In the face of lingering insecurity in Nigeria, including terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and cybercrime, JESUSEGUN ALAGBE writes about the various technologies that Nigerian security agencies can deploy to fight such crimes
It would have been a terrible day for the 94-year-old chairman of the Yoruba sociocultural group, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, when he heard her daughter, Mrs Olufunke Olakunrin, had been murdered by people suspected to be militant Fulani herdsmen.
Olakunrin’s death sent shock waves across the country, with people from all walks of life sympathising with the bereaved and calling for justice to be meted out to those who murdered her in cold blood.
The 58-year-old woman was reportedly travelling on the afternoon of July 12, 2019, at the Kajola axis of the Benin-Ore-Ijebu Ode Expressway when her killers, armed with various dangerous weapons, ambushed her vehicle and two others.
In a jiffy, the masked hoodlums reportedly rained bullets on the woman and her driver, as well as other passengers in the two other vehicles. While Olakunrin’s driver managed to survive the attack, even though with bullet wounds, she did not survive. She was rushed to the hospital, but it was rather too late.
Nevertheless, she was not the first person to have suffered such cruel fate in the hands of suspected militia herdsmen, who are said to have invaded many parts of the country, kidnapping and killing any persons connected to groups which have consistently criticised their actions, of which Afenifere is one.
A similar fate was suffered by the Parish Priest of St James Greater Catholic Church, Ugbawka, Enugu State, Rev Fr Paul Offu, who was also on August 1, 2019 reportedly shot dead by suspected Fulani herdsmen at Ihe, Awgu Local Government Area of the state.
A day after his death, hundreds of Catholic priests in Enugu staged a protest against the killing of their colleague, marching to the Government House and brandishing placards with various inscriptions such as ‘Enough is enough,’ ‘Government should rise to defend Nigerians’ and ‘Fulani herdsmen must go.’
The priests were much more saddened because Father Offu’s death by suspected Fulani herdsmen happened less than five months after another reverend father, Clement Ugwu, who was the parish priest of St Mark Catholic Church, Obinofia Ndiuno, Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, was also killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Father Ugwu had initially been kidnapped on March 20, 2019, by the suspected Fulani herdsmen, but a week later, his decomposing body was found in a bush after an enervating search by his parishioners.
The news of the two fathers’ deaths spread globally as it was published on the official website of the Catholic Church, vaticannews.va.
On August 9, gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen also killed one Friday Etor and wounded another person, Nsikak Udo, during an attack on Ikot Obio Nso community in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
The incident was reported to have taken place on the victims’ farmland a week after a group of herdsmen arrived in the community with a herd of cattle, which destroyed crops in the area.
There have been similar attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in several states across the country, including Benue, Kogi, Plateau, Taraba, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, Rivers, Bayelsa and Ebonyi states. No state seems to have been left untouched by the ravaging herdsmen.
According to Amnesty International, 3,641 people have died while thousands have been displaced from their homes as a result of Fulani herdsmen killings.
In its December 2018 report titled, ‘Harvest of death: Three years of bloody clashes between farmers and herders,’ AI blamed the Federal Government’s failure to investigate such killings and bring the perpetrators to book as responsible for the continuous attacks by Fulani militia herdsmen.
AI said 57 per cent of the recorded deaths – that is, 2,075 – took place in 2018 alone. The overall deaths were recorded between January 2016 and September 2018.
In the report, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said the Federal Government had an obligation to protect the right to life of every citizen as enshrined in international and African human rights treaties.
In 2015, the militant Fulani herdsmen were declared as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, according to the Global Terrorism Index which was compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Since then, there has been a significant increase in violence by the group, which is competing with farmers due to the shrinking of the Lake Chad, drought and others as a result of climate change in the north.
Terrorism, banditry, other security problems in Nigeria
Apart from attacks by the militant Fulani herdsmen, the country has also in recent times been battling with a variety of security problems, notably terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, murder and armed robbery.
Speaking of terrorism, the Boko Haram sect was among the world’s four deadliest terrorist groups responsible for 10,632 deaths in 2017 alone.
According to the Global Terrorism Index 2018 by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the other three groups responsible for those deaths were the Islamic State, the Taliban, and Al-Shabaab.
The groups’ actions were said to have contributed to the instability of countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. Over a period of 10 years, the groups were reported to have accounted for 44 per cent of all terrorist deaths.
Of the terrorism-related deaths recorded in 2017, Boko Haram were responsible for 1,254, which represented about 12 per cent of the total deaths.
Once regarded as the world’s deadliest terror group, the IEP noted that the group had been in decline since 2014. However, it has splintered into different factions, the largest of which is the Islamic State West African Province, known as ISWAP, which has also been carrying out deadly attacks on Nigerians in the North-East.
To date, the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in the death of about 60,000 Nigerians, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank based in New York, United States.
Aside from killings, Boko Haram’s activities have also led to the displacement of more than 2.4 million Nigerians, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Banditry has also become a security concern of late in Nigeria, with killings taking place in states like Zamfara, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, places already affected by terrorism.
Recently, the CFR, which monitors levels of violence across the globe, said there was a significant upsurge in killings by bandits in northern Nigeria, with 262 civilian deaths between January and April 2019 alone. The think tank said there were 288 deaths in 2018 and 52 in 2017.
Bandits have also engaged in kidnapping-for-ransom, regarded as a multibillion-naira business in the country by security experts.
Speaking of kidnapping-for-ransom, Nigerians would not be quick to forget the cases of Chukwudi Onuamadike, popularly known as Evans, a billionaire kidnapper arrested by the Nigeria Police Force in June 2017.
Of recent was also the rearrest of another millionaire kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Wadume, in Taraba State.
Wadume had been arrested on August 6, 2019, by operatives of the Intelligence Response Team of the Nigeria Police, but he escaped after some alleged corrupt police and military personnel colluded and attacked the team of policemen taking the kidnapper to the Taraba Police Command headquarters. He was however rearrested on August 19, 2019.
Armed robbery is another security issue that has plagued the country in recent times.
On August 6, 2019, a gang of armed robbers attacked a commercial bank branch in Iju town, Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State. In the process, the hoodlums killed a female official of the bank and injured others while carting away some amount of money.
More brutal were the armed robbery attacks which were carried out on four commercial banks at Offa, Kwara State, on April 4, 2018, which led to the death of 33 people, including nine police officers.
The gunmen reportedly used dynamite while they carried out the attacks, causing panic among residents in an operation that was said to have lasted for one hour.
Cybercrime is another top security issue that Nigeria has been battling with for some years, with Internet fraudsters defrauding both Nigerians and foreigners of billions of naira.
In August 2019, 80 persons were indicted for cyberfraud in the US, 78 of whom were Nigerians. They were believed to have participated in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has since arrested some of the suspects, including a celebrated serial entrepreneur, Obinwanne Okeke (aka Invictus Obi), who was indicted for a $12m (N3.7bn) wire fraud.
Many people believe some of the aforementioned crimes would have been stemmed and many victims rescued if the right security technologies had been deployed by the government, hence SUNDAY PUNCHreached out to some security analysts, who recommended some technologies that security agencies could deploy to fight the various crimes in the country.
Technologies to fight terrorism, banditry, others
A counter-terrorism policy expert and Secretary General of the Council for African Security Affairs based in Washington, DC, US, Dr Oludare Ogunlana, said surveillance and sensory technologies such as drones, Closed Circuit Television, license plate readers and patrol car cameras could be effectively used to fight the various aforementioned crimes, namely terrorism, herdsmen attacks, banditry, kidnapping, cybercrime, murder and armed robbery.
The intelligence and security specialist, however, said in an email that technology would not make Nigeria’s security effective, but the quality of men and leadership. He said the technologies’ efficiency and effectiveness might be limited to how the technologies interacted with security agencies.
He said, “Information technologies for the collection, management and sharing of data include tracking devices, content monitoring tools and records management system that capture criminal incident records.
“Nigerian security agencies can also make use of analytic technologies such as geographic information system for crime analysis; as well as communications technologies, including those related to dispatch, for instance, something similar to the 911 call technology in the US. The security agencies can also use technologies for disseminating information to personnel in the field, including mobile computers and wireless access systems.
“Also, they can use surveillance and sensory technologies. For instance, license plate readers are a high-speed camera and information systems that read vehicle license plates in real time using optical character recognition technology. Nigeria will, however, first need to develop database infrastructure to reap the benefits of this technology.”
Ogunlana also said identification technologies such as DNA testing and other forensic equipment were very key to the fight against the various forms of crime.
He also cautioned against a disorganised form of recruiting security personnel to the different security agencies like the police and army.
He added, “Moreover, technological advancements in automobiles, protective gear, weapons and surveillance capabilities can mitigate injuries and reduce the rate of deaths to officers, suspects and bystanders.
“Most security agencies in Nigeria, especially the police, do not have the right patrol vans; they buy their uniform and do not have advanced protective gear.”
Drawing references to countries where the technologies had been effectively deployed, the counter-terrorism expert said in 2013, the FBI used video surveillance technology and big data analysis to facilitate the arrest of the prime suspect of a terrorist bombing in Boston, Massachusetts.
He also said in July 2016, the Dallas police in Texas, US, used a bomb disposal robot with an explosive device on its manipulator’s arm to kill a suspect who murdered five police officers and wounded seven others.
“Nigeria can as well use the same technology against a dangerous armed suspect,” Ogunlana said.
“Currently, the police are using drones for specific operational tasks in the United Kingdom without a warrant. Nigerian law enforcement agencies can deploy drones to monitor the activities of herdsmen and kidnappers in their dens.
“Also, infrared cameras offer the FBI the possibility of seeing into spaces otherwise accessible only by the physical intrusion. Nigeria can invest in heat-sensing technology such as the infrared camera with the capacity to see through solid objects to gather intelligence on terrorists’ and kidnappers’ hideouts.
“The US and most of the countries are using all these technologies, which are integrated into the policing system. For instance, Europe and North America have been using the license plate reader since the 1980s to prevent theft and terrorism,” he said.
Asked where Nigeria could purchase such technologies, Ogunlana said they were everywhere.
“The technologies are all everywhere. We can opt for Chinese products or turn to the Global North (countries such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Israel, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Russia).
“The exciting part of it is that the Nigerian government can develop some of these technologies locally. The government should pay more attention to higher education and research.
“This step will create expertise and inspire students to pursue the profession. Technology is a national security tool. Hence, Nigeria’s capabilities must be established and well-documented,” Ogunlana said.
Also speaking to our correspondent, a security analyst at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, Abuja, Mr Murtala Abdullahi, said the country’s security agencies would benefit from the use of geospatial intelligence platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles (for example, drones) and satellites for surveillance and tracking movement in forest areas and remote settlements.
He said the technologies could guide the response of law enforcement agencies while collecting evidence for future criminal justice process.
He said, “These platforms are flexible and capable of reaching remote and inaccessible areas. Electro-optical and infrared sensors mounted on airborne and thermal CCTV on ground platforms can provide day-night and long-range eyes, which could also improve border security and monitoring of forest areas.”
Speaking on urban crimes such as armed robbery and murder, Abdullahi said technologies such as CCTV with capabilities such as license plate recognition, supported by emergency call station, command centre and effective ground response could help improve crime deterrence, detection and response.
“Forensic technologies are critical tools for improving crime investigation and evidence collection in Nigeria. They are capable of helping law enforcement agencies track, analyse and solve crimes,” he said.
Abdullahi said apart from the US and other advanced economies, African countries such as Zimbabwe were massively deploying such tools, too.
He said such technologies could be purchased from China, the US and other technologically advanced climes.
Addressing government’s response to insecurity
A Senior Researcher at the Transnational Threats and International Crime Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, South Africa, Dr Akinola Olojo, said there were gaps in the understanding and responses of the Federal Government when it comes to addressing insecurity.
He said terrorism and other crimes could be more effectively addressed in a multidimensional approach, stating that the ideological aspect of such crimes, especially terrorism, must be addressed.
He said, “On one level, there is a lack of political will, weak cohesion and divided vision among government actors. These obstacles have collectively impacted on the ability to deliver good governance and security to communities.
“On another level, there is a persistent failure to learn from the mistakes of the past. For instance, we would recall that between 1980 and 1985, Nigeria experienced the Maitatsine crisis and thousands of lives were lost.
“Following this violent phase in the country’s history, insecurity challenges reflecting a similar character to what happened decades ago have recurred in the country and the most prominent is the Boko Haram crisis.
“If lessons are not learnt from the current experience with the Boko Haram crisis and measures not taken to address the root causes, there is the probability of recurrence.”
Olojo said in an email to our correspondent that for terrorism and other crimes to be curtailed, the police, military and private entities must strengthen collaboration as addressing insecurity “requires a blend of hard and soft approaches.”
He added, “Furthermore, the police institution requires serious reforms in regard to how it is structured to operate, training and expertise and also upholding human rights.
“Security must also be understood beyond religious and ethnic divides. Finally, in instances where Nigeria has a policy framework such as the country’s National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, there is a need to ensure full implementation of the plan’s various components and it must be done with a sense of urgency.”
Tools to fight cybercrime
Cybercrime is a growing threat and is expected to cost a whopping $6tn to the global economy by 2021, according to a report by a cyber global economy research firm, Cybersecurity Ventures, which has offices in the US and Israel.
Hence, a cybersecurity expert and IT analyst based in Ibadan, Mr Olusola Oladeji, said the government and firms must adopt advanced technologies to fight the crime.
He said, “In order to guard against cybercrime, the government and companies can employ Artificial Intelligence technology. These algorithms are designed in such a way that they detect unusual behaviour.
“For example, machine learning, which is a subset of AI, can be used to learn to recognise specific types of objects from photos, even grainy and indistinct ones.
“Thus, machine learning could learn what the typical pattern of interaction with one’s systems ought to be and automatically detect a hacking attempt before the hacker is able to compromise vital systems.”
Oladeji said although cybercrime was not going to end anytime soon, the government and private companies could protect themselves from the privacy, revenue and reputation risks it posed.
Costs of security equipment
SUNDAY PUNCH found out the estimates of some of the surveillance equipment suggested by the security analysts. They are as follows:
A policy analyst based in Abuja, Mr Mat Nengi, said Nigeria could afford all of the security equipment needed to fight all forms of insecurity.
“The government has withdrawn $1bn (N307bn) from the Excess Crude Account to fight insecurity. What is it doing with the money? We have the resources to fight insecurity. The question is, do we have the willpower to fight it?” Nengi said.
On his part, Mr Babatunde Abraham, a social commentator and economist based in Lagos, also said the country could afford to buy any technology needed to fight all crimes.
“I think it’s until the government stops playing politics with the citizens’ lives that it can be serious about winning the war on terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and others,” he said.
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