#PENtagon: Taming the time bomb – By Jaafar Jaafar @jafsmohd
By the time you are going through this piece, chances are that killings, bombings or slaying are taking place in one of the states ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. The recurring carnage is becoming as certain as the earth revolution, which turns broad daylight into blinding darkness. Killing human beings is becoming easier than killing house gecko.
But what is the federal government doing to stop the terrorism that is slowly bringing businesses to their knees in the Northern part of the country? When will people in this part of the country live without fear, trepidation or dread?
When on March 13, 1996, Thomas Hamilton, a 43-year-old former Scout leader, shot dead 15 school children and their teacher at a primary school gymnasium in the Scottish town of Dunblane, the UK government went back to drawing board in order to forestall future recurrence.
A year after the Dunblane school killing, UK lawmakers passed a bill “banning the private ownership of ALL handguns in mainland Britain.” (emphasis mine). This decision was adjudged one of the stringent anti-gun laws in the world. And it paid off. Sixteen years after the incident, school shootings never occurred in the UK.
If the US government had imposed tough anti-gun laws, the mass shooting of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults wouldn’t, perhaps, have occurred. From 1998 to date, nearly 10 school massacres took place in the US.
But in one of the articles I wrote few months ago, I explained reasons the sale of fertilizer and associated chemicals should be regulated in Nigeria in order to make the improvisation of bombs difficult to the insurgents. Much as bombings continued, the article will remain evergreen. In view of its relevance to the current challenge, I will therefore quote extensively the relevant portions of the article.
When a former US top commander in Afghanistan Major General Jeffrey Schloesser succinctly said “IEDs are the biggest threat we face,” his two former colleagues, a former CIA sleuth Robert Morgan, and retired General James M. Dubik, gave the emerging threats of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) a more explosive description they so deserve. The IED, said Morgan, “has leveled the battlefield in favor of insurgent and terrorist groups,” while General Dubik said “explosive strategies—always an option for terrorists, insurgents and criminals—are becoming more sophisticated and prevalent.”
From the forgoing interrelated remarks, one can paint the theme of Nigeria’s current security challenge, mainly precipitated by Boko Haram’s IEDs. While the bomb-related deaths accounted for about 70 percent of America’s combat deaths in Iraq, Boko Haram’s bombs seem to account, in conservative estimate, for over 90 percent of deaths among the police, soldiers, immigration and Department of State Service (DSS) personnel. Equally disturbing, civilian deaths in Nigeria through Boko Haram bombs and guns are also taking a high rise.
Until the murderous debut of Boko Haram in 2009, bomb attacks, heretofore, came in trickles, and in wider succession. But when Boko Haram unleashed its reign of terror in torrent, previous incidents became naturally submerged in the ocean of our thoughts.
Instructively, the recent spate of terror has made — relatively trifling sorrows — the letter bomb that snuffed the life of the editor-in-chief of Newswatch Magazine Dele Giwa on October 19, 1986, the ‘bomb’ that killed Bagauda Kaltho of The News magazine on January 18, 1996, the May 31, 1995 Ilorin Stadium blast, the January 20, 1996 Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano explosion, the January 27, 2002 Ikeja Cantonment multiple blasts and a few others.
Apart from Boko Haram saga, it’s so heartrending that the nation’s other maladies are intractable and incurable. From power problem, infrastructural decay, security challenge, unemployment, corruption, down to poverty, Nigeria’s systemic ill-health appears to be terminally chronic. I hope this current wave of terror wouldn’t last long enough to join this stubborn league of predicaments that characterized Nigeria today.
While some advanced societies are trying to reduce crime rate through curtailing alchohol drinking binge particularly among youths, Nigeria seems to be at crossroad as to how to curtail the killing binge that becomes the order of the day. The UK government is systematically reducing drinking binge through imposing strict regulation and clampdown on speakeasies. Why can’t we do the other way round? I mean why can’t the government impose strict regulation on the sale of fertilizers — an easy source of ammonium nitrate used in making IEDs?
Since the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma and the frequent IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is taking proactive measures towards stemming the deadly warfare. American government has now pumped more than $20 billion into the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, which was used to develop heavy armored vehicles; 6,000 drones and robots used to detonate the devices and about 37,000 radio jammers to disrupt detonators. In addition to this, the government is devising a way of using bees and dogs in bomb detection strategy.
If subsidy funds can be reinvested efficiently, if corruption can be checked, if bogus overheads can be purged, nothing can prevent Nigeria from borrowing a leaf from the US. Since the IEDs are easy to improvise as the name implies, and our leaders cannot move Nigeria’s agricultural potentials beyond subsistent level, let us go ahead to regulate the sale of fertilizer. Although many Nigerians will bear the pang of starvation over the self-imposed crunch, yet sacrifice must be made for the nation to live in peace. Let the fertilizer be only sold to accredited farmers. Set an agency that will establish the amount needed in an acreage, track its movement, regulate its sale and usage so that any suspicious purchase or usage can be monitored.
Since the failure of the much celebrated General Obasanjo’s Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) in the late 70s, successive administrations unfortunately turned their focus on the oil field — a field where minted petrodollar sprouts without tilling, ridging, planting, watering, weeding and threshing. Petrodollars neither have chaffs nor shells! The end products of crude oil also produces petrodollar.
But much to my chagrin, fertilizer cannot be regulated in Nigeria. Our politicians cannot do it. Why? Fertilizer is a vital campaign tool that is used woo the locals’ votes. The inflow of fertilizers in a local community can determinate a politician’s electoral fortunes. I know with this proposition, not only Boko Haram will call for my neck but the politicians.
However, beneath the censure the terrorists deserve from both the government and the general public, the government needs to adopt anti-IED strategies from the developed societies by establishing such agency or agencies that will check the unregulated sale of fertilizer and related chemicals. Apart from establishing the agency, the need to reinforce the security agencies to confront terrorism head-on is also imperative.
I just hope somebody is reading.
– Jaafar Jaafar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Follow on twitter: @jafsmohd