New Telegraph

February 29, 2024

Intelligence gathering is key in tackling insecurity

Let me quickly admit that I am not a security expert, neither have I taken courses in the subject. But I have read enough materials (including novels, magazines, literature and research) to be able to come up with the above headline for my article this weekend. Like I have pointed out in some of my previous write-ups, let me again make it abundantly clear that there is no country in the world where there is zero crime. Even the more advanced nations of the world like the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia and others are all battling one form of criminality or the other.

For instance, despite all the billions of dollars and all the high tech gadgetry invested into making American citizens safe, ‘Uncle Sam’ still suffers from repeated mass shootings. But as cruel as this may sound, this is to be expected because of the refusal of the powers that be to legislate and come up with tougher gun laws – primarily due to the antics of the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) – one of the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the US.

It relies on, and staunchly defends, a disputed interpretation of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which it argues gives US citizens the right to bear arms without any government oversight. For them, this supersedes any other thing, including the repeated mass killings, which are heart rendering, especially when it involves young lives snuffed out in schools!

The December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting immediately springs to mind. On this day in Newtown, Connecticut, United States, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old, and six adult staff members.

Earlier that day, before driving to the school, he shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived at the school, Lanza committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Although the incident was the deadliest mass shooting at an elementary school in US history, and the fourth-deadliest mass shooting overall and brought tears to the eyes of then President Barack Obama – it still wasn’t enough to jolt the NRA into shifting ground in any way.

Conversely, I must also quickly point out that all these repeated mass shootings are mostly carried out by lone wolves, who are virtually impossible for law enforcement to track down and stop from carrying out their dastardly acts because it is just humanely impossible to get inside every person’s head to find out who the next mass shooter would be.

However, this is not the case here in Nigeria in which, if eye witness reports are to be believed, the non-state actors often arrive at schools in their hundreds and on motorcycles; round up as many victims as they possibly can and then zoom off without any resistance from government security personnel! While the bandits that hijack people from their cars and buses along the highways or those that visit houses in the night (now even in broad daylight) or ‘obtain’ people along the road can be placed in the same category as the ‘lone wolves’ the same cannot be said of the mass number that visit schools. And herein exposes the underbelly of our security operation across the country, especially since it has now become a ‘modus operandi’ of non-state actors.

It is very disheartening and sad that seven years after the first mass abduction of students in the country, with the audacious seizure of 279 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in Borno State, rather than abating it has now become a booming business predominantly because our security agencies have failed to learn from it. Hundreds of students have been seized by gangs of so-called bandits in at least five separate incidents in northern Nigeria since late last year with the security agencies no closer to apprehending the culprits or even solving the cases. And it is this failure to deal decisively with the perpetrators of the heinous kidnappings that has allowed it to not only fester, but also spread to other parts of the country.

On September 11, 2001 one of the greatest failings of the US security agencies was exposed when al-Qaeda successfully carried out the first ever mass attacks on American soil when they used hijacked planes to bring down the iconic World Trade Centre towers in New York leaving almost 3,000 people dead. But rather than pass the buck, a non-partisan committee was set up to look into how it was able to happen, and they came up with its recommendations, which the American security agencies embraced.

Since then, there has not been another mass attack on American soil. A decade later, the alleged mastermind of the assault, Osama bin Laden was finally tracked down in Abbottabad, a mediumsized city near Islamabad, Pakistan and taken out by US Special Forces. The strike has meant that since then, not much has been heard of the terror group or the man who replaced bin Laden as its head, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Herein lies the major difference between the two nations while the US is ready to learn from its setbacks; it’s like the world’s most populous black nation learns nothing. In ensuring the decimation of the al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including Islamic State (whose founder, Abū Muṣʻab Zarqāwī was killed in a US airstrike on June 7, 2006), the US relied heavily on intelligence, which is clearly in short supply here in Nigeria.

If it was not, our military would not have been repeatedly telling the world that they had killed Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau without providing a shred of evidence only for the ‘dead man’ (no pun meant for the Undertaker of WWE fame) to ‘resurrect’ and mock them in fresh videos. Good intelligence has also helped the US domestic crime fighting agencies, notably the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to take the battle to the ‘bad guys’ , taking them out of the equation before they can do any major damage to the society.

Incidentally Nigeria also has a number of intelligence agencies including the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Nigeria Police, Military Intelligence and the Department of State Services (DSS) amongst others and yet between them, they have not been able to come up with the names of the masterminds behind many of these mass school abductions, or bring anyone of note to book. It is thus crystal clear that until these vital components rise to the challenge, Nigeria will not be able to checkmate the activities of non-state actors and return the nation to some semblance of peace and tranquillity.

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