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Opinion: How to protect ourselves against Boko Haram bombings

by Bamidele Ademola-Olateju

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These are signs you must look for in people as you frequent densely populated public places. Be alert and be aware of your surroundings. Citizen action can help prevent attacks from happening.

My Twitter feed went bat shit crazy through the American night. When the notifications became unbearable, I was forced to check. The screaming headlines on Premium Times was unmistakable – Over 200 feared dead as explosion rocks Nigerian capital, Abuja! I went back to my Twitter feed and was confronted with retweets of presidential cutthroat Reuben Abati’s tweets. His handle @abati1990 tweeted “President Jonathan saddened by loss of lives in Nyanya bombing.” And in another tweet “President Jonathan has ordered heightened security in Abuja following Nyanya bombing.”

Is that all? The president is always saddened by each act of terror but what has he done? The state of emergency he ordered did not work. The entire Northeast is a lawless jungle. The anomie is spreading southwards, Abuja is threatened. What and where next?
For readers who are uninterested in official lies and cover ups; Nyanya, is a surburb of Abuja after Asokoro. It is nearer the city than Kubwa and Lugbe and about five minutes drive from Mogadishu barracks that was bombed a while back. Nyanya “under bridge” is the most populated place in Abuja per square metre every workday of the week during early morning rush hour and at the close of business.

Since small buses were banned by current minister of the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), Bala Mohammed, workers from Karu, Jikwoyi, Maraba, Masaka, Ado and even Keffi in neighbouring Nasarawa State congregate at the bridge. Small commuter buses bearing passengers from these suburbs drop them off at the bridge, so they can board the bigger El-Rufai buses going into the city.

Nyanya is also the gateway to places outside Abuja where people can board interstate commercial vehicles. The under bridge houses a thriving daily market that fuels the population throughout the day even though the real market is on Wednesdays. It is only an unthinking and insensitive government that cannot anticipate this scale of terror on a prime target in a densely populated area in the FCT.

After the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 by Timothy McVeigh, all federal structures within the United States became heavily fortified till date. The Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people and injured more than 680. Until the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma City bombing remained the most destructive act of terrorism committed on United States soil. At the time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated eleven of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces of over 665 rescue workers to assist in the rescue and recovery operations. Why has Nigeria refused to learn from other countries on how they have reacted swiftly against terror? Why are law enforcement always caught napping? The death toll escalates daily, why?

Online, there were pictures of victims from the explosion dumped like rotten garbage inside dump trucks. One dead man was carted in a wheelbarrow! Why are we like this? Why are we so inhuman? Why are we the way we are? How did we get here? When will we evolve enough to earn the noun “Human”. Is it too much to ask that National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA) provide body bags at times of rescue and recovery like this? The body of these victims deserve better. The gory pictures we saw had the dignity of yams and farm produce. There was no dignity befitting human beings in the transportation of the dead at the scene. For all we care, body bags must have been included in the budget of these agencies for emergencies like this. It is possible they have body bags but someone may have sold it to morgues and private hospitals or pocketed the allotted money. What kind of country are we in? We don’t even have ordinary level decency? The federal government spends a lot of money every year training personnel abroad. Has the training been utilized at times like this? Bless the memory of these victims oh Lord and give succor to their families.

From eyewitness account, a golf car must have been used in this attack to house the bomb before it was detonated. The way our law enforcement agencies are configured, the bodies will be collected, the wounded will be taken to hospital and the trail will go cold without investigation until the next attack. Within 90 minutes of the explosion in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh was stopped by an Oklahoma State trooper for driving without a license plate and arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon. Forensic evidence linked him to the attack by a nation whose agents are alert to their duties and with tools to aid them.

In Nigeria, evidence will either be ignored or tampered with. We know, all these bombs will have some kind of signature, but unique identifiers are only useful when law enforcement are interested in investigating what happened, how it happened, where the materials came from, who bought them, and so on. The humongous security vote is just going into private pockets. I suspect those who benefit may never want the gravy train to stop. On the flip side, one, just one of Diezani jets can equip the Nigerian police to fight terror but our political Mafiosi will rather buy bullet proof cars and Gulfstream jets than secure its citizens.

The country including those who think they are immune to terror are riding a tiger. Our home grown terror groups are major threats to our peace and security and they undermine a united Nigeria. The plain truth is that the devastating human cost of terrorism, in terms of lives lost and lives permanently altered is ginormous. Those who can make a difference are choosing not to care but they too will pay the price sometime. The ultimate aim of these terror groups is to destabilize Nigeria and undermine its economic and social development, the beneficiaries of insecurity will soon learn that they are not immune.

I admit, confronting this threat is difficult given the complex and asymmetrical nature of terrorism but the president must begin to do more than issue halfhearted statements. The United States moved decisively against terror after the September 11 terror attack. That move gave rise to unprecedented security at the airports, the patriot act etc. What is this president waiting for? Why is security still lax at high value targets? Our borders are still porous as ever, our airports are still laid bare for attacks. The whole country is a costly joke! What have we to show for the high security budget of the last two years? We have seen from the Nyanya bombing that the motivations, financing, methods of attack and choice of target are constantly changing. Why are we not seen strong coordination and cooperation between the states and with other countries to effectively combat this threat? There is already a legal framework of 18 universal legal instruments against terrorism. Why are we not comparing notes and learning from best practices and lessons learned from other nations to assist with the investigation and prosecution of terrorists? How are we fighting the triumvirate of drugs, transnational organized crime and money-laundering that feeds terrorism?
The sight of the incinerated buses should leave no one in doubt that the death toll is higher than official figures. We are used to it, we are completely desensitized to human suffering and needless deaths. To us, no matter the number of deaths, life must go on and it will go on in the most dastardly form; we skip over the bodies our very own. Years of military rule has decimated our humanity. Nothing shocks us anymore. We walk by dead bodies without blinking except for the stench that offends us. Bodies are routinely mangled by motorists on the highway until it flattens out on the asphalt. Ritualist are routinely paraded with human body parts, shrines have become slabs for human slaughter.

Yet, this President lives beyond action and reason. He does not seem understand nor care about the costs of terror on the citizenry and the cost is mounting unfortunately. Perhaps, the time is ripe to police ourselves. We as citizens need to be more aware and vigilant. Vigilance is key in combating terrorism. As citizens, we should watch out for any person or persons wearing clothes with protruding bulges or exposed wires under clothing, people or cars emitting strange chemical odors, be on the alert and observe any person murmuring as if saying a prayer in crowded places, or anyone who pushes to gain a position amid a crowd or near an important person. Suicide bombers often do not maintain eye contact, they sweat profusely, exhibit excessive hand movements, bite their nails and chew the inside of the mouth.

These are signs you must look for in people as you frequent densely populated public places. Be alert and be aware of your surroundings. Citizen action can help prevent attacks from happening. We must begin to protect ourselves since nothing agitates this president except the 2015 elections. I urge you to do your part in saving Nigeria. Those who have worked in conflict zones believe we will hit rock bottom before we can have sanity in this land. Unfortunately, rock bottom is the pits of hell littered with human remains! Goodluck Nigeria!

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This article was posted with permission from Premium Times Newspapers

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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