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Terror Attacks: When, where, and who is next?

The two most pronounced incidents which occurred last week, being those of an armed attack on the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari and a commando-style…

The two most pronounced incidents which occurred last week, being those of an armed attack on the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari and a commando-style assault on Kuje Correctional Centre (prisons), should be seen for what they actually are.

They reinforce the reality that the country’s problem with terrorists may have degenerated to a level where the miscreants have the unfettered capacity to decide when and where they choose to attack and who the victims will be.

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The implication may not be far from the situation whereby Nigeria has now dropped to the Hobbesian state of nature where governance is either non-existent or has collapsed. It is now every man for himself or herself, as all citizens are at risk of falling victim, anytime and anywhere. And whoever does not see the situation as such, may only be wallowing in self-denial. Our country has really turned the corner.

From media reports, an advance convoy of the president that left Abuja to Katsina—the president’s home state, was ambushed on the way by armed assailants whose gunfire attack resulted in injury to some occupants of the convoy vehicles. It can easily be imagined what could have happened if the president had opted to travel from Abuja to nearby Katsina by road. In any case, it is lamentable that such a venture remains unthinkable in present day Nigeria, whereby the president himself cannot move about freely in a country he is the leader, courtesy of the prevailing state of insecurity. 

In the other incident, a well-planned commando-style assault was launched last week on the Kuje Medium Security Correctional Service (Prisons) right in Abuja the Federal Capital Territory, where explosives were deployed to burst the place open and facilitate the escape of more than 994 detainees including 64 members of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists. Moreover, as much as N82 million and $36,000 belonging to affluent detainees was reportedly stolen by the assailants from the centre, and openly shared to escapees as transport money, in the course of the raid. Incidentally, some relief has also come to the nation’s psyche with the news that 111 detainees including the highbrow personalities in custody declined to join the escape bid, while over 500 have been recaptured and about 400 still at large, as of the time of writing this script.   

President Muhammadu Buhari who visited the facility after the raid, expressed disappointment over the debacle and indicted the country’s security and intelligence establishment in strong terms. However, his response as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the country, will gain more merit if his follow-up action will match public expectation if he deploys the full weight of the country’s capacity to address the contingency. Nigerians for sure are still waiting for such follow-through, as they hold him accountable for remediation of the outrage. And nobody can blame them especially as previous incidents attracted similar gestures of lamentation from him, with less than impressive dividends from his enterprise.

However, where the two incidents under consideration accentuate public misgivings on the country’s security architecture derives from the details of the actual course of events during the attacks. First is the report of lack of commensurate response to the attackers from the escort team of the president’s convoy. If the escort of the president’s convoy with all the expected endowments of real-time and backup military assets can play shy of retaliating an armed attack, and possibly mobilizing massive interdiction to the implied lead from that contingency, the situation dictates at least a complement of questions among which stands out one. Does it mean that the numerous convoys escorting our VIPs are simply stand-alone sitting-ducks which are bereft of attracting any significant back-up response, in the case of a contingency?

With respect to the Kuje affair is the stream of narratives of the actual course of events – one of which mentions the provision of credible intelligence by the Department of State Security Service (DSSS) and a private Kaduna-based newspaper publisher, warning of the likelihood of the attack. Coupled with the foregoing is the trending, inexplicable withdrawal of the soldiers guarding the facility, a few hours to the attack. This latter story is corroborated by the official brief by the Ministry of Interior on the security assets that were on ground at the time of the attack, which excluded soldiers. Another report tells of the wide window of opportunity provided the assailants by the slack security architecture, that was in place for a Medium Security Correctional facility as strategic as Kuje’s. Little wonder that Buhari as a war-tested general of the Nigerian Army could rightly express his indignation at the outrage.

Unfortunately too, the Kuje debacle has even been given a most undeservingly disparaging hue by some trending video clips, which were ostensibly recorded by the assailants themselves, and purportedly depict the operation, with nauseating sights of actual shooting of helpless victims. However, considering that the Kuje attack took place in the night while the trending videos were ostensibly taken in broad daylight; that may have put a lie to their authenticity.

Meanwhile, taking the recent contingencies into perspective as the new heights in an endless orgy of daily bloodletting across the country, along with the associated, growing audacity of the assailants, the situation calls into question one more time, where the country is heading to in terms of safeguarding its sovereignty. At the risk of sounding alarmist, it needs to be considered that Nigeria is without equivocation, at war from two fronts – one from the domestic front and the other from the external angle. This is even as each of them is capable of whittling down its nationhood.

On the domestic front is the complement of internal contradictions in its political economic and social conditions which had kept the country on the boil, and in recent times tended towards plunging it into a meltdown mode. On the external front is the opportunistic tendency of foreign expansionist agents acting under different names such as ISWAP (which has claimed responsibility for the Kuje attack), with equally varied ideologies that intend to cash in on the weak social fabric of the country. They have built a convergence with some aggrieved elements in the country to conquer it to fulfil their megalomaniac aspirations. At best they constitute an existential threat to the entire country, for if they succeed, they will not share power with any element of the present establishment in the country. 

The topical question here is whether the leadership community of the country sees the situation as such. In case they do not see it as such, much of the country see the situation as such and may already be poised to respond with apocalyptic vehemence, if threatened enough. That is where the country stands now.  

Hence, we should be praying that such a day may never come when ordinary Nigerians will be forced to defend themselves, simply because the government has failed to do so for them. That will be it.