17 October 2005

Nigeria: Robbers' New Technique


Lagos — THE adoption of amphibious tactics by robbers in their recent raid on a bank in Lagos, warns of new and more disarming robbery techniques on land. Amphibious operation, a strictly military and sea pirates strategy, was hitherto known to have been used by robbers in the creeks of Niger Delta.

But the latest bank raid was all-round military. Like a thunderbolt, 12 robbers, in combat fatigue, and armed with high-velocity rifles, disembarked from their speed boat behind the bank on a waterfront and started firing sporadically into the air and at the bank building. Simultaneously, they barricaded access roads to the bank and put road users to flight.

The robbers' swift and dare-devil advance to the bank was temporarily halted by the bank's security outfit, which had earlier, promptly informed the police of the raid. But apparently held back by superior fire-power of the robbers and inadequate manpower, the police could not respond instantly. The Marine Police, of which special responsibility is to patrol coasts and ward off intruders, were no where in sight to halt the robbers' disembarkment or to chase them away, nor were there the Naval personnel who share the same duty with the marine police.

Even when the police eventually arrived the scene, they could not dislodge the robbers who operated for several hours, including about 30 minutes they spent in reviving their malfunctioning speed boat, before they powered away. If the subsequent pursuit of the robbers by the police in a helicopter scared away the robbers, it was never intended to capture, or even disable the robbers. Afterall, the helicopter was neither a gunboat nor a jetfighter.

Though the robbers were repulsed, and they escaped empty-handed, as reported, their spectacular raid points to a fresh hole in the country's security apparatus, or to a new angle of insecurity, and questions the ability of the security forces to meet the latest challenge. Really, the police have all along been unable to match robbers, in number, weaponry, speed and dexterity.

This is to demand, as this newspaper has relentlessly insisted, that the police should be adequately equipped to discharge its constitutional responsibility of detecting and preventing crimes. And as robbers introduce new techniques, the police should be accordingly trained and equipped to meet new challenges.

Besides, the bank raid reveals lack of cooperation between the police and other security agencies in matters of security.

Geography of a country, or location of property (targets) is a primary factor in the designing of appropriate security strategy. The government must know this. Similarly, in view of the susceptibility of businesses on the waterfront, in the business district of Victoria Island, to robbery attacks from the sea, the property owners should take appropriate measures, including erecting barricades and exchanging intelligence with the police.

Beyond all, the level of sophistication and articulation that went into planning and executing the bank robbery indicates that the masterminds must have had some training in practical skills of navigation, weaponry and strategic thinking. This is the crowning implication of the manner of the bank raid.

Apart from alluding, dangerously, to the new security threat, the robbers' amphibious tactics more fundamentally caution that a sizeable number of the nation's strategists and tacticians are increasingly diverting their talents to criminal activities, and that urgent steps ought to be taken to better utilise these talents and save their targets.

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