Sunday, 17 July 2016

Clearing Lagos, Ogun of murderous militants

.It is no longer contestable that insecurity is high on the list of crises plaguing Nigeria presently. It has rendered many communities, including hitherto safe ones, vulnerable to attacks from criminal gangs, terrorists and militants. In the past few weeks, Niger Delta militants have taken advantage of the loophole in the security system to spread their nefarious activities to Lagos and Ogun communities, maiming, raping, kidnapping and killing scores of people.

In a deadly attack on Ikorodu villages in Lagos, suspected militants killed between 20 and 50 people. The Nigerian government should do its primary duty and protect lives and property of citizens.

The tears of the victims are still fresh. Media reports state that attacks on Totowu, Imoshe, Ishefun, Igando and other coastal communities in Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State and Alimoso LGA of Lagos by petroleum pipeline vandals and armed robbers, have caused thousands of residents to desert their homes and business premises. Worse, some vandals, claiming to be Niger Delta militants, have vowed to sack more communities until their detained members are released. This is a direct challenge to the state. It’s an aberration. We believe that no serious government will continue to tolerate a parallel government within its territory.

In Ikorodu, the militants reportedly beheaded a commercial motorcyclist during their savage attacks on 18 villages, including Elepete, Ajegunle, Ereko, Igbo Olomu and Magbon. The militants, on the pretext of demanding the corpses of their colleagues killed by security agents, opened fire on vigilantes in Ola Imam. A survivor recounted, “I was just driving in without knowing what was happening. But at a point, I saw a motorcyclist on the ground in a pool of blood. He was dead. I continued. Suddenly, I saw a group of men with guns. They opened fire on me and followed me with gunshots.”

This depicts the failure of Nigeria’s centralised security architecture, in which the police are far removed from local crime scenes.

In Arepo, Ibafo and Mowe, in Obafemi-Owode LGA of Ogun State, the activities of the militants have become a nightmare for residents. Entering through the waterways at Ibafo and Arepo, they rape, rob, collect ransom and kill with impunity. In Ibafo, daring and well-armed militants engaged police and Nigerian Army troops in a gun duel in broad daylight during the visit of Yetunde Onanuga, the deputy governor of the state, to assess the damage done to petroleum pipelines.

The government should no longer toy with this trend of violence in these communities. Although the acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has deployed the Tactical Operations Unit, comprising the Police Mobile Force, Counter-terrorism Unit and Air Surveillance Team to Arepo and Ibafo, the measure is not working. Militants are still ruling the roost despite the deployment. The security teams are obviously not doing much to rein in the brutal criminals. Real, sustained action is needed to recover these places from these hoodlums.

Yet, this is not a new security quagmire. Militants moonlighting as robbers and kidnappers, have terrorised several Lagos and Ogun communities for a long time. But having gained the upper hand in their contest with the security agents in the Niger Delta, where they have resorted to bombing oil and gas installations again after a brief lull, they have fanned out to Lagos and Ogun. Though the state authorities noticed the pattern, they did nothing concrete to quickly curb the militancy.

As a result, about 100 gunmen suspected to be militants confidently laid siege to Fatoki community in Igando, Lagos State, last week, in a three-day rampage. They started by kidnapping and later, graduated to other serious crimes. Similarly in Fakale, Sagamu, Ogun State, local gangsters celebrating their first anniversary on July 7, killed 11 people. The simple truth is that most Nigerian communities are defenceless, as the government lacks a coherent strategy to confront criminals.

Even the security agents are sometimes easy prey. According to media reports, nine Department of State Services officers are still missing after they were attacked by pipeline vandals in Arepo in 2015. Suspected militants kidnapped three female pupils of Babington Secondary School in Ikorodu last February, though they were later rescued. The government needs to urgently respond to this emergency in Lagos and Ogun states. Criminals will always try to supplant the state, but a state that is alive to its responsibilities will beat them to a retreat. The April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in the United States is a classic case of state efficiency. Within hours of its occurrence, the police, after locking down the area, had arrested one of the suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, while the other suspect died during the hunt.

But for now, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has not demonstrated the urgency, or devised the strategy needed to deal with the militants. The present security arrangement needs urgent tinkering, starting with a massive redeployment of security agents who are conversant with operations in the creeks. The local communities should be recruited for intelligence, and state agents should stop the extrajudicial killings that have turned them into objects of hate. The government should initiate a comprehensive training programme for security agents to school them in the art and science of counter-insurgency.

Too many communities are awash with tears now; there must be a government plan to deploy more security personnel there before a total breakdown of law and order occurs. The key to success is intelligence, an area where the police and the DSS have failed so far. The IG should withdraw the officers posted to secure wealthy individuals and send them to the field. Also, the IG should map out a plan to drastically reduce the number of small arms in the society.

Nigeria is under security threat from several fronts: the Boko Haram Islamic terror in the North-East; murderous Fulani herdsmen in the South; Niger Delta militants bombing oil infrastructure, kidnapping and killing in the South-South zone are signs of a failing state. Therefore, we urge Buhari and his security chiefs to roll up their sleeves and get down to the task of securing the troubled communities in Lagos and Ogun states.




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