- Silence On Herdsmen Attacks Smacks Of Conspiracy •Politics Messing Up Security
- Engage Youths To Guide Borders
Dr. Ona Ekhomu is the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, AISSON, Chairman of Trans-World Security Systems Ltd. (Lagos, Nigeria) and Chairman of the School of Management and Security Ltd. (Lagos, Nigeria). Born on the 26th of March, 1955, he attended Western Boys’ High School, Benin. From there he moved to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism in 1974. His quest for knowledge took him outside the shores of the country to Voorhees College, Denmark in 1977. Educationally insatiable, he further enrolled at Iowa State University of Science and Technology and later, University of Pittsburgh, United States in 1985. He attended security training at the Security Officer Training Academy of Allegheny County, Pennyslavania, USA in 1986. Ekhomu is a management and security consultant. He is also an educator, lecturer and policy analyst. Travelling extensively throughout the world, Ekhomu addresses critical issues on personal and corporate security. He is Nigeria’s first chartered security professional. He also serves as the African Representative of the International Foundation for Protection Officers, IFPO. A Certified Fraud Examiner,CFE, and Board Certified in Security Management with the Certified Protection Professional, CPP, designation. The CPP is the security industry’s highest recognition of security practitioners. The designation indicates that an individual is board certified in security management The CPP certification equips persons who have responsibility to manage complex security issues that threaten people and the assets of corporations, governments, public and private institutions. The duo of The New Diplomat’s Associate Editor, LAOLU ADEYEMI and Senior Associate Editor OLAMILEKAN OKEOWO, sought him out in his Lagos office to engage him on the security situation in the country. He opened up, warning government not to celebrate “victory” over Boko Haram yet, as the war is not yet won. He called the seeming lull in suicide attacks in the country a “ calm before the storm”. He proffered ways the war against Boko Haram can be won once and for all, how improved border security will curtail activities of the Fulani Herdsmen, how to eradicate piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and other security-related issues. EXCERPTS.
|What is your appraisal of the nation’s security in the last five years?|
If you look at the last seven months or one year, it is the same as in the last eight years. I am very sorry to say that the security situation has been very bleak and the threats have been mounting.
The loss is increasing almost daily and the threats are also mutating. They change from one threat scenario to another at a rate I am afraid the nation cannot handle quite effectively.
It is very unfortunate that kidnapping, militancy, Boko haram, cultism and other social ills have just been spiralling out of control. We also have the new Shiites problem in Kaduna and Kano states and we don’t know where it’s going to end. It is not a very rosy picture.
There is supposed to be some kind of predictability, order, and the bad guys are supposed to know that they will get caught and punished eventually when they perpetuate any evil.
The situation whereby the bad guys take the country for a ride is worrisome. There is something wrong. It is high time Nigerian Government understood that the security situation of the country is going out of hand and that surgical measures must be taken. Government needs to use better tactics to bring the security situation under control because we don’t feel like we are being governed right now.
How aware are Nigerians about their own security and what is their level of involvement in trying to keep the country safe?
The security of the state and the republic is actually the responsibility of the citizens, even if the government has to play a complementary role. Government can help but the first person at crime scene is the victim and the bystanders or passers-by.
The first impression I had about American security in 1975 was a very good one. I was travelling from Demark, South Carolina to Missouri where I was schooling. I was traversing Georgia when my car started overheating. I just parked on the side of the road at the middle of nowhere on I-20 helplessly. I didn’t have any experience because that was my first car in my life. Surprisingly, within 60 seconds, I saw different travellers parking to offer assistance. Both black and white people parked their own vehicles just to help me fix my car while I stood watching them as they fixed it. While someone opened my bonnet, another came with a rag to open my radiator and another white came with a rubber pipe to replace my own radiator pipe that had busted. Almost twenty people parked to help me without collecting a kobo from me in a country where I had hardly spent five months. Police came by to check on us and when they saw that the situation was under control, they left. I have never seen the people before and I can never forget that experience. That shows me whom Americans are.
What I am saying in essence is that ordinary citizens came to my rescue in another man’s land and here in Nigeria; the situation is different. Perhaps, I would have been robbed or charged for the services here in Nigeria.
Citizens have the power to defend others and even mould the image of the country. In some other climes; citizens come to the rescue of any accident victim without hoping for any rewards. When a fellow citizen is being robbed, others called the police. But in Nigeria, we run away and hide saying we don’t want to see evil. Nigerians have to be responsible for their own security. Government just needs to provide the facilities.
Another worrisome trend is that we don’t have a unified safety line to call whenever there is an accident. We should have one number that all citizens can call at a time of trouble. We need to have something like 911 in Nigeria and we should stop all these unserious idea of having 11 digits numbers as helpline. It is only in Nigeria that each mobile operator gives different telephone lines as helpline. It is only in Nigeria that when you call one government agency for help; you will be referred to the other agency. The one we have in Lagos, 767 doesn’t go all the time. I have tested it several times and I told them that the line was not going.
High level of crimes drives investors away. If we want Nigeria to be an investment haven; we must all fight crime together. Nobody will invest in a crime-infested country. Citizens have the greatest roles to play in policing and preventing crimes in our society. By putting padlocks on your door, you are already policing your asset. Police doesn’t mean that you must wear police uniform to become a policemen. We are already police by virtue of our law but many don’t just know. Section 12 of the Criminal Procedure Act gives me authority to arrest any criminal even under reasonable suspicion. We have the best citizen power of arrest which is reasonable suspicion doctrine. Citizens are already deputized in policing the country. This is what I use as a private security man in Nigeria.
Boko Haram menace, herdsmen activities and Kidnapping are on the increase, what exactly do we need to do?
Boko Haram attacks are happening across the northern part. Don’t mind the way they are belittling it by saying it’s only in the North East. The first BH attack started in Dosintachi in Bauchi State in July 26, 2009 at 6.am. It didn’t start in Borno State as widely claimed.
BH has a very big emir (leader) in Kano. They are in Kano, Kastina, Sokoto, and even in Kogi states. They have being to Lagos but thank God for the security men that rounded up about 42 of them. Good information brought them out. The military police commander in charge of the case was my student then. I went to see them in detention. The guys looks nondescript but they are very powerful in action. Kano was the flash point of the war that ensued between the military and the Boko Haram In July 26 this year.
All the threats you mentioned are manifesting in different directions. BH is now a diminishing threat. Thank God for the administration of President Buhari and the soldiers who fight them. However, they are still a threat. I must state that our celebration on this is too early because they are still causing their attacks. We are going on victory parade too early. We should rather wait until we win completely. We are winning, but BH are still at our border towns and they have killed almost 50 soldiers recently. The Abu Ali attack happened recently, they are still capable of taking towns and they are there in the border areas. I see this as the calm before the storm. I don’t see it as though they have been defeated. We are winning the war but we have not won.
In July 30 of 2009, the military defeated the Boko haram. General Sally Mina, GOC Third Division, Jos was instructed by Yar’Adua to crush Boko Haram in Borno. The Military grabbed their leader, Mohammed Yusuf and Bugufoi who happened to be their leaders and handed them over to the police. But one devil entered into the police and they killed those suspected criminals with camera rolling without getting any facts from them.
And after the incidents, Boko Haram refused to strike for seven months. By the time they wanted to strike, they went to Bauchi and freed about 400 inmates. They also went to Yola Prison and freed 105 inmates which included some of their members. The point I am making is that it is too early to celebrate the success because the terrorist go for a while and reinforce to attack again. While we are celebrating, the BH are silently recuperating with a view to strategise. We should work hard to know what the enemy is doing now and also improve our readiness and alertness because we are still very backward in terms of emergency preparedness.
Boko Haram has metamorphosed into a problem of IDP camps which housed no fewer than 4million displaced persons and our inability to govern them. The real tragedy of BH is what is happening in the IDP camps. Though government claimed the population is just about 2.5million and that people are not dying there.
The same government that declared a nutrition emergency in some of the camps about a month ago came out later to counter the statement of UN on the poor state of things at those camps.
The truth is that both young and the old are dying every day at the IDP camps.
The Nigerian government needs to do more of muscular reasoning and not just uttering latitudinal statements which can’t solve the nation’s problem. We need to govern the camps very well and safe more lives.
Kidnapping is a real national menace that happens everywhere now. Kidnapping in Kaduna, Kano, Edo, Delta Rivers and some other states has been on the increase. Some victims come back alive while some unlucky ones are die there. Meanwhile, government and the people must work together to ensure improved security.
Government should make the taxes Nigerians are paying to work by improving the security of the country. Citizens have entered an agreement with the government on security by paying their taxes. Nigerians obey the government on taxation because they want their lives and property protected. That the citizens obey government and pay taxes is a social contract and government needs to respect it.
On herdsmen crisis, government needs to checkmate the business of herdsmen now because it is already threatening the security of the country.
As a 61-year-old man, I have been seeing the herdsmen doing their business peacefully across the country. But the ugly trend in their business in the last 5 to10 years is worrisome and it has to be checked on time.
If government claims that those herdsmen are Malians; they should be rounded up and be deported. There is a lot of conspiracy around the issue and it is unhealthy for the nation. These activities of killing, raping and stealing among these herdsmen must be stopped by all means.
Government needs to let these herdsmen know that there is a law that governs the country and all activities should be checked. For instance, Boko Haram threats could have been checked long before it degenerated to this level.
Though we are dealing with it now, we have to resort to military intervention and we don’t have soldiers. And we are behaving as if we have enough military personnel and police officers.
Nigeria doesn’t have enough soldiers to manage all the crises and it takes about six months to one year to bring a new soldier on board. We need about six months of rigorous training before we can bring any new military officer on stream. We have about 300,000 police officers and some of them are with the big people in the society. The whole of Nigeria has about 100,000 soldiers and we might run out of soldiers if we don’t take our security issue serious. Any responsible government addresses a risk before it degenerates into threats
Government silence on this herdsmen activities gives room for one to suspect that there is a conspiracy.
You said Boko Haram elements still lurk around the nation’s borders and the borders are still very porous, what can we do to protect our borders?
Border security is very serious issue. We can’t have a situation whereby the bad guys come into the country, perpetuate evil and escape with ease — without being checked. This was how BH activities grew to this threat in the country. This is what has been happening about BH activities and it is unfortunate that government has not done anything serious to about it.
Border security is so serious, especially in any environment like Nigeria where we have a lot of regional conflicts around us. And in regional conflicts, a lot of hardened fighters are made and they don’t go back to their normal life and the security of lives and property are at serious risk. When the conflict is over; many of these people don’t go back to farming but rather use the acquired weapons for stealing and other nefarious activities because it is easier to earn a living with gun.
We have Liberia, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Libya, Sudan, al-Shabaab, Celica and anti-Balaca movement, Central African Republic behind us all are still actively at war today. The guy who carried out that Yanya bomb blast ran to Sudan before he was repatriated to Nigeria. It is obvious that our borders are so porous.
When BH started their nefarious activities in 2010, 2011, they first concentrated on those border areas and killed all those immigration and custom officers that usually trouble them at the border. Other officers never went back to those flash points because they don’t want to die.
As those evil people plan, government also needs to plan ahead of them. We need to put some money into infrastructure and improve on infrastructure in our border areas. We need to put chain lead fencing to all these border areas. We need to stop all these borderline friendship that allows other Africans into this country without proper check. They are killing Nigerians and we have to stop all those eccentric friendship that allows them in easily. It worked in those days but not now when we have serious security threats.
We should also make use of technology by using censors to monitor our border areas. This will alert us anytime anybody is trying to breach any of the nation’s borders. We also need to make good use of our teeming youth population by employing them to mount our border lines. If we pay some of these youths stipends, they will guard our borders and our country will be free from all these security threats. Amounts spent on IDP camps and some after-event management are way higher than what we need to protect our land. There is nowhere in the world that they have enough security forces to man security but they make use of security arrangements. This is why they use 911 and once they are alerted, the security goes with their troop. Once there is a call-out, the police make use of what is called “massing” to the crime scene and neutralize the risk.
We should emulate what the Algerians did in their 10 years of war called the black decade. They created what they called the Patriot — like the JTF in Borno State. They gave some of their citizens lower arms to man some inner lands. Boko Haram can only operate freely in the inner lands but they can’t try that in the cities.
Piracy at the Gulf of Guinea is increasing by the day, despite promises by the Nigerian Navy, what can be done to shore up security in our coaster areas?
The Chief of Naval Staff recently and spoke extensively about maritime domains awareness which includes NDE, Falcon Eyes and others.
On the sea, we don’t have enough security to monitor every square metre. We have to rely on technology to monitor the Gulf of Guinea effectively because it is a very vast area. Even in the creeks of Niger-delta, it is difficult to discover crime. So, it is important to boost security-monitoring with technology. We also need more patrol boats. The patrol boats are for interception and the technology for threats detection.
We need to give the Navy the authority to prosecute suspects instead of turning them over to the police which is not necessarily handling the cases as expected.
I also think they should be allowed to use veto force to reduce piracy. Though it sounds extremist.
We also want the situation whereby the severity of punishment is enough to actually deter potential criminals from getting involved in piracy because impunity is the major problem in Nigeria. People believe they can do something and get away with it.
We need to empower the Nigerian Navy to use maximum force to reduce piracy. There was a time in this country when one head of state instituted a draconian law on drug traffickers and drug trafficking business ceased. Some people got shot in the process and that struck fear in the heart of people. Though he was retroacting the law wrongly, he did so with a view to deterring criminals. It was after his tenure that drug-trafficking came back into the country.
What exactly is wrong with the security intelligence in this country?
It is part of the degeneration of the security situation in the country. Certainly, if we are able to get the intention of the bad guys ahead of time, we would be able to nip the issue in the bud. But if we don’t, we will just be carrying dead bodies from morning to night which is what we are doing.
Perhaps, there has been changes in operational method of the police agency in terms of intelligence infrastructure. They used to have E Department which was changed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to Nigeria Security Organisation, NSO, and later changed by former President Ibrahim Babangida to SSS with the National Security Act of 1986.
With that, they took all the intelligence operatives in E department and put them in SSS and created a new organ.
But the problem was that SSS now had to build a new nationwide network of infrastructure which was hard to build because the police on ground had already known the terrain. People also trusted them then.
I think there is a bit of politics messing up security operations in Nigeria. We took over the British operative system of 1800 in the UK, which was working perfectly before different leaders started toying with their own ideas.
Now we have more intelligence officers that are less of intelligence. Unfortunately, the psychology of intelligence officers have also changed. Intelligence officers are now boastful of their operations even when they are supposed to maintain a low profile to actualise their goals. They now operate openly in daylight.
The Police under Mohammed Dikko Abubakar and Solomon Arase are also trying to build their intelligence infrastructure again. They are trying to train the police intelligence officers to build the agency’s intelligence. This would start yielding results in the next few years. I hope the new IG will sustain the development because it takes several years to build intelligence. There are many intelligence agencies in Nigeria because every paramilitary outfit has its own intelligence unit. The primary agency in charge of crime control is still the police force and we have to ensure their security apparatus are working well.
What should Nigeria do to secure its citizens, especially during this yuletide season?
I think this is our first yuletide in a recession in recent time. People should know that there are bound to be desperation on the part of the bad guys. So they have to be security-conscious and avoid travelling late at night. Travellers can call the DPO of their destination to get security reports before embarking on any trip. The responsibility of each person lies on the individual’s shoulder. People should pay attention to their security and also try to keep a low profile during yuletide. Proactive steps must be taken ahead of the trips.
ASIS, Advance security worldwide, what is it about?
It is the largest security group in the world with 47 thousand members worldwide and has its office in US.