THE BOKO HARAM ASSAULT
Nigeria and, indeed, the international community got a raw deal last Friday from the fundamentalist Islamic sect known as Boko Haram. A suicide bomber had forced his way into the United Nations (UN) building in Abuja with an explosive-laden car. The explosion that triggered at impact left scores of people dead, with over 100 others critically injured.
The bombing of the UN building is one of the terrorist activities which the Islamic sect had been engaged in since it reared its ugly head in Nigeria about a year ago. Since its murderous advent, Boko Haram has wasted hundreds of lives of innocent people in unprovoked circumstances.
Before last week's incident, Nigerians had woken up sometime in the month of June to hear that the Headquarters of the Nigeria Police had been bombed by Boko Haram. Nigerians were worried that the security at the police headquarters could be beaten so easily. As in the present case, questions were raised about the vigilance of our security operatives.
In the end, Nigerians concluded that the incident was an indication that the country was not doing much in the area of vigilance. The UN building bombing appears to have confirmed our lax approach to security issues. That is why we are told that a car could run through two security gates supposedly manned by people. Whatever took place at the UN building last Friday says a lot about our lack of vigilance.
As should be expected, the action of the terrorists has been roundly condemned by men and women of goodwill. This is especially so since the international community and its citizens are affected by the suicide bombing. The incident is not just seen as an assault on Nigeria and its government, it is taken to be an attack on the global community. Consequently, global concerns have been expressed on how to contain the insurgency of the terrorists.
But we shudder at the seeming complacency of the Nigerian government in this matter. Boko Haram had struck a number of times. Each time it does this, it sends out a fresh warning that it would strike again in the nearest future. In the present case, the sect has also warned that another bombing is imminent.
In spite of this brazenness of the sect, government has not done much to contain it. While the terrorists kill and main, government does nothing except to promise the bewildered populace that the culprits will be fished out. We are yet to see any concrete step taken in this direction.
It even beats the imagination that terrorists operate unhindered in a country where you have security agencies. Why is it that those responsible for intelligence gathering have never preempted or foiled any move by Boko Haram? Why are they always caught napping? What did they learn from the earlier incident at the Headquarters of the Nigeria Police? What steps were taken to ensure that the incident did not reoccur? We consider this state of affairs disturbing.
We need not remind President Goodluck Jonathan that the primary reason for the existence of government is the protection of life and property. Any government that fails to discharge this responsibility has failed the people. The way things are now, Boko Haram has created a state of siege in Nigeria. Security of life and property is no longer assured. People are now afraid to operate in certain areas or zones. This is because it is now taken for granted that Bokom Haram can release its bombs anytime without let or hindrance.
This feeling of insecurity and a lack of trust in the ability of government to contain the insurgency of terrorists are dangerous. They can readily lead to loss of confidence in the government.
For a country like Nigeria that is in dire need of shoring up its rating in the eyes of the world, the spate of bombings is capable of doing more damage to the country's effort in this regard. With the attack on the UN facility, for instance, many citizens of the world have been affected. The impression in the international community that Nigeria is insecure and therefore not conducive for investment will be reinforced. With the present state of affairs, Nigeria can easily be grouped in the league of terror-prone countries.
Government therefore has a responsibility to rise to the challenge. The people of Nigeria and their partners or friends from the international community have a right to live a secure life. The government owes them this responsibility. It is therefore not enough for government to give empty assurances each time the life and property of the people are threatened. This should be matched with concrete action.
The terrorists and their sponsors should therefore be fished out and dealt with according to the laws of the land. Since the perpetrators of the dastardly act are not ghosts, we do not see why they cannot be apprehended. Failure by government to do this will erode the people's confidence in it. Therefore, President Jonathan and his government stand badly challenged by this open assault on the security of life and property in Nigeria.