crime has increased the general climate of fear in Nigeria.

 

There is obviously a comedy of error on how best to fight and effectively win the war on terror in most parts of Nigeria because of what is seen as serious institutional disconnect among the security agencies of government and even the Nigeria’s foreign ministry officials. The justice sector has also failed to deliver justice to arrested terror suspects.

 

While the Inspector General of police Mr. Abubakar Dikko Mohammed has shouted from the roof tops that soon the security operatives would effectively tackle the rising trend of terror- related attacks but the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petirin stated in clear terms that counter-terrorism operations do not have time frame.

 

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) stated thus; “The issue of terrorism or criminality is a difficult thing, once people import it into any society, it is not always easy to completely wipe it out but we have to continue to manage it and be conscious of our security more than before. In the United States for instance, there hasn’t been any serious attack since the 9/11 episode but the country and Americans have remained more watchful than the pre-9/11 era, they have been managing the problem. So, I can’t give you a definite time when the crisis will be over but what I know is that we are on course”.

 

The Chief of Defense Staff spoke so very well but a missing link is that Nigeria has no clearly defined national policy on security even as the nation’s security architecture is still weak.

 

To add salt to injury, the Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears disorganized and not fully committed to wage relentless and intelligence-driven war on terror. The policy flip flops of top foreign ministry officials have denied Nigeria of any possible security assistance from foreign governments to battle the scourge of terrorism that has spread like wild fire.

 

The Nigerian government committed the willful blunder of stridently opposing the United States government’s proposal to brand boko haram in Nigeria as a terrorist group and the Nigerian government’s opposition has therefore weakened the dimension of anti-terror fighting involvement of the international community within the territory of Nigeria even when it is clear that a lot of the sophisticated weapons used by the insurgents in the North are smuggled into Nigeria from the many porous borders. Nigeria has therefore failed to properly secure her borders.

 

Another fundamental blunder that the Nigerian government is committing in the war against terrorism in Nigeria is the absence of the necessary law reforms that would have quicken the dispensation of Justice in the cases of the suspects arrested for their involvement in the series of bomb attacks and mass murders.

 

The ongoing fight against terror-related violence in most parts of the North is undertaken in the notorious business-as-usual posture of most government officials so much so that there is total absence of accountability and transparency on how the dispensation of justice to arrested terror suspects is going on.

 

The other day, the media reported that unspecified number of illegal weapons confiscated by operatives of the joint military task force in the North are being kept in the same store house that legal weapons belonging to security agencies are kept and in fact the media quoted security sources as stating that some of these illegal weapons taken away from the terrorism suspects may end up being re-possessed by other non-state actors.

 

The biggest comedy of error on the ongoing Nigeria’s war on terror is that the Nigerian government has done nothing pragmatic in the last ten years to improve the standard of detention facilities in prisons across the country thereby making it possible for terrorism suspects to be detained in some facilities that are not meant for dangerous suspects even as many of these persons arrested for terrorism offences have escaped from these sub-standard detention facilities.

 

What then is the essence of waging war on terrorism if the same government is doing nothing by way of bringing the suspects of terrorism to swift and decisive justice? Why does Nigerian government pay lip service to the dispensation of Justice in compliance with section 6 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended)? Why is the government promoting impunity and lawlessness and thereby exposing thousands of innocent citizens to the danger of untimely deaths through the dastardly criminal acts of armed terrorists?

 

To buttress my point that there is a huge comedy of error at play in the name of fight on terrorism in Nigeria, let me remind my readers that only on Thursday September 13th 2012, the media reported that the commander of the joint military task force in Maiduguri, Borno State, bemoaned the unfortunate fact that the number of detained terror suspects has over-stretched the capacity of the facilities under the control of the joint military task force.

 

The Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petirin and the inspector General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Dikko Mohammed who visited Maiduguri, Borno State, were told pointedly that there are 800 suspected members of the armed Islamic insurgency arrested and detained in the cell of the joint task force and that their presence there is telling adversely on the Joint Task Force facilities.

 

The Commander of the Joint Task Force, Major General J.A.H. Ewansiah was quoted in the Nigerian media as saying that there is very urgent need for relevant security agencies to relieve the joint military task Force of the burden of keeping the suspects.

 

His words: “There is urgent need for relevant security agencies to relieve the JTF of the burden of keeping the suspects”.

 

Major General Ewansiah reportedly pleaded with the nation’s two top security Chiefs to assist the JTF in getting the suspects evacuated to other parts of the country to enable the joint task force make proper use of their facilities.

 

The Commander disclosed that the last time the Chief of Defence Staff visited them; the cell had only 200 but that because of the active partnership and cooperation of local residents, many more suspected armed terrorists were arrested and detained.

 

The Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff was quoted to have promised to reach out to the Comptroller-General of Nigerian prison to work out modalities for moving the suspects to alternative detention facilities in other parts of the country.

 

Come to think of it, why is the Nigerian government not fully committed to waging effective war on terror and why is government going about confronting this serious challenge to the unity of Nigeria without any clearly defined objective?

 

Why would government so run down the prisons that the military will now be compelled to detain suspected terrorists in military detention facilities and no strategy is in place to make these suspects face the full weight of the law?

 

Why are the capital components of the federal budgets meant for the Nigerian Prisons not being properly accounted for in the last ten years thereby allowing detention facilities that were put up during colonial era more than seventy years ago to still be in use in the modern era of sophisticated/organized crime?

 

On August 2011, suspected armed terrorists carried out suicide bombing attack of the United Nations building in Abuja which caused the death of over three dozen persons but more than a year, the Nigerian government is yet to bring any suspect to justice in the competent court of law.

 

Earlier in June 2011, the Nigeria police Force Headquarters in Abuja came under car bomb attack killing several persons but over one year now, government has failed to prosecute the right suspects in that monumental affront to the country’s national security and no significant arrest of the sponsors is known to have happened.

 

If I may ask, where are the suspects arrested for killing over forty people in the Christmas 2011 Madala, Suleja, Niger State Catholic Church bomb attack?

 

When will the Nigerian government end this spectacular comedy of error and truly begin to battle terrorism to save Nigerians from extermination and extinction?

Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA; blogs@www.huriwa.blogspot.com.

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