NIGERIA ADOPTS BRILLIANT STRATEGY IN SAFEGUARDING NATIONAL SECURITY
The dastardly terrorist acts of Osama bin Laden's Al' Qaeda on September 11, 2001 which brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre have forever changed the attitude of nations across the world to terrorism. Many have had to adopt robust but difficult proactive measures to tackle terrorism and protect national security.
In some instances, their citizens have also given up certain freedoms in order to aid their countries' anti-terrorism efforts. On October 1st 2010, during the celebration of her 50th independence anniversary at the Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria experienced terrorist attacks from as-yet unidentified sources that left several dead, many injured and threw the nation into a state of anxiety over its security. Although the loss of lives and property at the Eagle Square bombings were on a lesser scale than the September 11 disaster in New York, it was no less reprehensible and it presented Nigeria's security agencies with a crisis of almost equal proportions to the 9-11 terror attacks.
In laudable actions since then, Nigeria has stepped up to the plate by adopting robust counter-terrorism measures. These measures include the appointment of a special adviser on terrorism to Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as the passage of an Anti-Terrorism Bill by Nigeria's Federal House of Representatives. There have also been shake-ups, dismissals and redeployments in Nigeria's security and military agencies. All these actions are commendable, have yielded results, and more importantly are part of a continuous and sustained effort to make Nigeria safer. However, the most recent strategy adopted by Nigeria's National Security Adviser, General Owoye Andrew Azazi is brilliant and will go a long way in safeguarding that West African nation's national security.
As opposed to the dark days of military rule in Nigeria where there were obnoxious undemocratic decrees such as Decree 4 which brutally suppressed freedom of speech and information, Nigeria's recent return to democracy has given the press, as well as its citizens, more freedom to share information. As an aside, it is noteworthy and ironic that General Muhammadu Buhari who enacted Decree 4, with which he arbitrarily clamped journalists into detention for publishing stories which were true but deemed embarrassing to his military regime, is a contestant in Nigeria's upcoming presidential elections. He will most likely be defeated but I digress.While seemingly devoid of obvious opportunities with which terrorists can foment trouble, the somewhat-new freedoms currently being enjoyed by Nigerians (with regard to the sharing of information and free speech) could very well endanger the country if not properly managed. Especially with the preponderance of internet blogs, privately-owned newspapers, independent online media news websites and self-appointed but untrained journalists, Nigeria's national security could be unwittingly compromised if its citizens are not educated on their role in safeguarding national security. It is in light of this that the recent security and media parley organized by the Office of the National Security Adviser to intimate journalists of their roles in safeguarding Nigeria's national security (with an eye on the 2011 general elections) was held in Abuja, Nigeria.
While the average Nigerian may fail to grasp issues bordering on national security, members of the fourth estate of the realm should know better and be able to take decisions regarding information in the best interest of the nation.
A stitch in time is said to save nine; this effort by Nigeria's NSA which will hopefully be sustained, will save Nigeria from itself and make the nation safe for its citizens, as well as for the foreigners who visit it or make it their home.
Too many a time, Nigeria has been the butt of jokes in the international intelligence community because sensitive information affecting its national security had been easily sourced from leading Nigerian newspapers and media reports. In the past, many journalists in their eagerness to break a story first (or win a prize for investigative reporting!) have committed serious errors ofjudgementby not cross-checking their facts or clearing them with the relevant security agencies. One case in point was the tussle over the Bakassi peninsula between Nigeria and Cameroon. Some Nigerian journalists published locations of Nigeria's military personnel and plans; this exposÃ© was, of course an open gift to the Cameroonian armed forces and it resulted in avoidable casualties on the Nigerian side. From West Point to Tel Aviv and all points in between, this compromised the security of Nigeria and cast her armed forces' security arrangements in a bad light. The Nigerian mass media must be informed to know enough about security threats and their own responsibilities to make informed decisions about their potential contributions to national security.
Editors and journalists in general must endeavor to clear stories that could compromise national security with the relevant security agencies. The import of rascality and disregard for national security could prove disastrous to any nation's anti-terrorism efforts. Nigerian journalists would do well not to abuse their freedoms, especially with the advent of the Freedom of Information Bill.
As newer threats to the peace and security of nations arise globally, we must be educated to the dangers of being ignorant of national security matters. An awareness of these issues and cooperation between members of the press and security agencies can save lives and even prevent nuclear wars! There must be a willingness by Nigerian pressmen, authors and journalists to contribute their
quota to Nigeria's anti-terrorism efforts. Nigeria's position as one of the world's largest producers of crude oil has made
it a target of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. Electioneering violence, homegrown terrorist threats from insurgent group Boko Haram and remnants of splinter cells from Niger Delta militant group MEND have joined to increase the workload of Nigeria's security agencies. Nigeria's NSA, General Andrew Azazi has wisely sought the help of the media in fighting terrorism and insecurity by
partnering to safeguard national security. Nigeria's media must learn to verify sources of 'information' as there are local and foreign fifth columnists who seek to undermine the peace and security of the Nigerian nation. As Nigerian journalists recite Nigeria's national pledge, they must remember their solemn promise to 'defend her unity, and uphold her honour and glory.' Nigeria must be restored to its full glory and the peace and security of its citizens is a key factor towards ensuring economic growth by attracting foreign investors, and encouraging local industries.
With the successes gained from the recently-held media and security parley for the 2011 general elections by the Office of the National Security Adviser, Nigeria is well on its way to ensuring its democracy and the security of its citizens' lives and property is vigorously protected. This is commendable and it is hoped that not only will this effort at engagement across board be unrelenting, but that other nations fighting the scourge of terrorism will learn from this.
Umar Jibril contributed this
piece from Damaturu