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The Kuje attack and Nigeria’s crumbling security architecture

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Three attacks, the ambush of presidential convoy heading for Daura, killing of Police Area Commander and coordinated deadly raid by terrorists on Kuje Medium Correctional Custodian facility in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which claimed some lives, same day, have further exposed the vulnerability of Nigeria’s security architecture and the urgent need for its total overhaul by President Muhammadu Buhari in order to safeguard lives and property in the country.

Nigerians were yet to overcome the shockwaves from the unfortunate daylight attacks by suspected bandits in Katsina state before the invasion of the Kuje Prison by fighters of the Islamic State for West African Province, ISWAP with the sole mission of getting freedom for their incarcerated conspirators which they accomplished with amazing precision and success.

During the daring attack on the facility Tuesday night, according to reports, no fewer than 879 inmates, including at least 69 inmates who had terror-related charges on their necks were set free. But over 400 escapees were later recaptured by security agencies while a manhunt for the others especially the terror suspects had been launched.

Regrettably, like we argued in our previous editorial on the nation’s rising security challenges which appeared to be getting out of hand, the time is apt for the National and States Assemblies to immediately begin the process of amending the relevant sections of 1999 Constitution with a view to giving legal backing for the creation of State Police to beef up security nationwide and stop incessant killing of Nigerians by criminals  following the glaring failure of the existing Federal Policing system to safeguard lives and property which is the primary responsibility of government.

Sadly too, we recall  that before the latest offensive by the terrorists, Nigerians were yet to recover from the massacre of over 40 worshippers at Saint Francis Catholic Church Owo, Ondo state and the killing of dozens of security operatives including at least 34 soldiers, eight mobile policemen and six locals near a mining site in Shiroro, Niger state.

While mourning our fallen heroes, we demand that no stone should be left unturned in bringing the murderers to justice even as the security agencies are further challenged to apprehend the masterminds of the Kuje attack, killers of ACP Umar as well as  the freed inmates.

But we note with serious concern the audacity of terrorists  to take on their soft and hard targets with accuracy and tremendous success without decisive and commensurate response from our security forces, a situation that alludes to insiders’ involvement in both Katsina, Kuje attacks and what appears to be lack of will by the military high command to make the terrorists pay dearly for their crimes against humanity and serve as deterrent.

While confirming the ambush of the presidential escort, senior special assistant to the President, media & publicity, Garba Shehu in a terse statement described it as “sad and unwelcome, the shooting incident near Dutsinma, Katsina State, at the convoy of cars carrying the Advance Team of security guards, protocol and media officers ahead of the President, Muhammadu Buhari’s trip to Daura for Sallah”.

According to him, the “attackers opened fire on the convoy from ambush positions but were repelled by the military, police and DSS personnel accompanying the convoy” while “two persons in the convoy are receiving treatment for the minor injuries they suffered” adding that “all the other personnel, staff and vehicles made it safely to Daura,” the President’s home town.

Curiously, no further details of the tragic encounter were made public just as another set of daring bandits reportedly ambushed and killed Aminu Umar, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and Area Commander in charge of Dutsinma, Katsina State Police Command, and a yet to be identified officer in Zakka forest, Safana Local Government Area. The ACP and his team were said to be on clearance operation against suspected terrorists in Zakka forest following a tip off.

In a dramatic fashion and perhaps emboldened by their soaring feat, the Islamic State West African Province, ISWAP, promptly claimed responsibility for the attack on Kuje Prison which consumed at least eight lives, in a 30-second video showing the gunmen setting ablaze vehicles parked in the facility where they  reportedly operated for over two hours unchallenged by security agencies while the  incident sparked panic in Kuje, a satellite town and apprehension in Abuja.

Expectedly, the unprecedented attack on the hard target elicited immediate outrage and condemnations from several quarters with President Buhari visiting the facility where he expressed utter disappointment for the woeful failure of the intelligence community in averting the tragedy of a nation before proceeding to Senegal for a summit.

Lamenting the jail break, he declared “I am disappointed with the intelligence system. How can terrorists organize, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?” In a surprise move, after demanding a comprehensive report on the incident no sanction was pronounced on any government official or security officers for the major security breach by the Commander-in-chief.

We demand a full investigation into the Kuje jail break and its outcome made public for necessary punishment to be handed down to those who might have through act of omission and negligence facilitated the incident. It must not be treated with kid gloves as had been the cases of over 12 attacks and jailbreaks that occurred in the last five years in which no fewer than 3,500 inmates and hardened criminals have escaped.

The keen interest shown by Nigerians and some foreign missions on the Kuje attack particularly members of the public and the leadership of the National Assembly led by Senate President Ahmed Lawan who promptly visited the facility and discovered that it has no functional close circuit television, CCTV expected of such facility is welcome.

Not surprising however, the United States Embassy and United Kingdom in separate reactions promptly warned their citizens in Nigeria against traveling on the airport road in Abuja and 19 states among them Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

Similarly, moments after the dastardly incident, facts had emerged that contrary to the President’s lamentation over possible failure of intelligence, the security forces had an avalanche of information on possible attack on the facility long before the raid by the terrorists.

Mallam Tukur Mamu, the Dan-Iyan Fika and Media Consultant to Sheikh Abubakar Gumi in debunking the indictment on the intelligence community moments after the invasion, insisted that he shared intelligence on the matter with the National Assembly, Presidency and security chiefs before the latest attack, adding that the terrorist group that attacked the prison is the same that bombed the Abuja Kaduna train in March this year.

An apparently angry Mamu, the mediator between the federal government and the group who had demanded for the release of its commanders held at Kuje Prison in exchange for freedom for the remaining hostages of the train attack declared:

“And even on the tendency and threat to attack targets and other facilities of interest like the Kuje Correctional Centre, I have shared that intelligence with the security agencies and the committee that was constituted by the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Gen. Lucky Irabor.

“I can confirm without doubt that the Kuje Correctional Centre attack was executed and coordinated by the same group that attacked the Abuja-Kaduna bound train, because they gave indications of imminent attacks to that effect which I shared.

“For the records, they requested for the release of 51 of their members. But through power of dialogue and engagement I was able to singlehandedly scaled that number to only 10 and communicated with audio backing the development to the relevant authorities”, he alleged.

In other words both Mr. President and the security chiefs were fully avail of the plot for the premeditated attack and clearly not taken adequate preventive measures for undisclosed reasons to avert it thereby putting the lives of inmates including two former governors and DCP Abba Kyari at high risk.

Consequently, the Federal Government failed woefully in its primary duty of protecting the lives and property of citizens which in our view is very unfortunate and disappointing. The President should as a matter of national emergency initiate an executive bill for necessary alterations to the 1999 Constitution as amended for the creation of State Police as this would no doubt go a long way in addressing the increasing spate of killings and kidnappings across the country.

“It is regrettable that at a time most citizens are confronted with daunting socio-economic difficulties, Nigeria has become a massive killing field with our crumbling security architecture unable to rise up to the challenge, halt the massacre, and secure lives and property. We, therefore, demand drastic and urgent measures by  the federal government to stop the killings threatening the already weak foundation of our collective existence and fragile unity even if that is the only legacy that the outgoing All Progressives Congress, APC-led administration can bequeath for its successor next year. The starting point should be an immediate amendment of the Constitution to place security on the Concurrent and not Legislative List.



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