Saturday, 21 January 2012

News Analysis: Boko Haram Militants Mock Nigeria’s Security


Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, retired army general Owoeye Azazi was in Lagos Friday soaked in the ping-pong controversy over who ordered the soldiers to the streets of Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, where a week-long Arab-Spring like protest had held sway, to the embarrassment of the authorities in Abuja.

But as he passed the buck to the Lagos state governor who had vehemently denied his involvement, a bigger embarrassment awaited Azazi a few hours later in the North western city of Kano, Nigeria’s biggest city after Lagos.And even the biggest embarrassment: in President Goodluck Jonathan’s state of Bayelsa, a bomb ripped apart the bridge linking his town of Otueke with Yenegoa and yet another bomb blew up a Toyota car, near the Governor’s House.

In Kano, the militants of the dreaded Islamic sect, the Boko Haram, in well coordinated assaults that will make the American Marines green with envy, bombed several police targets, including the headquarters of the zonal command of the Nigeria Police. They seemed to be telling Nigeria’s security outfits: we are smarter than you, get us if you can! It’s been a recurring Boko Haram taunt. The clueless Nigeria’s security simply has no answer! Just as they do not have the answer for the bombs in Yenegoa.

For the umpteenth time, it was another assault that was carried out with impunity by the Boko Haram militants in Kano: they succeeded in unloading their bombs on their targets, with eye witnesses reporting that police men scampered into safety. Few of them were not so lucky. Police officials claimed that seven people died in the attacks, but witnesses gave a much higher figure of above 20, including a TV reporter of Channels Television.

A spokesman for the Boko Haram group, Abul Qaqa, told journalists in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, the group’s base, that it had carried out the attacks because the authorities had refused to release group members arrested in Kano.

The Kano attacks came few days after the Nigeria police lost one of the kingpins of the sect arrested in connection with the Christmas bombing of the Catholic Church in Madalla, near the capital of Abuja. The loss of Kabir Sokoto, by the Commissioner of Police, Zakari Biu, was an enough embarrassment for the police; the coordinated attacks against its formations in the big city of Kano, must be a far greater embarrassment, not just for the police, but also the entire Nigerian security apparati.
What the Boko Haram militants keep demonstrating is that they are several steps ahead of the managers of the Nigerian security and that they could strike at anywhere at anytime.

After the Christmas Bombing of the Madalla Catholic Church and strikes in Maiduguri, Potiskum and Jos simultaneously, the Nigerian Government, frazzled by its lack of action to tame the insurgents imposed a state of emergency on 15 local councils, across four states, which had been badly hit by the militants bombs and gun attacks.

It is now clear that the measures have not deterred the sect, even in areas where the emergency measures have been imposed.
There are still reports of bombings, killings of soldiers and innocent Nigerian Christians in the North eastern states.

More worrisome is that the militants have opened new flanks of attacks in Adamawa, Gombe and now Kano states. The latter had been largely unaffected by the insurgency . Recently, the state raided some hideouts of the militants and announced to the world the seizure of bomb making gadgets. It also arrested some of the militants. The pre-emtive effort to make the state safe appeared not enough as the Boko Haram militants are showing their power of Houdini: they cannot just be caged or tamed. Not yet at least. The governor will now need to rethink his measure as the militants continue their campaign to impose an Islamic order in Northern Nigeria.

The greater worry belongs to Azazi and the entire Nigerian security, the police, SSS and the army. The Nigerian government spends heavily in oiling its security machine. But as the security wobbles, fumbles and bumbles almost all the time, the expenditure has come under increased scrutiny by Nigerians. In the 2012 budget, President Jonathan is seeking approval to spend close to N1.1 trillion on the security. This is more than 25 per cent of the national budget. Nigerians believe that the expenditure will be another waste as the security helmsmen have not justified past outlays. Indeed, most Nigerians can swear that the security funds end up in the bank accounts of the managers, never used for what they are intended for.

So, wither goes Nigeria as it grapples with yet another sign that its people are the least secured in the universe? And that terrorists, either in Kano or the President’s home state can strike anywhere, anytime.


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