“On the AIT news yesterday evening 4th May 2012 by 8:00 pm, a telephone message to AIT from Boko Haram leaders promised to launch an attack within the next 78hrs in Abuja and Lagos respectively...”
The above message is an example of the story being circulated on the social media network in the last 24hrs. This is just one of the few messages you read about Boko Haram every day.
The recent Boko Haram attacks against some media houses and the killing of some Christian’s worshippers inside the Bayero University Campus, Kano have opened the gate of rumors. The tale of the next targets of Boko Haram sect in the series of bombing has been flying from lips to lips among the citizens. Nigerians are now living in fear, not only because of the threats alone but for lack of information and public guide from the government. There is a need for a National Terrorism Advisory System; a program similar to the United States Department of Homeland Security warning system, which will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs, and the private sector.
In the last one week, we have heard the rumor of Boko Haram’s purported plans to attack Lagos City, Ibadan Metropolis, and the latest is the University of Ilorin in Kwara State. There was another Hoax bomb threat at Banex Plaza in Abuja. The situation has gone bad that even students who did not prepare to sit for their examination invoke the threat of Boko Haram bombs on the authority to have the examination cancelled. Some of these stories are even comical in nature. One of such lies is the one on the Facebook recently; claiming four members of the Boko Haram sect who wanted to bomb the Winners Chapel Headquarters in Ota ran mad and started confessing before Bishop Oyedepo.
The most disturbing of all these is no inspiring information is coming from any agencies of the government assuring people of their safety and telling them about the credible threat and what to do when they are confronted with such a situation. Nigerians are already used to the occasional messages from the presidential spokesperson, saying “the government is on top of the situation and every citizen should be calm and go on with their normal duties.”
Nigeria is currently going through a challenging period of which the information dissemination to the citizens about the prevention of terrorism becomes very important. Therefore, the government needs to be more open and sincere in managing information than giving the opportunities for rumor mills to peddle rumors, which create fears and heighten tension.
We know that the government cannot prevent all the attacks all the time, but there is a need for a strong mitigation process as part of our preparedness and exposure reduction. Mitigation is a sustained action to reduce or eliminate risk to people and property from hazards (natural and man-made like terrorism) and their effect.
The Boko Haram has been using threats to create fear among the public, trying to convince citizens that the government is powerless, unpopular and lacks credibility to give directives and mobilize citizens against the terrorists. One way the government can reduce people’s vulnerabilities to terrorist incidents is to give them accurate and credible information as part of the mitigation process.
During the attack on the media houses in Kaduna, the citizens facilitated the arrest of one of the suspects. The lesson from this act is that the citizens can work with law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community to attack and defeat terrorism in Nigeria if they are properly mobilized, informed and inspired to act in support of the government.
Nigeria confronts a dangerous combination of known and unknown vulnerabilities, strong and rapidly expanding adversary capabilities, and a lack of comprehensive threat awareness. The Boko Haram, bombing activities is occurring every day on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication.
Nigeria as a nation faces domestic terrorist networks, organized criminal groups, individuals, and other corrupt political actors with varying combinations of technical sophistication and intent. Terrorist groups and their sympathizers have continually expressed interest in using terror, violence and fears to destabilize the entity called Nigeria under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan. Criminal elements continue to show growing sophistication in their technical capability and targeting churches, media houses, schools, and the Nigerian police
Therefore, the government should recognize that Nigerians share responsibility for the nation's security, and should always be aware of the heightened risk of terrorist attack in the country and what they should do. The citizens need to be informed or else some of them will resolve to self-help, which may further worsen the situation.
We need an agency that will be at the forefront of given a strategic direction as part of the concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within our country and reduce Nigeria’s vulnerability to terrorism
Oludare Ogunlana is a Security/Terrorism Analyst and President of the Global Alternative Agenda