The police headquarters has released measures on how to prevent terror attacks including suicide bombings in places of worship.
Deputy Force Public Relations Officer Frank Mba said in Abuja that in view of previous attacks on places of worship "conscious efforts must be made to reduce the risks of terrorist attacks on our churches and mosques and limit the damage usually associated with such attacks. Officials of our churches and mosques, particularly those in high risk areas must be encouraged to work closely with the police and other security agencies in formulating pro-active measures that could help in preventing and managing incidences of attack on our places of worship."
He said officials of churches and mosques have been advised to carry out risk assessment and vulnerability surveys. He said that will enable them determine the level of risk they are exposed to.
Safety factors to examine
Factors to be considered in carrying out such assessments include: location, analysis of neighbourhood demography, size and architectural design of the church and mosque, population of the members and nature of access roads to the place.
"Churches and mosques should establish security and safety committee that should work closely with the local police authority and other relevant security agencies in formulating appropriate security measures. Churches and mosques may consider the options of organizing constant trainings, workshops and seminars for committee members. Ushers in churches should be encouraged to perform additional security duties. Competency and individual pedigree, rather than mere looks should be the yardstick for appointing ushers.
"Churches and Mosques may consider erecting barriers to keep human and vehicular traffic away from designated areas. One of the most effective ways of preventing suicide bombing is to isolate the suicide bomber to himself and prevent him from reaching his targeted audience. Religious officials are advised to make conscious efforts to know their members.
Seclusion could be deadly
"Religious places in restive areas must avoid the temptation of isolating themselves from the public or their host community. They are encouraged to go into the society and play positive roles in solving the problems of the community and changing the society for good. They must build bridges and build bonds.
"Worshippers should park their vehicles away from the places of worship. Worshippers who reside close to the places of worship are encouraged to walk rather than drive to the worship centres. This will reduce the number of cars around the worship centres.
"Worshippers should be discouraged from entering the worship centres with handbags, briefcases and other similar items. There is need for perimeter fencing of all places of worships to prevent invaders from gaining cheap access, especially during services while modern security gadgets such as CCTV Cameras and Scanners are to be installed.
"People should avoid rushing to the scene of incidents especially explosions to avoid distorting the scene of crime and exposing themselves to further danger.
"Worshippers should be advised to return to their various homes rather than loitering around the worship centres after Sunday services or Jummat prayers."
He said terrorist attack places of worship because members are not required to produce any form of identification before entering the church or mosque while physical security gadgets such as CCTV cameras are virtually non-existing. Churches and mosques provide a pool of large crowd. Consequently, the possibility of mass casualty in the event of an attack is high. This is a big attraction for terror groups.
He also said any attack on a place of worship is considered sacrilegious. It will therefore elicit mass condemnation and extensive media coverage. Terror groups savour such free and elaborate coverage.