Edo Train Attack: Plague for the Government | The Guardian Nigerian News


Despite the tragedy of the train attack by the hijackers at the Igeben railway station in Edo state, the police and other law enforcement agencies that rescued the victims deserve some praise. If nothing else, they saved Nigerians from the agony of having their relatives forcibly locked up in the forest for months, as happened in the train-like attack on the Abuja-Kaduna route. Reports indicate that the last two of the 20 victims kidnapped in Edo have been rescued. And unlike the Abuja-Kaduna incident in which no one was reportedly arrested, seven suspects, including two traditional rulers, are said to be currently in police custody over the Edo attack.

However, the recurring terrorist attacks on critical state infrastructure smile at a general incompetence of both state security agencies and the federal government that controls them. It’s damaging enough that a similar dastardly attack occurred a few months ago and the wounds are far from healed. Another rehash of the same plot points to an authority that has not learned anything concrete and a government whose competence is questioned. For the umpteenth time, it is worth emphasizing that state governments cannot continue to rely on the current Nigerian Police for security and expect a different narrative in protecting life and property.

Once bitten twice shy. Being bitten twice is a misfortune for anyone with a sense of self-worth. A second daylight attack and kidnapping of citizens, this time on the Warri-Itakpe railway line, speaks volumes for the terrible legacy and grim prowess of the national security apparatus under President Muhammadu Buhari.

The attack on the train, at the Tom Ikimi/Ekehen station in Igueben, Edo state, is dying out all over the world. The police press release described it as an attack by a large number of “herders” armed with AK-47 rifles, who invaded the station from the forest minutes after the arrival of the Warri-bound train. In the end, they kidnapped the staff and passengers, numbering more than 20.

Symbolically, the attack was reminiscent of the March 28, 2022 attack on the Abuja-Kaduna railway when bombs exploded halfway and terrorists instantly killed nine and kidnapped 62. One would have expected a paradigm shift in the security arrangement that is more proactive than reactive, resulting in more emotionally and financially draining. Remember that it took the federal government more than eight months to secure the release of the hostages and much longer to get high-end rail service back up and running. Adding to the growing apathy for rail transportation across the country, this focus of attacks has jeopardized more than $4.12 billion in borrowed funds that this administration has invested in the rejuvenation of rail transportation.

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki blamed the Nigerian Railway Corporation, accusing the railway authorities of negligence. According to him, the Kaduna train attack should have taught train directors to tighten security at their facilities across the country.

Traditionally, governments are meant to solve problems and Nigeria has several of them. In the area of ​​security, the Nigerian Police is the constitutionally appointed law enforcement arm of the state, mandated to maintain law and order. However, the Nigerian police are structurally flawed and make a mockery of a real federal state. A police formation taking orders from Abuja to deal with local scoundrels in remote local councils is an aberration. Lacking the necessary funds and trained personnel, the police are more adept at forming circles around VIPs than strategically policing the state. And typical of the bureaucracy in a government environment, there is no coordination between the police and other sister agencies. Therefore, intelligence gathering and evaluation, the hobby of modern security agencies, has literally disappeared without anyone asking any questions!

Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) recognized this broken system and more than twice chose to fix it. They did not do it, solely for selfish reasons and their lack of empathy with the citizens who are murdered or kidnapped daily throughout the country. Contrary to his pre-2015 election promises and the APC Restructuring Committee’s recommendation on police state, Buhari blatantly rejected decentralized police, but did not advocate any viable alternative to stem worsening insecurity across the country. In a national broadcast to quell the EndSARS protest in 2020, promises about police reform were also made that have not seen the light of day. It is best to constantly dismiss the severity of insecurity and the concomitant need to reform the police for intelligence and efficiency.

In reality, security is collapsing under Buhari’s watch and the numbers differ from the official feel-good self-assessment. In particular, the Sahel region as a whole has been the hotbed of internal battles for supremacy between rival gangs, with ripple effects on the civilian population. On the contiguous border with Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Cameroon, Chad and Burkina Faso, the United Nations reported that jihadist criminal gangs and other armed groups have engaged in fighting, forcing the closure of more than 10,000 schools and 7,000 clinics.

In Nigeria alone, bandits and separatists attacked at least 550 of the country’s 774 local governments in 2022. More than 10,000 people were collectively killed by Boko Haram, kidnappers, bandits, and unknown gunmen. More than 3,000 people were kidnapped, a nearly 30-fold increase from the 2016 record. While the Armed Forces are doing a lot on the front lines, there are too many unmanned territories across the country that should normally be protected where the Police are efficient and proactive. It is therefore not surprising that motley criminals are attacking farms, civilian communities, schools, houses of worship, highways and train stations to wreak havoc. Only the Federal Government does not seem to be bothered by taking major drastic measures.

But even though the constitution brings subnationals to their knees in managing their own security, state governors cannot be absolved of failure for repeated security breaches in their domains. The same 1999 Constitution, as amended, recognized governors as the main security officer of their states. Therefore, it takes ample opportunity for a serious administration to take responsibility and rally forces in defense of the state. Fruitful examples of the likes of Neighborhood Watch in Lagos, Hisbah in Kano, Amotekun in the South West, all working with local communities and the police, lend credence to what could be achieved where state governors are more development oriented than just slacking off. in the corridors of power. In addition to investing in the local security apparatus, governors have a responsibility to fund and mandate better coordination and intelligence sharing among all security agencies and service providers in their domain.

Finally, and perhaps through representatives in the National Assembly, state governors should also continue to push the relaxed Buhari administration to act together and up the ante on security alert as the general elections. There are too many spoilers across the country and only a multi-pronged but well-coordinated security approach will be more efficient and sustainable. After all, if the federal government could award a security contract worth billions of naira to an ad-hoc outfit like Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, to stop the theft of 80 percent of crude oil, why would not give state governors more coordinated influence to finance, control and manage security in their domains, while the Federal Government monitors their progress?

Governments that make excuses for, downplay or deny problems tend not to solve them. It is touching that security agents have succeeded in freeing the abductees in Edo state. But it doesn’t rule out another attack somewhere else soon. Detainees must be processed promptly. Nigerians are saddened that many criminals arrested after committing heinous crimes, including the Owo Catholic Church attackers, are apparently being treated with the gloves of children or possibly walking free in society. A more respectable development is to collectively accept the burden of insecurity on the land, the degree of police inefficiency to push back and start implementing short, medium and long term interventions to prevent another disaster.


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