IT is doubtful that many people attached great importance to the startling revelation recently made by the military authorities that fleeing Boko Haram terrorists had infiltrated parts of the South-West. Perhaps what caught the attention of most people was the security alert issued by the United States on the possibility of terror attacks on foreigners domiciled in Lagos. However, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, General Isidore Edet had, at a church service marking the Army Day celebration at Saint Charles Catholic Church, Ikeja Cantonment, sounded a note of warning on Boko Haram fighters seeking refuge in Yorubaland. According to him, it was becoming a daily routine for security operatives to apprehend suspected Boko Haram members in Lagos and Ogun states, following sustained military operation against the terrorists.
General Isidore said: “Almost on a daily basis, we arrest Boko Haram members in Lagos. They have seen that the war is being won, so they are running. The army, in conjunction with other security agencies, arrests them almost daily. Initially, they deny when we ask them questions. But when we profile them, they start revealing where they fought, how they killed soldiers, how they detonated bombs in Maiduguri, and so on. ”
While we commend the gallantry and vigilance of the Nigerian military and other security agencies against the invidious activities of the terrorists, we warn that the incursion of the killer sect into Ogun and Lagos states cannot be handled with levity. Rather, the threat demands the concerted efforts and collaboration of the civil populace and security operatives, to stave off possible catastrophe. The magnitude of the damage done by Boko Haram to the North-East and indeed the nation is too grave to treat the latest incursion of the blood-thirsty sect with levity. The South-West, being the industrial and commercial hub of the country, deserves a comprehensive security apparatus in all its nooks and crannies. On their part, state and local governments should, as a matter of urgency, step up campaigns aimed at achieving improved public awareness on security.
In August last year, the State Security Service (SSS) confirmed the arrest of nine suspected Boko Haram terrorists in Lagos. In October 2014, there were reports that no fewer than 1,000 fleeing Boko Haram fighters were arrested, also in Lagos. The third round of arrests took place in the densely populated Ijora, where security operatives apprehended two suspected terrorists and recovered arms, including AK 47 rifles and explosives, in a building on Aromire Street. A bomb kept in a cooler and hidden inside the ceiling of one of the rooms occupied by one of the suspects was recovered by soldiers. Sadly, however, not much has been heard concerning all the arrests till date.
Certain factors make the South-West vulnerable to the activities of social deviants, chief of which is the rising decline in the productive sector where many were hitherto gainfully employed. There is the daily influx of other Nigerians and non-Nigerians to the region because of the perceived ample economic opportunities, leading to a dense population and the attendant crime wave. Regrettably, lack of foresight and planning by government and property owners is underscored by little or no documentation and database on the movement of the citizenry.
We commend the authorities for the wake-up call on the people to gird their loins and do the needful, as eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty. While the authorities begin to think outside the box on how to improve security at the country’s porous land borders and waterways, the citizenry should see it as a bounden duty to provide useful information to the security agencies about any suspicious movement by strangers. Property owners must insist on proper documentation of prospective tenants with the cooperation of appropriate government agencies.
In addition, neighbourhood vigilance groups should be more alive to their responsibilities. The authorities must guard against a repeat of the recent attacks on some communities in Lagos and Ogun states by suspected militants from the Niger Delta which led to the killing of hapless citizens. The South-West must and should not be allowed to be turned into another theatre of a senseless war.