By ROBERT OBIOHA
The recent bombing of St. Andrews’ Military Protestant Church at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji in Kaduna State and the attack on the headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja between November 25 and 26 this year, by the Boko Haram insurgents are indications that the nation is facing a serious security challenge. That these acts of terrorism can occur in the highly fortified military and police formations in the country shows not only a failure of security but also the possibility of insider connivance.
While the death toll on the Jaji twin bomb attacks has reached 30 from earlier figure of 16 and scores of others wounded, that of SARS led to the death of two policemen and a gunman while 30 suspects escaped from the detention facility. Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Frank Mba, later announced to a bewildered nation that 25 of the freed suspects have been re-arrested.
The dastardly attacks are coming on the heels of the recent mouth-watering cash rewards placed on the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, Habibu Yusuf, Khalid Albarnawai, Momodu Bama and 15 others by the Federal Government. The cash rewards range from N50 million on the leader to N25 million and N10 million on three members of the Shurra Committee and Boko Haram Commanders respectively.
These attacks coming very close to each other and having beaten the securities in these places where terror activities are not likely to occur or even succeed are mind-boggling. It is, indeed, an embarrassment to both the Police and Military hierarchies. If such attacks can succeed in religious places of worship like churches, which have so far remained easy targets, they can be rationalized on the fact that these places are not adequately protected on Sundays by security agents. It should be recalled that the attacks on churches occur usually on Sundays and days of prominent Christian festivals, especially Christmas.
For something like that to occur in Jaji and SARS of all places shows that there is, indeed, more to it than meets the eye. Why must such attacks happen in these unlikely places? The Police and the Military High Commands should wake up to their responsibilities and confront the festering monster of terrorism.
While the public are yet to come to terms with the successful terrorists’ attacks in Jaji and Abuja, a school of thought within and outside police formation is working on a theory of insider job being behind the SARS attack. This group is wondering why the police could be easily over-powered in an environment surrounded by many security outfits. The location of SARS is a walking distance to Force Headquarters where reinforcement could have easily come. Another puzzle is that such attacks are not done without adequate planning. Why have the attackers beaten the police in this instance and others? What is the nation’s intelligence doing to forestall these terror attacks on police and military formations, churches and hapless citizens? If there is no insider assistance, these terror attacks would not have been possible. It is inconceivable that the terrorists have, for almost three years, waged a relentless war on the country and daring its police and military establishments.
Now that the army and the police authorities have commenced investigations into the twin bombings in Jaji and attack in Abuja, it is hoped that they will dig into the matter and get at all those behind these heinous criminality on the nation. They should work on all clues and theories to apprehend and prosecute all persons found culpable in the attacks.
So far, the army authorities have arrested 10 soldiers including men and officers on duty when the bombings occurred on Sunday at Jaji. Similarly, 12 policemen are currently being detained over the terror attack on the SARS headquarters on Monday. This matter should not be treated with levity or swept under the carpet as usual. It must be brought to a logical conclusion.
These arrests followed suspicion by both the military and the police that the attacks would not have been possible without the assistance of internal collaborators. If there is any need for more arrests, the authorities concerned should never waver at all. The insecurity situation in the country has assumed a frightening dimension that those caught should no longer be treated with kid gloves. President Goodluck Jonathan’s stick and carrot approach and all his peace overtures appear not to be working at all. The time the country is in calls for more drastic and decisive action against all forms of terrorism in the land.
The Chief of Army staff, Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, who was angered by the unsavoury development, condemned strongly the laxity that led to the ugly incident. Already, heads have started rolling with the recent redeployment of the Commandant, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Air Vice Marshal Ibrahim Abdullahi Kure and the Corps Commander, Infantry Corps Centre, Major-Gen. Mohammed Danhanne Isa.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral O.S Ibrahim, has directed that “AVM I.A Kure and Maj-Gen. M.D Isa be deployed by their respective services.” Director of Defence Information, Col. Mohammed Yerima has also confirmed the redeployment and announced that Air Vice Marshal E.E Osim replaces Air Vice Marshal Kure as Commandant and Staff College (AFCSC), while Major-Gen. K.C Osuji will act as Corps Commander, Infantry, Jaji. The new officers that have taken over from those redeployed should plug all inherent security loopholes and let their men be on the alert always.
One other measure taken by the military authorities is the enforcement of extant military rule provision that children or wards of serving military personnel above the age of 18 will not live in the army barracks or military formations. This rule has been observed more in breach hence the military authorities have assured that it will no longer be business as usual.
While the actions taken so far are tailored at finding a lasting solution to the incessant attacks on the government and people of Nigeria, it is important that all security agencies in the country should take stock of their existing personnel and fish out any infiltrator in their midst. The various security operatives involved in the anti-terror war must, of necessity, share intelligence in order to be able to confront the prevailing terrorist attacks in the country. It is the duty they owe the nation and they should not fail. They should work in concert and save the country the obvious embarrassment any failure on their part to stem the ongoing terrorism has caused the government and people of Nigeria.