29 May 2012

Nigeria: Can N1 Trillion Tame Insecurity?


In 2012, the federal government resolved to increase security spending by allocating huge sums of money to the sector.

The decision, according to President Goodluck Jonathan, was taken as a result of increase in terrorist attacks in different parts of the country.

"We realize that we can only achieve developmental goals in a secure and peaceful environment," the president said.

Government, according to him, decided to invest in security by providing more support to the police, defence and counter-terrorism operations.

All in all, the sector got the sum of N922 billion in the 2012 budget, more than any other sector and more that the combined allocations to some ten ministries.

However, since the approval of the budget many observers say there have not been significant changes in terms of the presence of new security hardware. For instance, security personnel who do stop and search are hardly seen using surveillance gadgets.

Also, one security officer said there seems to be overlapping responsibilities, with the major security forces claiming to be spearheading counter terrorism operations but without the requisite electronic devices and training to detect perceived threats including suicide attack missions. He said the government has approved huge sums of money for the security sector without specifying controls.

The National Security Adviser Andrew Azazi had recently raised concern over non use of advanced explosives and weapons detection techniques, especially at security checkpoints along the roads fearing that terrorists can easily attack those places. The security chiefs were then requested to minimize the use of stop-and-search and use more of their intelligence units. The chiefs however agreed to adhere to the suggestion after the delivery of security gadgets to complement physical search. But it appears no surveillance gadgets were provided.

Another source said the police are the only arm of the security forces that seem to have deployed few advanced surveillance equipments in designated areas. The police have few mobile inspection vehicles and a number of hand-held explosive detection products. But these facilities are only used at special occasions or when they want to defuse explosives.

The gadgets have the ability to detect the presence of homemade, military and commercial explosives, liquid and power bomb mixes and other related peroxides. One of the police surveillance vehicles was stationed at the entrance of the police headquarters while others sent to state commands reserved for special occasions.

Soldiers stationed along the Kaduna-Abuja highway and those along Gwagwalada-Abuja road conduct stop and search operations without the aid of any gadget. Again in Kaduna, Suleja, Kano and Maiduguri where there were several incidences of terror attacks including suicide bombings which resulted in the death of hundreds of people, policemen and soldiers mounting road blocks, search vehicles and individuals with bare hands. In one security checkpoint in Maiduguri, soldiers were ambushed by militants and few were killed, a source said.

Another source said that other communication equipments such as telephone trackers have not been provided this year apart from the few ones owned by the police and the State Security Service. They are electronic equipment acquired to determine the actual position of phones, either mobile or stationary. These trackers, according the source when provided will enable security personnel to monitor and arrest suspects as they communicate. Many kidnappers in the south-eastern parts of the country and terrorists were picked up by the police with the aid of the trackers.

Again, the government has awarded contract for the installation of solar powered Closed Circuit Television cameras in Abuja to a Chinese firm following the Independence Day blasts in 2010 at the cost of $470 million.

Prior to the award of the contract, both the police and the Federal Capital Territory Administration have deployed few cameras in strategic places which were perceived to be inadequate and cumbersome to maintain.

The new solar powered cameras were only placed along major streets in the capital city and are yet to be commissioned.

A police source said the cameras were still not enough even in Abuja and have not started functioning. The problem of lack of maintenance and spare parts which led to collapse of the cameras initially installed hasn't been addressed. Another problem is that there were no camera experts who can immediately rectify faults; the only police officer that can handle the CCTVs is said to have been transferred to the presidential villa for assignment.

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