Last week, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, insisted that the terror group, Boko Haram, are now resorting to attacks on “soft targets” because they have suffered defeat in the hands of the security forces. Mohammed, who spoke at a meeting with the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, Thursday, in Lagos, said: “The truth, which will rankle some people, is that Boko Haram is today badly degraded and can only carry out cowardly attacks like the one against defenceless farmers.”
Speaking further he added: “No nation, no matter how powerful, is immune to attacks on soft targets. 9-11 happened despite the prowess of the most powerful army in the world. Boko Haram’s only oxygen today is publicity. That’s why they have rushed to release a video claiming responsibility for the killing of the farmers.
“Please note that that video was shared to instil fear in the civil populace and maintain relevance in the eyes of their sponsors. There is no truth to the reason for their action.” Unfortunately what the minister failed to point out is the fact that while the 9/11 attacks did actually catch the world’s mightiest military nation unawares, however, unlike Nigeria since then there has not been another major attack on the United States’ soil.
Why? Because in the immediate aftermath of the attack by Al-Qaeda terrorists in which almost 3,000 souls lost their lives, it jolted the US into soul searching to find out why Osama bin Laden was able to plan and successfully carry out such an audacious operation. Immediately after the attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started PENTTBOM, the largest criminal inquiry in the history of the United States.
At its height, more than half of the FBI’s agents worked on the investigation and followed a half-million leads. The FBI concluded that there was “clear and irrefutable” evidence linking al-Qaeda and bin Laden to the attacks. Within hours of the attacks, the FBI released the names and in many cases the personal details of the suspected pilots and hijackers.
On September 27, 2001, they released photos of all 19 hijackers, along with information about possible nationalities and aliases. Fifteen of the men were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon.
By midday, the U.S. National Security Agency and German intelligence agencies had intercepted communications pointing to Osama bin Laden as the main culprit. But they did not stop there; the Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted an internal review of the agency’s pre-9/11 performance and was harshly critical of senior CIA officials for not doing everything possible to confront terrorism.
He criticized their failure to stop two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, as they entered the United States and their failure to share information on the two men with the FBI. Elected members of the Congress did not keep quiet as if it was only the problem for the executive branch of government, in February 2002, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence formed a joint inquiry into the performance of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
Their 832-page report released in December 2002 detailed failings of the FBI and CIA to use available information, including about terrorists the CIA knew were in the United States, in order to disrupt the plots.
The executive branch, then headed by President George Bush, equally set up the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), chaired by Thomas Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, in late 2002 to prepare a thorough account of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. On July 22, 2004, the Commission issued the 9/11 Commission Report.
The report detailed the events of 9/11, found the attacks were carried out by members of al-Qaeda, and examined how security and intelligence agencies were inadequately coordinated to prevent the attacks.
The commissioners explained: “We believe the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management”. In May 2007, senators from both major U.S. political parties drafted legislation to make the 9/11 review public. One of the backers, Senator Ron Wyden said: “The American people have a right to know what the Central Intelligence Agency was doing in those critical months before 9/11.” And one of the immediate fallouts of the attack was the setting up of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on November 25, 2002, which was responsible for public security.
Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, and disaster prevention and management. With more than 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest cabinet department of the US government and along with tweaks to better information sharing amongst other security outfits, has largely lived up to its mandate. Sadly back home in Nigeria because we see most things through the prism of ethnicity and religion it has largely prevented us from taking dispassionate views of our failings in order to avoid future repeat occurrences.
So rather than sitting down to bring all the concerned stakeholders together to review incidents with a view to avoiding repeats, we busy ourselves trying to defend them because they are from our part of the country or calling for their heads if they are not.
Which is why what happened on the night of February 14-15, 2014 when 276 Chibok schoolgirls were kidnapped, repeated itself four years later when 110 schoolgirls at the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College in Dapchi, in Yobe State were taken and again last week when 333 boys of Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State suffered the same fate (although happily the boys have all been released).
Incidentally the modus operandi in all three cases was the same – the abductors operated in large numbers under the cover of darkness; and yet we never learnt from the first abduction. There have also been many other incidences of mass killings and abductions without those in charge of securing lives and properties of the citizens being able to get a lid on the situation which is spiralling out of control on a daily basis.
Yes, while it is true that the regular bombings in the nation’s capital, Abuja have largely become a thing of the past, it has been replaced with other unwanted acts like kidnappings, murder and robberies. One can only wish that those in charge can take a cue from the US and decide we cannot continue like this and the legislative, executive and security agencies all sit down and come up with a plan that will drastically reduce the carnage across the land.
After all, the average Nigerian does not give a hoot about who is occupying what in the country as long as he or she is able to go about their daily businesses in a secure environment; while when they finally go to bed they will be able to do so with their two eyes closed snug in the knowledge that they have their ‘guardian angels’ taking care of their safety – be they Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba!