THE PROPOSED ANTI-TERRORISM PANEL
The plan by the Federal Government to set up a special panel to tackle the challenge of terrorism is a logical response to the recent spate of bomb explosions in different parts of the country. The idea is welcome, although belated.
A swifter implementation of counter measures against the menace when it first reared its ugly head, possibly, could have averted the latest wave of bombings, which claimed several lives in Jos, Plateau State and at the seat of government in Abuja.
It is, however, good that the authorities have now moved beyond the era of denial of existence of terrorists in the country, to the present situation where a panel is to be set up to address the issue.
Now that the presidency has expressed readiness to address the problem, we call for more seriousness in tackling it. President Goodluck Jonathan, who intimated the nation of the latest plan, for instance, has not given any information on the composition and terms of reference of the coming panel. No time frame has also been given for the establishment of the body.
In fact, the information available in the public sphere at the moment does not suggest that the panel will be inaugurated anytime soon. The problem, however, requires a quicker and more decisive approach. It is important that the government immediately puts in a place a well co-coordinated response to terrorism to douse the tension in the country, especially with general elections just three months away.
The government should institute measures that would reassure the people of their safety, if we expect wider participation of the electorate in the coming polls. Nigeria must do everything possible to stop terrorist attacks now, to ensure that the country does not degenerate to the level of countries where terrorism has become a way of life.
In view of the urgent need for a holistic approach to the problem of terrorism, we wonder if the coming panel is captured in the anti-terrorism bill before the National Assembly. We say this because the proposed panel will be more effective if it is not ad hoc. It should be properly structured, with every legal backing, to ensure its optimal performance.
The government should also do more to facilitate the passage of the anti-terrorism bill. Terrorism does not just need a committee that submits a report and it ends there. What is needed to counter the menace is nations intelligence gathering and sustained action, not the seeming indifference with which it has been treated thus far. We need an institutional machinery that will be fully empowered to confront the problem.
Beyond that, there should be special operatives within the various security agencies who can respond to the challenge. They should be properly equipped, trained in countries with the technical know how and constituted into Special Forces within the conventional armed forces. Nigeria must also, at this time, determine the linkages between international terrorist groups and disgruntled Nigerians, and break them. The authorities must not wait until terrorism escalates in the country, as has happened in Yemen, before decisive steps are taken to counter it.
The situation calls for drastic measures to curtail the trend. So far, nothing concrete has been seen done to bring perpetrators of terrorist acts, especially in Jos, to book. There should be no sacred cows in the battle against terrorism. We need to obtain foreign technical aid, and invest more in intelligence gathering to enhance internal security. We must overhaul our intelligence apparatus while government musters the political will to make the best use of intelligence availed it by relevant agencies and international bodies.
We need organisations of a permanent nature to collate, warehouse and communicate security information to Special Forces within the Navy, the Air Force, Army and the Police, which should be equipped to react speedily to such intelligence. Above all, we urge all Nigerians to embrace dialogue in ironing out differences between themselves and the government. Unleashing of mayhem on fellow compatriots will not achieve any useful purpose. Whatever are the demands of disgruntled elements in the country will always be better met through dialogue in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.