By Ehichioya Ezomon
Was President Muhammadu Buhari quoted correctly or misrepresented? That he’s “disappointed” by the failure of security operatives to stem, and crush or repel the daredevil attack on the Custodial Centre in Kuje, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Abuja?
And this from a president in charge and control of Nigeria’s security apparatus as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces? It’s unbelievable! It’s unimaginable! It’s unprecedented! In fact, it’s un-presidential!
The attack, claimed by Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) terrorists, weren’t just an assault on a Medium Security prison, but a strike at the heart of Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja, and the seat of governmental power.
At invasion, the centre was holding high-profile inmates: Former Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame; former head of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), DCP Abba Kyari; and 63 terrorists “freed” during the milieu.
Ironically, the terrorists’ attack came barely hours after a daring by a separate set of terrorists on Buhari’s advance convoy to his hometown of Daura in Katsina State.
In the light of these twin happenings alone, the president isn’t only unsafe in his community, but also presents a practice target for various terrorists united in recklessly shedding innocent blood across Nigeria.
Hence Buhari should display more than “disappointment” over the attack by the terrorists that’ve expanded their campaigns from the North-East to the North-West, to North Central (Middle Belt) and the South-West.
The president’s anger should erupt, with indignation, like a volcano, spilling lava over those that failed the nation in the discharge of their security responsibilities.
During his unexpected visit to the Kuje Custodial Centre on July 6, aftermath of the terrorists’ onslaught, Buhari could’ve let fly the whip, by sacking or suspending those directly or remotely connected with or assigned to keeping the facility secured 24 hours, seven days a week.
In a readout by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on the visit, Buhari said: “I am disappointed with the intelligence system. How can terrorists organise, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?” A loaded poser for the security high commend!
When he’s briefed on the terrorists’ attack, the president asked the right questions that backgrounded the invasion, saying that like most Nigerians, he’s “shocked by both the scale and audacity of the attack.”
Then, he queried the briefers: “How did the defences at the prison fail to prevent the attack? How many inmates were in the facility? How many of them can you account for? How many personnel did you have on duty? How many of them were armed? Were there guards on the watchtower? What did they do? Does the CCTV work?”
The security chiefs were quick to tell Buhari the number of inmates the terrorists freed, and those recaptured; and the huge amount of money, in local and foreign currencies, that the attackers had “stolen” as their “spoils of war.”
But listing the number of inmates killed or injured, the officers skirted two questions Buhari posed: “Were there guards on the watchtower? What did they do?”
Buhari wanted to know the casualties sustained by the attackers, but the officers nebulously claimed that many of the reported 300-man invaders were killed.
An apparently dissatisfied Buhari, accompanied by top officials of his government, said he was expecting from the same officers “a comprehensive report” on the incident.
Given this state of affairs, these security chiefs should be grilled, to reveal what they knew before the attacks, and what they did during the unhindered terrorists’ operation.
Nigerians had expected Buhari to impose immediate sanctions on his security appointees that’ve repeatedly let him and the nation down, with none held to account.
Thus, Buhari’s visit to the custodial centre was a perfect setting for him to dish out adequate punishments for the unmistakable dereliction of duty by the security officials.
Now, the what’s, the how’s and why’s of the attack at the custodial centre are coming into the open, and they’d form a trove of information for investigators to proceed from.
There’re allegations of complicity, and compromise of security at the facility, such as the reported withdrawal of the military guards 24 hours before the attack executed in the intervening period before the guards’ replacement.
Who ordered the withdrawal of the military guards said to be familiar with the centre’s terrain, without simultaneous replacement by a new batch of guards?
Reports speak about intelligence shared by the Department of State Services (DSS) with the security commands, on an imminent attack on the custodial centre.
That security operatives manning the centre, including officers of the DSS, allegedly fled when the terrorists landed. The DSS has denied its personnel fled the centre.
Besides, there’re startling revelations by a self-appointed negotiator between a band of terrorists and the Federal Government, Mallam Tukur Mamu, a media consultant to Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi.
In a statement in Kaduna State on July 6, Mamu said that before the July 5 attack on the Kuje custodial centre, he had shared intelligence with the relevant security authorities, who apparently failed to act on it.
He said: “Even on the tendency and threat to attack targets and other facilities of interest like the Kuje Correctional Centre attacks, I have shared that intelligence with the security agencies and the committee that was constituted by CDS (Chief of Defence Staff), Gen. Lucky Irabor.
“I can confirm, without a doubt, that the Kuje Correctional Centre attack was executed and coordinated by the same group that attacked the Abuja-Kaduna bound train because they gave indications of imminent attacks to that effect, which I shared.”
The “scale and audacity of the attack” on the Kuje Custodial Centre, and the alleged shared intelligence that was obviously ignored or compromised, are too weighty for President Buhari to wait for a “comprehensive report” before announcing “deterrents” against officials that failed in their duties to secure the facility, and let Nigeria down. The time to act is now when the iron is hot!
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.