Experts blame security agencies for stampedes

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Lack of
coordination between security agencies and the fact that there is no
clear rule about which agency is in charge of crowd control are the
main causes of stampedes, security experts have said.

Last week,
President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the office of the National Security
Adviser (NSA) to ensure special training on crowd control for security
officers, to prevent future tragedies like the stampede in
Port-Harcourt.

But there is also an intense inter-agency rivalry that needs to be addressed as well.

The Nigerian
Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Nigerian Police both
claim that they are responsible for crowd control.

The corps’ spokesperson, Emmanuel Okeh, said crowd control is one of the core functions of the agency.

Olusola Amore,
Police Public Relations Officer, however said that the police is
usually in charge of crowd control, but in the case of Port-Harcourt, a
collaboration of security agencies were involved.

Both agencies also
claim that their officers receive crowd control training. Mr. Amore
said that, “Police training is all embracing, including training for
crowd control and riot,” and officers are taught to appreciate the
situation and respond with the appropriate measure of force.

“It would be wrong
to confront market women who are throwing potatoes and tomatoes at you,
with firearms,” he said. However, if officers are in genuine fear for
their lives, then firearms would be necessary. The defence corps
however de-emphasized the use of fire-arms. “Crowd control does not
involve the use of arms. It does not involve things that are
injurious,” said Mr. Okeh. Rather, he said, the agency uses trained
dogs while their staff study human psychology and how to handle
difficult people.

Neither police nor defence corps

A security expert,
Harrison Jatau, however said that crowd control should be left to the
experts in private security firms instead of national security agencies.

Mr Jatau, who is the regional manager of Halogen Security in Abuja and a retired naval officer,

said that people in
industrial security are better trained in crowd control than their
counterparts in security agencies. “What gives a security man, like an
army man, confidence is his gun. Take the gun from the army man and he
might not be able to function effectively in crowd control,” he said.

Mr. Jatau, who
worked with security officers at the Star Mega Jam in Abuja, said there
was chaos among the rank and file of the security agencies at the
popular R. Kelly concert in December, last year. The Military, Mobile
Police, the Nigerian Police, Bomb Squad, SSS, and Civil Defence were
all present and they were receiving overriding orders from their
different leaders, he said.

“The event managers must ensure that each security agency is well
represented and meetings are held,” he said, “so that at the end of the
day, we will have a clear idea of the command of control, who is
actually in charge.” Mr. Okeh also acknowledged that if the agencies
worked together, their duties would be performed better. However, Mr.
Jatau, who retired from the Navy in 2005, said that there is often
discrimination between the agencies and one force usually thinks that
it is superior to the other. “The Military tends to look down on the
Police, and the Police looks down on Civil Defence,” said Mr. Jatau who
added that this mentality needs to end if the agencies are to perform
their duties well.


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