The horrendous terrorism that massacred and maimed hundreds in Plateau State of Nigeria last Christmas eve, is apparently unnerving heads of her security agencies. Ever since the tragedy, they hardly miss a date with the mass media, trying to rationalize the incident and reassure stakeholders of capability to perform their constitutional role of protection.
On that trip, the latest stop-over was at Channels Television where last month, Lt. Gen. T. Lagbaja, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) erroneously opposed rising emphasis on self-defence as risking anarchy in a country already in the throes of state of nature where life is short and brutish. The COAS’ opposition is not surprising because to many a Nigerian, self-defence is synonymous with gun or firearm for all. This is a narrow view.
Actually, self-defence comprises all lawful counter-measures adopted for protection against violence by others. And according to Pentagon Force Protection Agency of USA, self-defence measures by persons and organizations, form the last layer of a national security architecture. Why? Even with security of lives and property as the essence of governance, no country can actually protect residents every time and everywhere. There lies the imperative of self-defence because before your distress call attracts a response, whether you live or die is your business.
In advanced democracies, response to a distress call by security agencies takes an optimistic thirty minutes. The time could be longer if your assailant(s) had strategically disrupted a public utility as telecom which delayed for ten hours, Israeli security agencies’ response to communities besieged by Hamas last October. Worse, in developing countries, official response to distress calls could take days as evident in the recent Plateau State massacres which lasted for forty-eight hours before any official intervention. And the implication?
The longer it takes for security agencies to respond, the greater the risk of casualties especially where the crime is active shooter that kills multitudes in a matter of minutes. A situation would be particularly aggravated by remoteness of rural areas like places of recent massacres in Nigeria. This is why a lethal security threat as an active shooter at a remote site, dictates a permanent on-site armed guard to manage a violent situation while security agencies are expected to respond. And that could be why the COAS assured on troops surge in Plateau State to forestall a resurgence of violence.
But much as that is commendable, it is not holistic as security is not all about force of arms – a fact the COAS cannot deny. In fact, besides gun toting soldiers, there should be self-defence measures to deter, detect as well as delay crime and if all else fails, for constructive preparation for the inevitability of crime. In other words, residents of a country should know their roles to be effective as the last layer of their national security architecture.
Residents of a country should know the “dos” and “don’ts” as they await response to their distress calls. This mass security awareness imperative was echoed by the Chief of Defence Staff – General C. Musa on a summon last year by Nigeria’s House of Representatives. That much was advocated a decade earlier by Lt. Gen. A. Azazi thus: “…Gradually we must teach people that those are the things they must expect but we must also act in such a manner that it doesn’t seem like we are under siege…People will know that there is a need for them to protect themselves.”
Also, with cultural homogeneity as corroborated by labels of ethnic cleansing and genocide placed on the recent massacares in Plateau State, risk of inter-tribal or inter-faith clashes is very low should a few trusted members of a community be given training on firearms to locally manage violent situations while security agencies are awaited to respond to distress calls. This is why some Israeli rural communities survived Hamas’ onslaught last October. Also, a local security outfit could hold forte during brief vacuums which terrorists usually capitalize upon as troops change guard.
On the whole, the ongoing troops surge in Plateau State and at similar security flash points should only be contigent or integral to holistic security plans including political solutions as I suggested twelve years ago in “Distorted Federalism and Pervasive Insecurity” serialized by The Guardian newspaper between 17th and 18th March 2013.
5, Ogbetedo Street, Oto-Awori, Lagos State.