Security expert, Ona Ekhomu has advised the federal and state governments to work towards reducing ordinary civilians’ vulnerability in order to tackle the high rate of insecurity in the country.
Ekhomu while presenting a paper in Port Harcourt urged the government to accept the reality that terrorists and extremists will continue to mercilessly and viciously attack Nigerian civilians who they consider as soft targets in pursuance of their nefarious goals.
He noted that the recent pronouncement by President Buhari that sub-nationals should find solutions to their security challenges means that state governors can no longer sit on the sidelines and complain that they do not have the authority to protect their citizens.
In his presentation, Ekhomu explained that the terrorists had redrawn the battle-lines to include churches, mosques, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, remote villages, highways, waterways, farm settlements, railway stations, motor parks, etc. who are soft targets in order to keep the citizens in fear and erode the legitimacy of the government.
He decried the situation saying armed non-state actors now collect taxes and levies in the North East and North West of the country citing ISWAP’s activities in Northern Borno State as an example.
He thereafter condemned the verbal cues of government officials urging them to take the bull by the horn and address the matter heads on.
He said that often stated excuses by government officials that bandits, insurgents and herdsmen were intentionally selecting and attacking soft targets were true adding that rather than cower and make excuses in the face of an unprecedented assault on our national security, the government – federal and states should target-harden the citizens.
He also advised the stakeholders that the mindset of the civilians should be changed from victim (soft targets) to winner (hard target) advising state governments to make security a part of their socio-cultural DNA.
Ekhomu urged state governors to assess the threats in their jurisdictions, as well as map their vulnerabilities. He further advised states to organize, train and equip an armed vigilance force to provide a community defence shield. He said the vigilance personnel should be armed with shot guns which are allowed under extant laws. He elaborated that the vigilance and other community resources are intended to provide initial response while federal law enforcement and military resources would provide secondary response to neutralize the threats.
Ekhomu advised state governments to purchase and install air horns in all communities as a physical security measure to annunciate attacks on the civil populace. He said the air horns should be activated by assigned individuals in the event of bandit, insurgent or herder attacks. The extremely high decibel of sound emitted by the air horns will provide a psychological defense against the killers, he added. He advised state governments to accept that they are now in charge of their own security and to educate citizens about threats in their areas which will give adequate mental preparation to civilians to engage in the struggle with the terrorists.
On their part, he urged Nigerians against night travel or going to the farms alone as they expose citizens to danger of kidnap or murder as there is strength in numbers.
The security expert also encouraged Nigerians not to be afraid as they are a strong, resilient and proud people and they should adopt the mentality of a hunter and invent creative solutions in defending the communities.