Magazine article New African

Nigeria Yet Another Season of Travails: The Incessant Terrorist Attacks, as Well as the Continuing Crisis of Confidence in the Upper Chambers of the Judiciary, Are among the Serious Problems President Goodluck Jonathan's Government Remains Confronted with, Writes Our Associate Editor, Osasu Obayiuwana from Lagos

Magazine article New African

Nigeria Yet Another Season of Travails: The Incessant Terrorist Attacks, as Well as the Continuing Crisis of Confidence in the Upper Chambers of the Judiciary, Are among the Serious Problems President Goodluck Jonathan's Government Remains Confronted with, Writes Our Associate Editor, Osasu Obayiuwana from Lagos

Article excerpt

The 4 November deadly attacks which claimed the lives of 53 people - 17 security agents and 36 civilians, according to the Yobe State police chief, Sulemon Usman, is a telling indication of how determined the Islamist sect - Boko Haram - which claimed responsibility, is to cause great difficulties to President Goodluck Jonathan's young government.

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So strong was the recent attack in Damaturu, the capital of the north-eastern state of Yobe, that it not only claimed lives, but destroyed buildings, which included the police headquarters, an anti-terrorist squad base, a bank and several churches. President Jonathan, forced to cancel a personal trip to his home state of Bayelsa as a result of the attack--where he was supposed to attend his younger brother's wedding--continues to promise that those behind the loss of innocent lives will be unmasked, whilst sterner measures will be taken to prevent terrorism from escalating.

But the capacity of the security services to successfully confront this evil is a matter of great worry to Nigeria's citizens, who are on the receiving end of these deadly attacks.

The latest onslaught comes on the heels of an attack in which Hafiz Ringim, Nigeria's police chief, narrowly escaped death from a suicide bomber (see NA August/ September), and the bombing of the UN's building in Abuja last August, the first attack on an international organisation on Nigerian soil, in which 18 people lost their lives.

After a meeting of the National Council of State, which includes the incumbent president and the previous civilian and ex-military heads of state still living, General Andrew Azazi, the National Security Adviser to President Jonathan, admitted that Nigeria's current infrastructure was ill-equipped to deal with the new threat confronting the country.

"The problem is that we were not, as a nation, prepared for this new level of terrorism. The buildings we have and the public facilities we have are not prepared [for it], so when these things happen (like the bombing of the UN building), there is a lot of devastation," Azazi said.

We are talking of putting together a strategy for the protection of critical national infrastructure ... We are talking of public enlightenment, to make Nigerians aware of the challenges, because the security challenges are here to stay."

With Nigerians used to seeing public officers promising much and delivering nothing, it remains to be seen whether the government will seek the right kind of international expertise, which it clearly needs, in order to effectively tackle a clear and present danger that it could well do without. But the security services could also make a good start by ensuring that its own members eschew criminal acts.

When Michael Obi, the father of English Premiership footballer John Mikel Obi, who plays for Chelsea, was rescued from kidnappers, a statement released by the police in a national newspaper revealed that two soldiers, supposed to be members of an anti-crime task force, had been arrested and were being prosecuted for their suspected role in the kidnapping. That hardly inspires public confidence in their capacity to deal with the bigger monster of international terrorism on its shores.

Trouble at the bench

But President Jonathan's troubles don't end there. Enter the judiciary! Of the three arms of Nigeria's government, the judiciary was the sole branch that commanded a modicum of respect from the country's sceptical population, which has, with very good reason, little faith in the integrity and efficacy of its public institutions.

But whatever respect the public had for the enforcers of the law has certainly been diminished by the ongoing controversy that continues to stain the reputation of judges and puts into serious doubt the ability of the country's National Judicial Council (NJC) to effectively police the conduct of those sworn to uphold justice. …

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