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Published On: Sun, Aug 3rd, 2014

Before they acquire rockets

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By Chinedu George Nnawetanma

We all know what they did with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) made of gas cylinders and nails, but how can Nigeria’s military stop them when they start launching rockets into our skies?The growing sophistication of terrorists around the world is a concern for governments everywhere, not least the federal government of Nigeria. Recently, a conflict broke out in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas following the militants’ resolve to fire rockets into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. Since Tuesday when the skirmishes began, hundreds of rockets have landed on both sides of the divide, with the death toll crossing the 160 mark, according to several reputable international news outlets. Over 1000 people have been injured in the process, most of them on the Palestinian side.

The Israeli military, despite its sophistication and hard-hitting counter measures in the disputed Strip, was not able to stop the missiles from hitting and ravaging various parts of the country. Even with their famed “Iron Dome” air defence system that intercepts short-range missile midair, Hamas rockets have been reaching deeper and deeper into Israeli territory, posing further threat to the Jewish nation’s security.

Nigeria, as we all know, does not have an Iron Dome or anything that comes close to it. Our military is chronically under-equipped and outmatched in comparison to many others. Despite their commendably gallant efforts in keeping Boko Haram at bay with everything at their disposal, it may not be enough to win the war. In a situation where, as I earlier stated, Boko Haram becomes more subtle and – let’s say – steps up from planting gas cylinders and other improvised explosive devices in crowded motor parks to developing and actually launching rockets that can strike choice targets at close range, how equipped is our military to adequately address it? Are they just going to sit back, fold their arms and watch helplessly as missiles rain down on the roofs of Nigerians? Should they even wait for it to start happening at all?

For starters, the making of rockets is no longer the “rocket science” that it used to be. The ones deployed to devastating effects by Hamas in the Gaza Strip were homemade, pieced together with regular, locally sourced materials. Here in Nigeria, there was a story of two Imo State boys of secondary school age who developed a projectile that flew across the sky for five kilometers before landing in an occupied compound to the consternation of the residents of the community. The contraption which apparently overshot its target was later found to be a rocket built by the talented boys in a daring practical physics experiment.

And it’s not just about rockets. It’s part of the much bigger picture. Tuesday’s blast near a fuel station in Lagos was claimed by the sect and some alleged Boko Haram members were apprehended by security forces in Imo State, Abia State and Enugu State last month. This is while the country is still reeling from the abduction over 200 Chibok schoolgirls nearly 100 days ago.

The dangers are real and if left unabated will surely spiral out of control into an Iraq-style and Taliban-esque insurrection. It is not something that can be tackled by just wishing it away or pretending that it’s not there. While not trying to teach the military its job, it must be one or two steps ahead of the terrorists at every turn. This brings to the fore the need for our servicemen to do all things possible and necessary to stifle the insurgency now, check its expansion and reduce its influence to the barest minimum. Now is the best time to act.

 

Chinedu George Nnawetanmacan be reached through cgnnawetanma@gmail.com

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