Security details should be punished for their failure

THE SUN Newspaper- Chioma Igbokwe

A security expert, Dr Ona Ekhomu, has called for the prosecution of the security officials who failed to avert the bomb that killed 12 people in Abuja during the nation’s 50th Independence anniversary celebration.
According to him, “they should be held responsible for the death of those Nigerians at the Eagles Square.”

Ekhomu said the punishment would serve as a deterrent to others, as the nation’s security details do not have any excuse to have failed, especially since there was information ahead of the blasts.
In this interview, he x-rayed the October 1 incident and said that the searchlight should be beamed towards those who want to use the tragedy for political gain.

The president earlier said that MEND has no hand in the bomb blasts despite the fact that the group claimed responsibility for them. What does that entail?
My feeling is that these are international terrorist attacks because it didn’t have any of the hallmarks of MEND, except the so-called claim of responsibility, which was done by email. Anybody could have generated it. Five days earlier, the US and British governments had warned that these attacks were imminent. If you had observed closely, during the golden jubilee celebration, no top US or British government official was there. They knew that it was going to happen.

What could have been done to avert that incident?
There was information that there was going to be a terrorist attack on that day. That should have put our security agencies on their toes and on extra alert. They should have done a wider cordon of Eagles Square. The cordon should have been 10 kilometers from the square. It should have been radial cordon, such that no fly would have even come in there unnoticed. And the security posture that day at the Eagles Square was slack. People were seen carrying bags and stuffs into the arena and they weren’t searched. So, anybody could have introduced the device into that venue and caused havoc. So, those were the things I saw. It was failure of intelligence basically.
Since there was credible intelligence that this thing was expected, it should have been taken seriously. We had 15 heads of state in attendance, which was a good reason to beef up security, and it wasn’t properly racketed up.

Are you passing a vote of no confidence in the Nigerian security system?
Am not passing a vote of no confidence in anyone. Intelligence does not act anyhow, because at the last minute the perpetrators could change their minds and it would appear as if it was a false alarm. When I was told, I didn’t believe that it was possible that such a thing could have happened, but it happened. The security agencies are fine and doing well. They just didn’t do enough. Somebody should be punished. There should be no impunity. Somebody should be punished; whoever was in charge of security that day at that location should be punished. It should be made clear that if he was given such a responsibility he failed to discharge it credibly and, therefore, face the music. Let this matter not be handled as other cases, by sweeping everything under the carpet.

Don’t you think that the lapses in security have to do with the sudden sack of security chiefs?
I should think that people who were relieved of various command duties got the treatment based on their command duties. Those new people appointed had responsibilities; that’s the way it works. There is no lame-duck period. I am not calling for the sack of IG or another person, for that matter. The fact remains that there is a commander, an officer who was given this responsibility. The Inspector General could be exonerated because he was with the president taking national salute. But there was a commander who was put there, who is not being punished today. It should be made public, so that others would learn. What of the intelligence report that was received from foreign intelligence services? Whose table did it drop on? That person should be held responsible for the death of those Nigerians.

In an occasion as important as the golden jubilee celebration, intelligence failed. That day was like a once-in-a-lifetime event and enough was not done. There were not enough policemen to forestall the incidence. That was total negligence. The job of the security was not the celebration but to ensure that there was no breach of security at the venue of the celebration. But in this case, the focus was shifted to the celebration. That is not the work of security.
The security was not there to enjoy the event. They were there to ensure that people who were present were safe and sound. That was their job. They ought to provide security for those who were invited for the event and not for merriment. So, I think the president should take another look at the security.

Does this mean we are not safe?
Bombings have been going on in the country, even though you didn’t hear about them. Armed robbers have been moving around with it. They use them when their guns, such as AK 47, fail to perform. They detonate it and throw them at their target. So, bombings have been going on. Politicians have been using bombs on themselves. It has been happening quiet. This one is known because it happened during our jubilee celebration. If it happened a day after or before, it wouldn’t have been big news.

What is the way forward?
We have to pay more attention to security. Security matter is a serious business. Without proper technique, security fails. I want to urgently call for a judicial panel on security to look into this breach that occurred on October 1. Even people who try to make political capital out of this incident should be questioned. This is a matter of national security. It’s not a matter you joke with.


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