A lone suicide bomber attacked the office of the ThisDay newspaper office located in Jabi, Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday, April 26, 2012. The reconstruction of the entire scenario indicated that the main purpose of the attacker was to demobilize the media house from production. Hence, the lone suicide bomber operating with an Izuzu Jeep targeted the printing machine and the production room. It was not clear if the mission of the operation was to kill as many people as possible like we witnessed during the United Nations Building attack on August 26, 2011.
Of course, there have been some tremendous improvement but there are still some challenges in term of emergency response and mass awareness. The government must sensitize Nigerians that terrorists can attack anybody, anytime, and anywhere. There is a need to mobilize Nigerians to support the war against terrorism.
To the perpetrators of the recent attack, breaking all the barriers, including the messing up of intelligence network to launch another attack on the Abuja city was a major victory for the group. Of course, the attack is “symbolic” and sends messages that the dreaded group has all necessary infrastructures to attack anywhere and anytime. After all, the terrorists will only need to be lucky for once; but the government and its law enforcement agencies must be lucky all the time to prevent all attacks, which is not possible.
Terrorism is meant to hurt, not to destroy. Terrorism is preeminently political and symbolic. However, in recent times, the purpose of suicide terrorism has gone beyond the ordinary hurting, it has moved from demonstrative to a destructive terrorism like what we are witnessing with Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria.
Even though, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack; but judging from the modus of operandi, there is no doubt that the Boko Haram group might be responsible for the attack as usual. For the past three years, Boko Haram has been the driving force of domestic terrorism in Nigeria – moving hundreds of people through training camps in Northern Nigeria and providing the motivation, the money, and the management of national attacks. Boko Haram adopted suicide method in attacking high value targets because that is the only and viable option for the sect. The group claimed responsibility for the bombing of Nigerian Police Headquarters and the United Nations headquarters in Abuja using, the same techniques. Boko Haram [loosely translated as western education is sin] is responsible for dozens of shootings and attacks with improvised explosive devices, including suicides.
Terrorist chose suicide option when realizing that fighting a conventional war will surely lead to their defeat, therefore, suicide terrorism is the weapon of the weak against a strong opponent.
The Nigerian government must overhaul its emergency management system. It is unfortunate to note that it took more than two hours before the police and other law enforcement agencies arrived at the scene of the bombing attack despite the fact that the incident happened in the “heart” of Abuja metropolis.
As an eye witness, I waited for over one hour, making telephone calls to all relevant agencies. The officials of the Vehicle Inspection Office in Abuja arrived one hour later by ambulance, while the Fire Service officials arrived later. There was a victim who could have made it provided there was an early response from the rescue team. There is always a meeting point between counterterrorism and emergency management. The timing is very important and there is a need to enhance the response time and the rejuvenation of emergency agencies to respond on time to all occurrences is very crucial.
It is important to see some high level of coordination among all the agencies at the scene of the incidents. The normal practice is that the most senior officer on the ground takes the control of the command; while a spokesperson is chosen among the agencies on ground to brief the media.
Although, there is some improvement on the part of the police; they were very polite and courteous. However, the scene of the incident was too rowdy; the crowd control was poor; the media officials were confused on who to speak to; and the coordination among all the agencies were not in tandem with normal international standard.
Let us prepare for the next surprise in order to not be caught flat footed. There are challenges in term of our emergency response and there is a need to fix it as soon possible. We need to further strengthen our intelligence gathering capability; we should not relax until we are able to win the war against all the adversaries. The Nigerian public must be conscious of the fact that the Government cannot prevent all the attacks; the collaboration of the public in overcoming these challenges is crucial.