Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Boko Haram: Urgency For Real-time Security Mapping, Early Warning Systems & Adequate Security For IDPs


Terrorists habitually bask on element of surprise, unpredictability, impressing mass casualty and the ensuing publicity. Albeit repeated claims by President Buhari and his handlers that Boko Haram has been ‘technically defeated’, home truth portend that the dreaded Sect has proved to be resilient and will remain a threat to national security in the foreseeable future.
This writer’s argument that Nigeria’s fight against terrorism and Boko haram insurgency will be for the long haul is premised on the fact that current campaign seemed slanted towards dealing with the miasma or symptoms of the disease as against eradicating the intrinsic causative agent(s) or factors fanning the embers of such societal malaise.

Boko Haram Persistent Attacks on IDP Camps, A Trend

Pushed back from swathes of territories it hitherto controlled and stifled of steady supply of sophisticated arms, logistics, and dwindling recruits, Boko Haram swiftly metamorphosed into launching sporadic attacks, effectively using underage children, teens to deploy IEDs on soft targets markets, public places amongst others. Lately, Boko Haram militants have managed to infiltrate some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps and killed scores due to what some argue, is traceable to prevailing lax security in such IDP camps, want of robust risk assessments and paucity of stringent security screening of occupiers, visitors.  Just as this writer was gathering his thoughts and materials for this essay, news filtered in on 25th February, 2016, that troops of the Nigerian Army foiled a repeat attack on Dikwa IDP cam, killing 26 insurgents. Recall that Boko Haram militants had earlier carried out a successful suicide bomb attack on this Dikwa IDP camp, killing about 58 people and injuring 78. Dikwa is 80km northeast of Maiduguri, Borno state. Before the Dikwa IDP camp bombing, a dastard bomb blast claimed 12 lives and injured scores at Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camp in Mallkohi, Yola, Adamawa state sometime in September 2015. In a similar vein, about four suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers were arrested at Yobe Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camp. From the foregoing, we can see a trend by Boko Haram to target IDPs camp.

Real-time Security mapping, Risk Assessment

This essay is aimed at advocating and sensitizing relevant Nigerian authorities on the exigency of a comprehensive real-time threat and attack map, deployment of Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) Systems across north-east Nigeria and provision of adequate security in and around Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs camps in Nigeria.  This comes against the backdrop of insinuations that displaced persons are been coaxed to return or that some of them are opting to return to their original abodes of their own volition. As recently as 24th February, 2016, a news report by the Voice of America (VOA) indicates that, ‘’Nigerian refugees who fled the Boko Haram insurgency into northern Cameroon are turning down calls by Cameroon and Nigerian authorities for them to return, saying they do not expect to find peace back home’’. According to the VOA report, one Umar Muhamed, a schoolteacher at the Minawao refugee camp, said he ‘’would not return until the Boko Haram terrorist group was completely crushed’’. Given that the security situation in North-East Nigeria is still fluid, there is an urgent need for security mapping, assessment of the entire north-east with a view to identifying probable risks, hotspots and urgent steps taken to ameliorate or better still, completely eradicate such threats. Common sense dictates that it is dangerous to ask IDPs to return to their erstwhile abodes until profound risk assessments are carried out to ascertain how safe they will be.

Need For Early Warning and Response Systems

To mitigate the impact of resurgent attacks by Boko haram, the Nigerian government and security agencies are hereby encouraged to in addition to intelligence gathering, implement comprehensive Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) Systems which will inter alia, monitor indicators of rising tensions, ensures persistent state of vigilance, readiness and actively engages communities near hotbeds of attacks. Such a system must encompass routine public enlightenment, awareness of risks, effective dissemination of warnings, alerts and prompt response to nip crises in the bud. This serves as a nudge to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) if it has not done so, to expedite its proposed ‘’ICT-based Early Warning Systems’’ which the agency promised to set up in Borno and other states in the north-east. Recall that one Dr. Daouda Toure, the UNDP resident Coordinator promised to set up this system sometime in 2015. In the light of this, it is imperative that the Nigerian government partners with the United States on these two initiatives by the later: (a) the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP) which is aimed at building the capacity of African militaries to rapidly deploy peacekeepers in response to emerging conflict, a concept that holds powerful life-saving potential, and (b) the United States full-spectrum Early Warning and Response Partnership (EWARP) which supports information sharing, conflict prevention and crisis management among West African states.

Security of IDP Camps in Nigeria

A popular axiom asserts that the primary responsibility of any responsible government is protection of lives and properties hence the Nigerian government both at state and federal levels must strive to ensure that Nigerians, Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) scattered across the country are not deprived of the ensuing fundamental human rights: right to personal liberty, life and security. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), other relevant government agencies and NGOs must work out adequate security, and improved living conditions in IDP camps. Those tasked with the responsibility of securing IDP camps in Nigeria must implement a ‘security-first’ strategy in line with global best practice. Recommended resources on how to secure or protect displaced persons camps include: the Global Protection Cluster Working Group’s ‘’Handbook for the protection of Internally Displaced Persons’’ and the UNHCR’s ‘’Handbook for Emergencies”.

We enjoin all Nigerians to be vigilant, resilient and unite against insecurity, criminality, terrorism and insurgency. No matter how long it takes, good will triumph over evil, light will triumph over darkness.

Written by:

Don Okereke


Follow Don on Twitter: @DonOkereke

February 2016