DSS’ warning of Boko Haram in Lagos
ALTHOUGH the recent warning from the Department of State Service (DSS) concerning planned Boko Haram attacks in Kano and in the southern cities of Lagos and Enugu might have been a proactive measure to ensure safety and guard against needless carnage, the dissemination of such sensitive information to the public may after all be counterproductive. Without undermining the deservedly well-earned acknowledgement for their duty, this warning amounts to a leakage of intelligence report that ordinarily would demand cautious professional and prudent handling.
Ever since the DSS spokesman revealed the other day that nine suspected Boko Haram members have so far been arrested in Lagos in the last two months, there has been growing apprehension about what would befall Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre should the terrorists strike. This raises question about the rationale behind the public alert. Does the government need to make the information public? What purpose does it serve doing so?
In truth, the vulnerability of Lagos to any form of terrorist attack is not out of place. The reason for this, as many are aware, is that Lagos is not only the most populous city in the country, but also one with the most disorganised distributions of its populace. As urban sociology indicates, concomitant with highly urbanised settlements is the presence of slums and shanties.
In the last few months or one year, there had been reports and unconfirmed accounts of the threat of the insurgents attacking Lagos. Alarms have been raised over the need for security beef-ups around popular business and commercial centres in the state. Recently, a suspected Boko Haram member allegedly in the wanted list of the DSS was arrested in Ijora/Badia, a slum in the Lagos Mainland, by members of the Neighbourhood Watch. Before then, there were arrests of some suspected members of the group at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, supposedly on surveillance. Last year, there were rumours of attempted bombing of the Third Mainland Bridge by the insurgents, and also claims of Boko Haram presence in Mushin and Idi Araba, both suburbs of Lagos.
Before now, indigenes of Enugu had been angered by the news, not too long ago, that arrested insurgents would be housed in prisons in Enugu and some south eastern states, in order to decongest prisons in the north. Their indignation, it would be recalled, emanated from perceived fear that the distribution of Boko Haram prisoners from the north-east down to the south was a strategy of the new government to ‘nationalise’ the atrocious activities of the murderous sect.
With a barrage of reports like this flying everywhere, Lagosians have found themselves being thrown into needless panic and pandemonium; and given these circumstances the threats to attack Lagos are real.
But if there is any value in the warning, it is in the seeming paternalism of the DSS, namely, the call for residents in Lagos to be more vigilant and be the first to secure their lives. By this alert, Lagosians are being advised to be security-conscious and to make private preparations about their safety. But interpreting it from another perspective, the warning is tantamount to DSS’ expression of incapacitation, or even a plea. Whatever the motive of the alert, the message of common sense here is that the security of the country must not be left to security agencies alone. Everyone, either as individuals or social units, must be involved.
Notwithstanding the reality of these threats, and the risk of Boko Haram infiltration into other parts of the country, it is the duty of the security apparatuses in this country to check the spread and infiltration of Boko Haram insurgents into other parts of the country. How they go about this is left to resources and expertise available to them.
Yet, in carrying out their duties, the DSS operatives should not give the impression that they are doing anything superhuman by publicly alerting Nigerians of Boko Haram’s planned attack on Lagos and other cities. Issues of security relating to Boko Haram, as other theorists in security are likely to inform the populace, should be dealt with clandestinely. Except proper security logistics have been put in place, and pre-emptive measures have been taken to avert any possible attack, the information amounts to scare mongering.
Consequently, the DSS has the prerogative of not only allaying the fears of a possible resurgence of terrorism in, and distribution of insurgents to, other parts of the country, but also to convince Nigerians, especially those living in the states in question, that the alleged flight of insurgents to safer havens is not a deliberate nationwide distribution of terror.
For this and other reasons, the DSS ought to be cautious about how it handles information and what it puts in the public domain. It should act covertly as an intelligence organisation.