Lagos and the threat of Boko Haram attacks, By Dele Agekameh
The Boko Haram terrorists are said to be planning to infiltrate the state in vehicles painted with military colours. This is worrisome.
In the book, The Olive Tree, Aldous Huxley, 1894 – 1936, an English writer, said: “The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings and that these individuals are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.”
Going by Huxley’s submission, the current scourge of terrorism that is ravaging the entire globe could be attributed to politics of various colours and dimensions. In some places, it is religious rivalry; in others it could be the struggle for political control or domination. Whichever way it is viewed, human rivalries, over the years, have found expression in violence, be it terrorism, assassination, arson, outright war or any other despicable criminal activities.
In Nigeria, we have witnessed so many conflicts all over the place. When it is not tribal or ethnic rivalry, it is religion or politics. Today, the whole country has become one huge theatre of war. In Plateau state, it is both tribal and ethnic rivalry that has almost turned the place into modern-day George Orwell’s ‘animal farm’, where life is miserably short and brutish. This internecine war has paralysed the socio-economic life of its once bustling capital city, Jos. Further North is the unrelenting carnage being unleashed on defenceless and innocent people, especially in the three north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe by the Boko Haram insurgents. Not even a state of emergency declared on the three states since May last year has been able to restore law and order. The whole thing has degenerated into a sort of guerrilla warfare in which elements of Boko Haram now make occasional incursions into isolated villages and hamlets, leaving deaths and destruction in their trail.
Recently, new Service Chiefs were appointed to replace the former ones who had prosecuted the war against these terrorists without success. While taking over as the new Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, on January 20, 2014, Alex Badeh, an Air Marshal, assured Nigerians that the military would bring the Boko Haram insurgency in the country to an end before April this year. The CDS said that this was possible if the military approached its security responsibilities cohesively. He told the new Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Kenneth Minimah, who is expected to coordinate the fight against the insurgents, that it was possible for his work to be concluded in a short time. Badeh also gave the assurance that the other service chiefs – Air-Vice Marshal Adesola Amosun and Rear Admiral Usman Jubrin, Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Naval Staff respectively, would give the requisite support to the Army chief in the prosecution of the campaign to end terrorism in the country.
From events that followed, it was obvious that Badeh was merely basking in the euphoria of the moment. The new CDS’ assurance was taken with a pinch of salt as various commentators on national affairs took him to task on the validity of his promise to end terrorism in the North-east in three months. When the commentaries became unbearable, the authorities of the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, rose to his defence. As if in a volte-face, Chris Olukolade, a Major-General and the Director of Defence Information, admitted that it was not possible for terrorism to be brought to an end anywhere in the world with a specific directive. He said that the CDS was aware of the complex nature of the problem of terrorism and was optimistic that the problem could be brought under control with the vigour and readiness of the new service chiefs when he made the statement.
The denial by the Defence Headquarters coincided with an alleged plot by the Boko Haram terrorist group to invade Lagos. The terrorists were said to be planning to infiltrate the state in vehicles painted with military colours. This is worrisome. Some months ago, a terrorist group allegedly conveyed weapons to Lagos inside some of the numerous fuel tankers that ply major roads to the country’s former capital and indeed the nation’s commercial nerve centre. A raid carried out some months ago by security agents saved residents of Lagos and Ogun states from possible attacks by the terrorists.
The joint raid led to the arrest of some suspects who are members of the Boko Haram sect.
Before the latest threat, security agents had uncovered and dismantled the plot by the alleged terrorists to plant cells in the western part of the country with Lagos as the headquarters. Security operatives, who later briefed the National Assembly leaders last year about the reality of the planned invasion of Lagos, told the federal legislators that indeed the attackers had planned to cripple the economy. The security chiefs told the federal legislators that some of the attackers captured had hinted that the plot was deliberate: to cripple the nerve centre of the country’s commerce and industry, a city that hosts the international air and seaports, so that the nation’s economy could collapse.
The federal legislators were thoroughly alarmed by the revelation about the sense of urgency of the insurgents to hit Lagos just to make Nigeria ungovernable. The implications of targeting the very strategic Lagos Third Mainland Bridge, the longest bridge in Africa, have been of major concern to authorities at all levels. The 11.8 km long bridge built by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc was commissioned in 1990. The Bridge is the longest of the three bridges connecting Lagos Island to the Mainland. The other two are the Eko and Carter bridges. The bridge, which is a vital artery of the network of federal highways, commands high patronage.
Since the eruption of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern parts of the country some years ago, their activities have been concentrated in the North, where several lives and property have been lost. Though there have been some cases of arrest of suspected members in some states, the southern part of the country has not experienced or witnessed any attack by the sect members. Therefore, the recent alleged plot to attack Lagos by the terrorists has been raising serious concerns among the residents of the city and other Nigerians. This is in spite of assurances by the security agents and the state government that they were battle-ready to nip in the bud any attack by sect members.
Since he became Governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola has been engaged in proactive measures against such attacks and other crimes in the city. The government recently launched the installation of 1,200 security cameras in the city. Already, the cameras have been deployed in critical locations. Though the Lagos State government is unrelenting in the fight against crime and criminalities in the state, deploying cameras all over Lagos is not enough. Those who will man them at the control room are very vital to the success of the project. Besides, the state needs to go all out to enlighten the populace on the danger of harbouring criminals in their neighbourhoods. Again, Lagos residents must be educated about the importance of volunteering useful information on suspicious movements in their localities so as to put the terrorists in check. The security agencies too must treat such information with utmost confidentiality in order to win the confidence of the people.
Criminals are human beings; they are not spirits. In that case, with the support and cooperation of the people, they can be stopped in their tracks. Above all, our politicians or some of them that are in the habit of keeping criminals and other hoodlums as bodyguards who are usually let loose to commit all forms of atrocities on the society should desist from such ignoble practices and allow peace to reign. In the words of Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York, on September 11, 2001: “This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life, and we, the democracies of this world, are going to have to come together and fight it together and eradicate this evil completely from our world.”