EDO STATE: THE HEARTBEAT OF THE NATION OR TERRORIST DEN - SECURITY EXPERTS SUGGEST SOLUTIONS
Traversing through the erstwhile heartbeat of the nation to the Southern States, travellers enjoyed the scenery as they excitedly looked to outdo each other in the fresh products from the farm. The expressway was never devoid of activities as farmers gleefully displayed their products ranging from drinks and bush meats to plantains and others. It was indeed a much-anticipated period for
both buyers and sellers alike.
Alas! These good old days are gone with the wind. For any traveller bold enough to even attempt travelling by road, such a stop today would tragically either end in "a vacation in the terrorist's enclaves", death for being unable to meet ransom demands, or surviving the traumatic moments to tell the tale.
The recent abduction of scores of passengers awaiting boarding from Igueben Train Station on 7 January 2023 has further brought to the fore the aggravating consequences of Nigerian insecurity situation, begging the question "has the nation's heartbeat suddenly become the terrorist's den"? The present deteriorating security situation in Edo has left residents and visitors in a state of quagmire as to the location of the next attack or who the next victim would be if even neither government officials nor legal luminaries are spared.
Recall that the Edo State Police Command had raised an alarm that terrorist groups suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are meeting in different parts of the State to spread their secessionist ambition across the state. Given the antecedents of the group in human carnage, arson, abductions and wanton destruction of properties across the South-Eastern States, then this alarm should not be treated with kid's gloves.
The alarm of the possible invasion of the State by suspected IPOB terrorists was released by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operation Restore Peace in South-South region, Moses Jitoboh in his statement on Wednesday, 2 June 2021 during the launch of the operation in Benin City. However, till date, inspite of the State government's efforts in curbing the situation, the security challenge seems to have been exacerbated.
The recent abduction of a member of the Edo State House of Assembly on Monday, 9 January 2023 in Ubiaja while on his way from Orhionmwon to Benin City makes the people wonder who can be spared in the Nation's deplorable security situation.
Read also NOTABLE POLITICIAN ABDUCTED IN EDO STATE
Against the backdrop of Edo being an erstwhile peaceful state, analysts are worried that this unprecedented increase in abductions within the State in particular, and the Country in general has defied the narrative that the present security architecture of the Nation can protect the citizens and property entrusted to the care of its leadership.
Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, it is worthy, however, to commend our gallant troops who are working tirelessly to rescue the current victims; while encouraging them to restrategize to nib-in-the-bud these ugly situations.
As ransom payments continue to be the primary means that relatives and acquaintances of loved ones embark on to rescue victims, analysts opine that this trend may become outdated with the current economic gloom, with these terrorists getting more violent if the tempo is not sustained.
Security experts, therefore, encourage that all hands should be on deck to exterminate this ugly trend from the grassroots, lest it spirals out of control beyond what the nation can manage.
More worrisome is the inability of the Nigerian government to use technology to unearth terrorism financing which still thrives despite the establishment of the Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit.
Despite the 12 Super Tucano aircraft that Nigerian government bought from the US government which the air force recently inducted into its air fleet; more arms and ammunition have also been similarly procured. However, a lot more still needs to be done in the area of actionable intelligence gathering, processing and implementation.
SECURITY EXPERTS RECOMMEND SOLUTIONS
The policy solutions for the security challenges plaguing the states of Nigeria must be multipronged and include:
>BETTER SUPPORTED BORDER SECURITY AND STAMPING DOWN ON CORRUPTION: The federal government must collaborate with state governments to address the immediate challenge of border porosity. Concerted efforts to recruit, train, and post adequately equipped customs and immigration personnel within the states facing security challenges can boost surveillance and stem the tide of the free flow of arms into the states. Moreover, addressing corruption here is pivotal, because border patrol is a major racket for security forces and government officials. The ongoing military response must also be sustained through strategic coordination with the counterterrorism unit of the Nigerian police force, while the recent introduction of drone surveillance and anti-banditry bombardment must also be maintained.
>IMPROVED LAW ENFORCEMENT: The federal government must prioritize law enforcement solutions in tackling rising insecurity within the states. Policing is critical to intelligence gathering in identifying and tracking the cells of criminal groups in the states and aiding community response to insecurity.
>COLLABORATION WITH NEIGHBORHOOD COUNTRIES: Another effort toward border security is the creation of a bilateral joint task force between Nigeria and Niger to serve as a trans-border security force resourced and managed through the immigration and customs services of both countries. The joint task force should be matched with immediate and precise action to prevent wide-scale terrorist and bandit movements across borders.
>STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS IN HUMAN AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT: Such investments can work to solve the long-term, underlying challenges created by poor governance and deepening poverty that feeds such insecurity.
>CONCERTED LOCAL ENGAGEMENT: The federal and state governments must collaborate with established religious and traditional institutions to build community resilience against terrorism.
>LOCAL SECURITY GOVERNANCE:
Communities should be encouraged to set up Community Safety Groups / Neighborhood Watch Groups. Community members know their communities better than the security agencies. They need to take an interest and connect with security organisations. There needs to be support and protection for the communities that are supporting the security agencies.