First it was the policemen, then Christians, and then they went after southerners, now journalists

The tragedy of terrorism no longer has any predefined face or nationality as one was wont to believe decades ago; it has come to the
doorstep of the Nigerian Nation and the frightening dimension it has. assumed over the past few months has left many wondering where the way
out lies.

The tragedy of the media organisations suicide attacks that occurred in Abuja and Kaduna on April 26 does not appear to be end or an
awakening in the fight against terrorism by the Nigerian government, especially if one critically takes a look back to the start of active
terrorism in Northern Nigeria and the corresponding response from the government after each attack.

After the religious riots of November 2002, when Islamic fundamentalist went on a killing rampage in protest against the decision by the Nigerian government to host the Miss World Beauty
Pageant, there were no prosecutions and no one was brought to book.

Furthering a culture that had long been in existence since the Kano riots of the 80’s, the Late Al Qaeda chief, Osama Bin Laden on May 10,
2003, declared that Nigeria was ripe for a Jihad in an interview reported by Reuters; and soon afterwards the Northern part of Nigeria
began witnessing the offshoot of clandestine terrorist camps, with the American Embassy in Nigeria issuing a warning in September 2007 that
the country was ‘at risk’ of being turned into a terrorist haven by Islamic fundasmentalists.

A month later, Security forces in the country
arrested 5 persons suspected to be Al Qaeda terrorists. They were arraigned in December but no convictions were made or was there any news regarding their acquittal. In May 2008, the then Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, told journalists that he had intelligence reports
that Al Qaeda planned to invest resources in Nigeria; a few days later he retracted his statement and there was nothing was acted upon.

In 2009, Mohammed Yusuf and his cohorts engaged Nigerian forces in a mini-war in Maiduguri; and eventually Yusuf, who had been arrested in
2006 for allegedly collecting monies from Al Qaeda sponsors and freed, was slaughtered extra-judicially along with over 700 of his followers
without revealing the source of their funding and organisational structure.

This brute approach has become somewhat of a mantra of security forces in the country, and also a boastful disregard of foreign intelligence. How else can one explain the consistently ignored intelligence reports from the US embassy regarding bomb attacks by the dreaded sect and yet our security forces fail to foil these attacks?

The Easter Day massacre in Kaduna, the Kano bomb blasts and the ThisDay tragedy are all examples of failure of the Nigerian security forces to adopt and act.

The Nigerian Police Force, which is responsible for providing internal security to Nigerians, appears helpless, and it has become a norm for the government to promise “to bring to book the culprits” after every terrorist attack.

The insecurity has assumed a new dimension with
the radical group arrogantly informing the public of its intention before carrying it out. This has left many Nigerians in a state of confusion as to the true role of intelligence gathering agencies in the country.

First it was the policemen, then Christians, and then they went after southerners, now journalists; possibly tomorrow would herald the start of attacks on politicians.

Maybe it is time to change strategies, maybe the government needs to shift to intelligence-gathering rather than the knee-jerk military reactions; or the consequences could be dire for the geographical entity we refer to as Nigeria today.

Sylvester Awenlimobor

Sly is a social commentator who resides in Lagos and currently works as a relationship manager for a financial institution.

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