Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The federal government has unveiled plans to develop strategies to counter the use of chemical, nuclear and explosive weapons by terrorist groups, notably, Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP), THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
Experts have raised concerns about the potential use of unprotected and unsafe chemical and nuclear materials by terrorists.
There are also known incidents of the use of explosive precursors such as ammonium nitrate by Boko Haram to make Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs) in Nigeria as well as incidents of loss of radioactive materials by oil prospecting companies in the Niger Delta.
Recently, a team of nuclear experts from China, United Kingdom and Norway, among others, secretly evacuated the Nigeria Research Reactor 1 from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in Kaduna State.
Though set up for ABU by China for research purposes, it contained similar materials (reactor/uranium) used in the manufacture of nuclear power plants considered very attractive to terrorists.
The nuclear experts in charge of the evacuation had concluded that material from the reactor could be used to prepare a dirty bomb by terrorist organisations to be used on soft targets, especially.
But government said the proliferation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) weapons and means of delivery constitute threats to international peace and security.
The National Security Strategy (NSS) launched in Abuja last week by President Muhammadu Buhari and sighted by THISDAY, described ensuring safe, secure and authorised usage of such weapons as a matter of national security that requires building capacity and national institutions.
It said: “The potentials for non-state actors to carry out criminal or intentional unauthorised acts involving or directed at CBRNE material or their associated facilities and activities is also an ongoing global concern.
“There are known incidents of the use of explosive precursors such as ammonium nitrate, by Boko Haram to make improvised explosives devices (IED) in Nigeria, as well as incidents of loss of radioactive materials by oil prospecting companies in the Niger Delta.
“Accidental dispersal of materials with CBRNE components can compromise public safety and security. Large quantities of diverse CBRNE related material exist and are used in various sectors such as health, petroleum, industry, agriculture, security, energy, education and research as well as other emerging opportunities intended to improve lives and property.
“Ensuring the safe, secure and authorised usage, storage, transport, and other related activities involving CBRNE material is a matter of national security that require the building of strong institutions with capacity to regulate and implement best practices”.
According to the document, the overall objective of the strategy is to deter, detect, prevent and respond to CBRNE incidents while mitigating the risks associated with CBRNE and related activities require a coordinated and integrated global approach.
“To improve our internal resilience and preparedness for CBRNE threats and challenges, we will build capacity for criminal-justice and law enforcement personnel to implement relevant legal frameworks.
“Improve physical protection measures for facilities with CBRNE and related material, develop national policies and strategies on CBRNE detection and implementation and carry out national risk and threat assessment for CBRNE material and facilities”, it said.
As a proactive measure, government would “provide strong national coordination using inter-agency/inter-ministerial committees to ensure cooperation and collaboration, improve detection capacity and equipment distribution, including provision of personal protection kits.
“Ensure adequate implementation of strict measures on storage, transport, import and export of CBRNE material, improve response systems and measures for CBRNE emergencies including the establishment of early warning systems”.
It maintained that “Nigeria is a signatory to a number of international instruments on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the peaceful uses of CBRNE material and related activities.
“We will pursue these obligations and commitments to ensure international peace and security. We will also cooperate and collaborate on capacity building for criminal-justice and law enforcement agencies”.
A recent article written by two members of staff of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) and posted on its website had proffered solutions to the management of nuclear assets in Nigeria.
The piece, entitled: “Nuclear Security for A New Comer Country-Nigeria’s Approach” written by Ofodile O.N. and Ageda E.C, said NAEC had taken measures to ensure security of nuclear assets.
“As in many countries of the world, home-grown violent extremism exists in Nigeria.
“Its implication for the Nigerian nuclear power programme is in the area of insider threat that could arise from internal radicalised personnel or external radicalised persons in collusion with internal personnel seeking monetary gains or for ideological reasons”, the duo said.
Providing further information they held that “measures to minimise the threat include the acquisition and sustenance of a well-trained workforce through various training programmes as well as certification programmes such as the WINS nuclear security professional certifications, maintenance of a dynamic Design Basis Threat (DBT) that captures evolving threats, creation of nuclear security culture awareness and implementation of a robust Human Reliability Programme (HRP) and Behaviour Observation Programme (BOP) etc.
“To this end, a pilot programme has been designed and is ongoing to produce a pilot HRP for the NIR-1 research reactor which will serve as a sample for the general national HRP with behaviour observation.”
The piece argued that “the proposed new nuclear facilities are to be located in areas where fortunately, none of the home-grown violent extremism has the potential to take place.
“With the provision of the requisite security in line with a dynamic DBT and the regulator’s security requirements, it can be concluded that there is minimal threat of home-grown violent extremism to the present and future nuclear facilities or activities in Nigeria.”