I have always argued for a paradigm shift in our thinking about security matters in this country; the need for a more holistic view of issues of national security.
I believe that the restrictive definition of security in Nigeria is one of the key reasons why we lack a clearly defined national security policy; an all encompassing security roadmap that will be able to comprehensively checkmate the burgeoning state of insecurity in this country.
This has formed the fulcrum of my discourses on national security in Nigeria, at the various fora where I have been privileged to bare my mind on the security challenges / facing this country and the way forward.
In this piece, I will be restricting myself to purely strategic issues due to the exigencies of the current security situation in the country - has seen the recent bloody attacks on the office complexes of and Sun Newspapers, and Bayero University Kano by the dreaded Boko Haram sect - and the urgent need for all concerned stakeholders to take urgent steps towards nipping this menace in the bud.
The following tips are meant to complement the highly commendable efforts - immediate and long-term - so far taken by government, security agencies and other concerned stakeholders in the fight against terrorism and other violent crimes.
Firstly, comprehensive ‘Crime Data Bank’ should be immediately created. One of the major problems militating against the speedy solving of crimes in the country is the absence of information and statistical records on crime trends and characteristics of perpetrators. This data bank must be computerized and made accessible to all the security agencies in the country.
It should contain the list of crimes within and across state boarders, nature of crimes committed, names of perpetrators, last known address, dates, court verdicts, places of incarceration, conduct of felons while doing their time, cellmates, interests, vocations, date of release, records of offences prior to and after incarceration, statistics like the color of eyes, height, weight and other important statistics.
All these information can be used in generating a terror watch list, profiling criminals and help in preventing them from committing further crimes, or tracking and arresting them when they do. It will also help check migration of crimes and criminals across state borders.
Again, a ‘Terrorist Watch List’ of suspected terrorists and those who aid and abet them should be immediately generated. Such a list will make it easier to zero-in on suspected terrorists and their funders through constant monitoring of their activities.
Our security operatives must stop chasing shadows and acting on mere hunches. There must be a list of suspected persons with known links to terrorists or terrorist groups. By monitoring the unguided statements and clandestine activities of certain Nigerians - both prominent and average - this list can be generated for security purposes. This will aid in carrying out constant surveillance of identified suspects, their funders and accomplices.
It will also help in determining the type of terrorists we are dealing with The United States of America and other countries facing terrorist threats have such lists. I don’t see why we should not follow the queue of those with years of experience in fighting this kind of problem. We have a terrorist problem and must be ready to learn from the masters themselves who have been involved in this war longer than us.
On the other hand, activities of staff of foreign missions, embassies or consulates, especially those with known links to terrorism, should be closely monitored.
The case of the caches of arms and ammunitions seized at Apapa, wharf, some time ago, said to have been imported by some. Iranians, should be instructive here. Spies are not confined only to movie screens or pages of novels and magazines, they exist in real life. It is in this; wise that we should closely crutinize the activities of some expatriates in this country. Even those from countries with no confirmed links to terrorist groups are not infallible. In fact, some of them work as double agents for other countries.
Their activities range from arms racketeering, drug smuggling, economic sabotage, assassinations, to other clandestine criminal activities. Most of them travel under false identities; they assume operational names that are discarded as soon as they are through with their missions, or when their cover is blown. Nigerians who relate with these people either on official or social grounds should also be monitored.
Again, Security chiefs, government officials, and all those in charge of security matters, must refrain from discussing security strategies in the media: Television, Radio, etc. The modus operandi of security agencies must be kept close to the chests’ of those in charge.
Careless public statements and threats of reprisals against any group by security chiefs and their political bosses are at the fore of recent escalations of violent conflicts across the country. The bombing of the Police Headquarters in Abuja by the Boko Haram sect is a classic case of the consequences of security personnel making unguarded public statements.
Terrorists groups love publicity and are likely to react to threats of any kind that are likely to undermine the credibility of their struggle. Operational plans should be closely guarded secrets known only to those on the highest pedestal of our security services. Agents should not even know the nature of their assignments until the last minute. This will1ielp maintain some element of surprise.
However, all - security and civilian - agencies and individuals attending security conferences, seminars and workshops, must be properly scrutinized and accredited, to avoid infiltration by fifth columnists or rnoles, loyal, or sympathetic to terrorist groups. Infiltration is standard practice by spies working for terrorist or, criminal groups, and intelligence agencies it is a crucial source of information for them.
These spies can infiltrate crucial security meetings to either throw investigators off their scent by injecting themselves into an ongoing investigation, or obtain priceless intelligence to aid their course. Today’s terrorists, criminals and their like are.
Mostly highly intelligent individuals, most of who are educated to the highest level. This has improved their sophistication, and made them more elusive to the authorities. Care must be taken to guard against penetration of any kind by such elements.
Another strategy is to carry out a comprehensive purge of our security services to root out the moles supplying intelligence to criminal groups.
The pinpoint accuracy of most of the recent attacks by the Boko Haram sect, especially the precise strikes at the police headquarters and the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, bore traces of careful, comprehensive planning based on access to crucial intelligence about the level of security at both targets.
These were well coordinated attacks that could not have been planned by common criminals. So, there is a need to sieve through our security services to fish out those collaborating with terrorist and other criminal groups in the country. This should be silently done in order not raise suspicion in any quarters. The objective should be to obtain as much information from them as possible concerning the activities and modus operandi of terrorist and other criminal groups.
Again, hotlines should be set up for people with crucial information to pass them across to relevant security agencies. These hotlines should be set up all over the country since violent crimes are not restricted to only Abuja and its environs. Any information received should be scrutinized before action is taken on them. Information is crucial for any crime-fighting initiative.
With the revolution in information technology which has given majority of the population access to hi-tech information gadgets, such as the Internet, Mobile Phones et al, the creation of hotlines will help. report the suspicious activities of violent individuals and groups, and help our security personnel mount surveillance, prevent or counter impending attacks, and effect arrest of suspects before or after they have carried out their deadly missions.
Criminals live within our communities, and are known to members of their communities1 who have more privileged information about them than security agents. These hotlines will make the job of our security men easier as they would have quicker access to information than what they can get from the field.
Another strategy is to infiltrate radical religious, ethnic, political or other potentially violent groups to warm out intelligence. This must be done with utmost secrecy, by the best trained officers of our security agencies and within the ambits of the law. I know this already being done to some degree, judging from the recent successes achieved by the security establishment against criminal elements in the country. But more still needs to be done in this regard. There are several ways this can be done. But for security reasons, I cannot discuss them fully in this write up; only in private and strict confidence.
In all, our security stratagem must be proactive and holistic, rather than reactive and restrictive. It should focus more on prevention rather than the fire brigade approach of trying to douse the fiery fire of violent crimes after they have erupted. Ideas from non-state actors and organizations, whose jobs are of security significance, should be welcome.
This new approach to, and redefinition of security, will go a long way in checking threats of any kind to the full enjoyment of the rights, and freedoms of all Nigerians. All security agencies must be up and doing, serving one another as partners in the fight against any form of threat to the republic, its institutions and people.
They must be willing to share information and work together for the common good.
These measures must be taken in tandem with deliberate efforts on the part -of government to sincerely address, with intent to redress, the various forms of structural-violence in the different areas of national life which constitute the latent causes of terrorism and other violent criminal acts in- Nigeria. Operational security measures must go hand in hand with locial, political and economic re-engineering if true peace is to reign. I rest my case.