opinionBy Jaafaar Jaafaar
London — 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 favour 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.
If the previous attacks by Boko Haram on security men and their formations are condemnable, the recent coordinated attacks on media houses, schools and places of worship should not only give cause for both concern and condemnation, but rather a more pragmatic approach to solving the insurgency.
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 alcohol 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 armoured 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 U.S. 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 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 produce 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 to 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.
Jaafar wrote Newham, London.