The attacks on Jaji and the detention centre have once again exposed our vulnerability
In two separate attacks within the precincts of both the police and the military barracks last weekend, dare-devil suicide bombers and gunmen killed several people in Jaji and Abuja, while leaving scores of others severely injured. The attacks have not only exposed our vulnerability as a nation, they have underscored the fact that we are dealing with a far bigger security threat than the authorities can comprehend.
It started last Sunday when two suicide-bombers successfully attacked St. Andrews Military Protestant Church, Jaji with the first vehicle exploding inside the church premises while the second detonated outside. Eleven people were confirmed dead on the spot, with 30 others seriously injured even though fatalities have increased since then. Perhaps buoyed by the success of that attack, a gang of gunmen invaded the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) detention centre 24 hours later in Abuja and freed no fewer than 30 suspects. Two police men died in the raid.
While we sympathise with the families of the victims, it is instructive to note that these attacks were carried out barely 48 hours after the authorities had declared 19 Boko Haram leaders wanted and placed on their heads ransoms ranging from N10m to N50m. Given the timing of these attacks and the choice of locations, we want to believe that they were carefully planned with the intention of daring the authorities and sending some sinister message about the capacity of the perpetrators.
Jaji, we must note, is not just a military facility, it is to Nigeria what Sandhurst is to the United Kingdom and Westpoint to the United States. For terrorists to therefore penetrate it far more easily than they had breached the security of “civilian” churches says something very worrying about the state of security (or insecurity) in our country. And if gunmen could also so cynically invade police detention centre, kill two policemen and free suspects in custody, it is very telling of the capacity and the boldness they have mustered. Indeed, the ability of terror-minded gangs to thumb their noses at authority each time the security forces attempt to make claims and boastful noises must be seen as a measure of their strength vis-à-vis the government’s weakness.
For the umpteenth time, we reiterate that security agencies need to step up their acts and strengthen not only inter-agency coordination to checkmate the current descent into anarchy but also the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the Police and State Security Service (SSS). As we have also repeatedly pointed out, it is important for all the critical stakeholders in the country to look beyond politics at a time like this and render whatever assistance they can in the bid to put an end to the current carnage, which clearly puts all at risk.
However, in the quest for a solution to the challenge at hand, we must state that the “Odi Formula” being proposed in certain quarters is not one that should lend itself to any consideration because it can only compound the problem at hand.
According to a report of the International Regional Information Networks (IRIN) released last Thursday, participants at a recent Chatham House meeting were of the strong opinion that our criminal justice system has helped to nurture the current situation in Nigeria. At the meeting, Lucy Freeman of Amnesty International was quoted as saying: “people who are suspected of carrying out attacks need to be prosecuted in a trial so that we can all know what the evidence is against them. There needs to be these kinds of investigations so that their networks and their sponsors can be found out.”
We completely agree. The current culture of impunity in our country will not end until people with criminal tendencies realise that the law can, and will, always catch up with them.