Our security agencies, especially the military, are making heavy work of securing Abuja, the nation’s hinterland capital, and supposedly its residents in the wake of the Nyanya bus station bombing that killed almost 80 people and maimed over a hundred others. It was the highest public transport system bombing fatality level in the country since Boko Haram began an insurgency against the Nigerian state in 2009.
The military authorities have admitted they received no intelligence on the impending April 14 bombing, something not totally surprising, given that the sect is always ahead of the security forces in planning and executing attacks on soft targets with devastating impacts. However, their reaction to each attack has been predictably massive and counterproductive.
Following the Nyanya attack, the military have moved a fortified check point from the boundary of the FCT and neighbouring Nasarawa state to Kugbo, a high ground close to Abacha barracks. On an ordinary day, each lane of the dual carriage way carries three-to four lines of vehicles. However, since last Thursday, vehicles coming into Abuja from the Keffi-Nyanya-Marababa axis have been forced into a snail-paced single line. At the Kugbo check point, manned by soldier armed to the teeth, vehicles are made to pass one at a time, thereby creating a pile-up behind.
The gridlock on the main highway has also slowed traffic on inner roads accessing the suburbs of Nyanya, Karu, Jikwoyi, Kurudu, Orozo and Karshi. Before now, on a good day, it took 30 minutes to drive from Orozo into Abuja city centre. But not so anymore. “On the day they started (Thursday), I left my house in New Nyanya at 8am for work and I did not get to the city centre until 3pm,” Mr. Akin Oladokun complained to a journalist. Some narrated worse stories. The following days many motorists chose to leave their cars at home and to hop on commercial motorcycles that would drop them off at the Kugbo check point where they hoped to board taxis for the rest of the journey into the city. But they soon found out at the other end of the check point that it was a long wait for an empty cab to arrive.
The military authorities have not told us what this constricting approach is meant to achieve other than to give the impression that they are “on top of the situation”, which, in fact, they are not. Nobody is sure what the soldiers have been told to watch out for as the approaching vehicle is not checked for anything and the driver is waved on. On the flip side, man hours are lost in the slow march as most of those rushing into town are public servants and private sector workers. There are also medical emergencies such as accident cases and pregnancy complications that require fast attention. This is impossible under the present circumstance.
Worse, the concentration of people and vehicles at the check point and beyond presents a perfect target for the terrorists whom the current strategy is supposed to stop in their track. Should they want to attack, the casualty rate would be high indeed. Besides, it is not the style of Boko Haram foot soldiers to lurk around an area after an attack, let alone carrying out a second assault in so short a time. This is why we think the huge military presence around Nyanya is misplaced.
Furthermore, the strategy the military are using is old fashioned. It is not the number of personnel and physical structures that should be thrown into the fight against Boko Haram or any other terror groups. It is a hi-tech war that is being waged in this country.