By Ayuba Kaura
If anyone had told the average Abuja resident that a day would come when the Boko Haram insurgents would spread their murderous tentacles to the nation’s capital city, such a person would have been told to go tell it to the marines. Because when the insurgency started on a low note in the north-eastern state of Borno some five years ago, residents of Abuja and other parts of Nigeria simply shrugged their shoulders, believing that it was ‘’their problem’’, not that of the whole country. With this mindset, everybody went to sleep and allowed the problem to balloon out of control.
And that is what has led us to where we are today in Abuja, with residents shivering with fear from the devastating effects of the incessant attacks from these harbingers of death. The situation has now become so bad that some people are even thinking of relocating from Abuja to either their villages or other parts of Nigeria. From the attacks on Suleja and St Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madala, both sprawling neighboring communities in Niger state, the gangsters have hit several times at the heart of Abuja namely: United Nations Building; Police Force Headquarters; ThisDay office and the recent twin attacks at Nyanya. These unfortunate developments have left Nigerians in a state of utter shock and suspended animation; if Abuja, the seat of the Federal Government could be so easily penetrated with reckless impunity, then nowhere is safe anymore?
In the face of this obvious daunting challenges confronting Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has remained unwavering in its determination nay commitment to find lasting solutions to this issue of insecurity that has put virtually all residents on edge. To this effect, immediately after the Monday, April 14 attack on Nyanya, the Administration promptly constituted a special committee vested with the responsibility of rebuilding and reconstructing the Nyanya bus station.
And while the committee was quietly carrying out its assignment, the insurgents executed another murderous attack, prompting the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed to announce the resolution of the government to relocate the Nyanya park to a reasonable distance from the expressway, as a way of solving the perennial traffic gridlock at the Nyanya border area of the Keffi-Nyanya-Abuja express road, just as he also directed that all buildings, shops and business premises located along the road corridor in the area should be demolished immediately in the overriding public interest. To further beef up security around the nation’s capital city, the FCTA has reportedly designated some boundary towns within the Maraba-Masaka axis of Nasarawa State and Suleja area of Niger State as veritable breeding grounds for terrorists; this is with the sole purpose of directing special security attention to those areas.
The FCT Administration have concluded plans to install bomb detectors in all mass transit buses in the city, while efforts have been intensified in the area of massive patrol. Judging from the way and manner the insurgents have carried out their activities in Abuja so far, it has become highly imperative for all hands to be on deck in order to rein in the rampaging monster that has made life hellish for all peace-loving residents of the city. For as it is often said in local parlance, if a handshake goes beyond the elbows, then it is a warning signal that danger is in the offing.
While the FCTA is working round the clock to ensure that the menace of incessant bombing is checkmated, it should in conjunction with the Federal Government also endeavor to adopt the following strategies if its efforts are to have any meaningful and longer lasting sanitizing effect on the polity. Since it is a known fact that the attacks on Abuja cannot be tackled in isolation of what is happening in other parts of the country, the FG and the FCT should synergize in the following areas: adopt measures which countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa have successfully used to curtail insurgency—counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. Another stratagem that is necessary to halt the menace of insurgency is Intelligence-led policing, which is a collaborative enterprise based on improved intelligence operations combined with community-oriented policing.
Intelligence-led policing is a police and community collaboration for effective security interventions. Another measure that is necessary for adoption is community policing initiative, which was launched in 2004. On this premise, community members should be encouraged to be at the forefront of fighting insurgency. Members of the public should cooperate with security agencies by way of information dissemination. Because security is everybody’s business, all residents of Abuja should be on red alert and be ready to report all suspicious movements to security agencies. The wave of terrorism in the country today has claimed thousands of lives—both Christians and Muslims alike. So, the battle is for everybody to fight. Senate President David Mark attested to this in his opening remarks at the resumption of plenary recently thus: ‘’the time has come for us to stand shoulder to shoulder as we confront this evil. As Nigerians, we must all unite across party lines with the sole aim of fighting and defeating our common enemy.’’
It is equally necessary to engage the insurgents in dialogue with a view to determining their grievances (if any) and to finding lasting solutions to them. If possible, grant them amnesty, something similar to the one granted to Niger Delta militants by the administration of Late President Umaru Yar’adua. As a corollary, those responsible for the award of the contract for CCTV cameras should be promptly apprehended and duly sanctioned, while efforts should be intensified to procure new ones that will help security agencies in monitoring crime in Abuja. Above all, the government must fish out the sponsors of these devilish elements irrespective of their standing in the society and mete out appropriate punishment on them with a view to serving as a deterrent to other like-minded individuals who may be favorably disposed to toe similar lines in the future.
The evil intentions of the enemies for Abuja, the nation’s capital city of must not be allowed to prevail. Just like Muhammad Buhari said in 1983 that ‘’Nigeria is the only country that we have. We must remain here and salvage it together,’’ Abuja is the soul of the nation and as such, all Nigerians, irrespective of party affiliations and religious inclinations, must join forces to free it from the vice grip of these murderous elements.
Kaura is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja