By ABBA MAHMOOD —
At St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo local government area of Anambra State, there was a gun attack on worshippers on Sunday, August 6, which left 12 people dead and 18 others wounded. The attack occurred at about 6:30am when worshippers were attending morning Mass. A preliminary report had it that a lone gunman stormed the church in search of an alleged drug baron but that he had fled on getting wind of the plot. The gunman just opened fire indiscriminately into rows of worshippers. Police said that the incident was as a result of a feud between two individuals from the same community living outside Nigeria, one of the individuals having built the church where the shooting occurred. By every definition it was a most condemnable act.
The same day the Anambra sacrilegious killing occurred in a place of worship of all places, Boko Haram militants killed 34 innocent fishermen in Borno State. The fishermen went fishing on that fateful Sunday at Duburi and Dabar-Wanzam villages near Baga town where they encountered the insurgents. “In Duburi village, 14 people were killed while 17 others were killed in Dabar-Wanzam. All were fishermen who just returned following the restoration of fishing activities in the area,” said Alhaji Bunu Bukar, secretary-general of Borno State Hunters Association.
Along the Abuja-Kaduna highway, a civil servant who was coming back to Abuja from Kebbi, his home state where he had gone to see his aged mother, had an encounter with kidnappers in the notorious Rijana village on the highway. He was driving while his wife and 3-year-old daughter were sitting beside him when he drove right into the midst of the kidnappers’ blockade. His wife was also asked to come down but he pleaded with them that she was an innocent woman whom he tried to give a ride. They left her and took him away. It was days later after his friends and relatives have coughed out millions in ransom that he was eventually freed.
Right here in Abuja, the nation’s capital city, a very close friend of mine was attacked by armed robbers in his house in Wuse 2 last week. He closed from work and was coming back to his family to rest after a hard day’s work. As the gate of the house was opened for him, he drove in with his car with the armed robbers right behind him. His car was snatched there and then. All his phones, briefcase containing valuable documents, his computer and the little money he had were all taken away from him.
In places of worship, in places of work, on the road and in the home, nowhere is safe and no one is safe in Nigeria today.
Respected columnist Sunala Olumhense wrote a thought-provoking column last week in which he said: “Boko Haram, despite lacking its own territory, despite manufacturing no arms of its own, despite lacking air presence, despite lacking its own ports and roads and rail; despite lacking its own farms and bureaucracy, despite absorbing continuous air attacks, despite repeated announcements of its retreat and disrepair, has continued to inflict violence and menace on Nigerians.
“Its leader reportedly and repeatedly killed, he has reappeared as many times as he has ‘died’ and continued its menace, openly and daringly, killing and smashing. It has continued to ambush at will, contradicting the impression the army and the government sought to offer Nigerians about the situation…
“On June 20, on the Maiduguri-Damboa road, Boko Haram staged a spectacular onslaught on a joint army/police patrol which was escorting relief materials and a burial party said to have been of a police woman. The militants seized some of the women in the convoy as well as several of the military and commercial vehicles…
“As if such an attack was not embarrassing enough, or perhaps because it was, Borno state commissioner of police Damian Chukwu met with journalists that night to admit only injuries to police officers, taking care to deny that any of his men had been killed. But it was only a few days later that Boko Haram chief Shekau published a new video to confirm both the attack and his possession of at least 10 women he had seized in it. On the footage, two of the women begged the government to acknowledge their abduction…
“And then on July 25, in Magumeri in northern Borno, soldiers escorting an oil survey team from the NNPC and the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) was ambushed by militants. What is even more perplexing is that this new attack came just two days after chief of army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai gave his men 40 days to bring him Shekau alive or dead…
“Trying to project the army as a robust, swashbuckling force, its director of public relations, Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, announced that special forces had responded to the attack with dispatch, tracked down the offending Boko Haram unit, dealt with them and rescued 12 members of the UNIMAID team. That was a brutal lie, so brutal there was nowhere to run or to hide, leading the army to do the unprecedented last Sunday: apologize for its false claims. It would subsequently confirm that at least 14 soldiers, 11 members of the so-called civilian joint task force, and five members of staff of UNIMAID were killed in the attack and the rescue attempts that followed.”
What comes out of all these is that there is so much insecurity in Nigeria today and the government does not have monopoly of firearms any more. Secondly, it is clear that the current approach to insecurity is not yielding the desired result. Thirdly, information management of this government, whether on the health of the president or the state of insecurity, is very poor. There is nothing more alarming than for citizens to stop believing or trusting their leaders. Trust and confidence are the building blocks of any human relationship whether at family or national level.
The primary responsibility of any government is the protection of life and property of its citizens. Capital is a coward and cannot go anywhere there is no security. Thus, no investor, whether domestic or foreign, can invest in any climate of insecurity. Nigeria is not lacking in experienced and well-trained people, both retired and serving, in the field of security who can come up with a robust and dynamic security strategy that can stem the tide of this state of insecurity. With fewer than 400, 000 police personnel, about a third of whom are doing guard duties for VIPs, Nigeria is under-policed.
History is on the side of the oppressed.