Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nowhere Is Safe

WHEN armed robbers attack ordinary Nigerians, the news dies to its ordinariness. The attitude seems to be that the poor are entitled to more troubles, so that they would remain poor, or possibly decrease in number. On the other hand, the news of two robbery attacks last week presses home the fact again that security in Nigeria is simply lax.

The first account was of robbers invading a section of the office of the Delta State Governor. They must have known their target, the accounts section, which they vandalised and took some money away. How were they able to succeed? It was more intriguing to hear that they gained access to the office through the roof.

We had taken it for granted that such offices would be well guarded by men and fortified with appropriate security gadgets. What type of robbers were endued with such confidence that they could perch on the roof of that building, at an odd hour, without fear of detection?

As if that was not embarrassing enough, robbers struck at the Katsina home of the President. They entered rooms in the building. The President’s mother lost some valuables to the thieves who concluded their assignment undisturbed, and did not bother to disturb her sleep.

We are wondering how they got in and left without being noticed or stopped. Their confidence is stunning. The web of security round the President and his family should be such that those who have no business around him cannot get close to his private or official residence. Is that no longer the situation?

These two incidents partially tell the story of the insecurity in the country. The worse part of it is that the security agencies seem to have lost their investigative and intelligence gathering abilities.

If robbers can strike in these places what hope is left for the ordinary people, who look up to the authorities to provide security? How would the police explain their failure to guard these places? Is any explanation acceptable in these circumstances?

Had the intruders planned anything more sinister, they would have succeeded. The failure of security in the two incidents is glaring. It also exposes the fact that most of the places we think are under security could be porous, placing government officials, as well as official documents in grave danger.

With whom did the robbers plan these operations? Should these be among the cases the police would tell the public that they are still investigating? In some places, the officers concerned with the security of these places would have resigned in embarrassment. Things are so different here.

Incidents like these make Nigerians lose hope in the ability of their governments to protect them. If the authorities cannot take care of their own personal security, how can they think of the security of others?

How the two governments react to these embarrassments could be the defining indications of the importance government attaches to security. Any indecisive moves can only embolden the criminals