The powerful bomb blast that killed three, including the bomber, injured scores and destroyed 71 vehicles yesterday at Louis Edet House, headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, Abuja, serves a clear notice of incipient anarchy if security agencies don’t raise their game. LOUIS ACHI examines the unfolding, bloody scenario

Forty-eight hours after Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim sternly proclaimed that the days of the rampaging Islamic militant sect, Boko Haram, were numbered, a devastating bomb explosion yesterday rocked the Louis Edet Building, Abuja, headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force. Significantly, the emerging consensus from security circles indicates the police boss was a key target of the attack.

Police sources revealed that the bomb was detonated from a vehicle that followed the convoy of the Inspector General of Police into the Headquarters. Observing that the driver of the vehicle was in mufti, the vehicle was reportedly stopped and led to the parking lot in order to question the occupants. The questioning was already in progress and was being handled by an Assistant Superintendent of Police said to be in charge of traffic in the Force Headquarters. He and the occupants of the car were killed as the bomb went off. An estimated 71 vehicles were destroyed by the blast with several injured.
Police spokesman Olusola Amore told journalists that Islamist group Boko Haram was suspected of being behind the attack. But beyond suspicion, the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the latest attack. For good measure, it has warned that it will carry out further attacks across the country if its demands are not met.
Confirming yesterday’s bombing incident, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the site of the explosion was the visitor’s parking lot. Though the actual number of casualties could not be ascertained at press time, police sources put the figure at three while scores were injured. Human body parts were scattered on the scene. Members of the Red Cross and other agencies came on the scene to remove dead bodies while they also helped in taking the injured to the Asokoro General Hospital, Abuja.
It would be recalled that recently, Senate President David Mark subtly alluded to the possible truncation of Nigeria’s democracy if the current insecurity situation in the country is not halted. A retired Brigadier General wise in the ways of security, Mark stated that the increasing incidents of bombings, especially in military barracks were aimed at inciting soldiers. He spoke when the senate considered a motion on the recent bombings in the country, moved by Senator Ayogu Eze and stated very clearly that the bombings are being orchestrated by professionals aiming to achieve a selfish motive.
In clear language he prescribed a way forward: “I believe that the security agencies need to buckle up. I think the earlier we fish out those who are involved and those that have committed it so far, the better. More importantly we must make sure that from now onward, that there is no more bomb blasts in this country. We do not want to be classified as Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Retired Brig-Gen. John Shagaya observed at the same forum that: “The first bomb blast in Nigeria happened in 1967 and within 36 hours, the culprits where apprehended. But today, the security operatives are so relaxed, thus making it easy for the perpetrators to continue with these gruesome acts without being apprehended. This is not good for the nation.”
But since these compelling observations there have been several bombings with related deaths, injury and extensive destruction of property. Examples of successive incidents of bomb blasts in the past few months in the country may serve to drive home the fact that there is a clear threat to survival of the country as one indivisible polity. Before the Louis Edet House bombing yesterday, the freshest bombing incidents happened in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
The blasts struck two police stations and a Church in the state capital. Borno State Commissioner of Police Mohammed Abubakar confirmed members of Islamic militant group Boko Haram were responsible. The attacks claimed eleven lives including three suspected sect members and a soldier. The Borno multiple blasts came a day after motorcycle-mounted gunmen shot dead Sheik Ibrahim Birkuti, a cleric from a rival sect.
Before these violent, bloody attacks there have been many more. We recall the bomb blasts in military barracks in Maiduguri, Borno State, Bauchi and Zuba junction, near Abuja and Zaria. These incidents which claimed many lives happened on the day President Goodluck Jonathan was inaugurated.
We also recall last year’s double bombings on Independence Day. These occurred within range of the Eagle Square and claimed over ten lives. Then there were bomb blasts at INEC office in Suleja, the Abacha Barracks blasts and the recent ones at Zuba and Maiduguri.
Against this background of incipient anarchy, the emerging poser amongst the ranks of key political stakeholders and major opinion leaders is – should bombs and bloodshed define our nascent democracy?
Clearly, there are several weaknesses in the institutions that manage the nation’s security that are being exploited by these shadowy crisis entrepreneurs. Proactive intelligence gathering is lacking. The pattern, timings and methods of these bombers suggest sinister motives. The Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) must move quickly to aid the police who appear overwhelmed.
The fact that the situation in Borno State particularly is dominating daily media reports suggest special attention be paid to that territory. The Boko Haram militants who have derisively turned down offers of negotiated peace by the newly elected Governor Kashim Shettima are becoming larger than life. Their wanton depredations are actually challenging our national stability. The responses so far have been alarmingly undefined and very poor.
Yesterday’s bomb explosion at the heart of headquarters of a key national security agency has stoked serious debates about the stability and even survival of the Fourth Republic. The quality of response by the state so far is sharply at odds with the stern declaration of President Goodluck Jonathan on his promised resolve to deal with security threats in the country. Jonathan’s words are worth recalling here: “As president, it is my solemn duty to defend the constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian wherever they choose to live.” It is clearly time he gave meaning to that legitimate, constitutional declaration, before it becomes too late. A focused presidential reaction, or lack of one, could make or mar Jonathan’s compelling political odyssey.
Perhaps, a counsel from late Arizona’s Senator Barry Goldwater in the US may serve to make the president reconsider the strategy, scope and speed of an effective national security response: “Extremism in the defence of liberty is not a vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is not a virtue.”
Meanwhile, as some sections of the nation’s fractured political intelligentsia wait anxiously for the cloud of political and security uncertainty to clear, for the ordinary folks, it is morning yet on creation day.