[OPINION] Insecurity: Choosing cheap solutions over expensive alternatives

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Olabisi Deji-Folutile

Another sad story from motherland was told early Tuesday about the death of an alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt, Chinelo Megafu Nwando, a young medical doctor, who should be in her late 20s. She was one of the passengers killed by terrorists in the ill-fated Kaduna -Abuja bound train on Monday night.

She wasn’t the only one gunned down by terrorists in that horrific attack, but her desperate call for prayers in her last tweet at about 9.43 pm, drew attention to her. Many were not really sure of what to believe-whether the attack was real or fake until she tweeted: “I’m in the train. I have been shot please pray for me.”

I don’t know how many people eventually prayed for her, if any did, the prayers apparently failed to deliver the expected answer as news of her death was shared Tuesday morning by her friend. That was also when we were told that she was billed to travel out of Nigeria this Friday.

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She wasn’t the only youth wasted in that incident. Twenty-nine-year-old Farida Sule Mohammed, a lawyer, and daughter of the National Organising Secretary of the Peoples Redemption Party, Mallam Sule Mohammed, was also killed in the Monday night train attack.

Several others including a director with the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) Abdu Isa Kofa Mata and the Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria, Barrister Musa-Lawal Ozigi, were also killed by the terrorists.

Expectedly, Nigerians have been wailing, mourning and condemning. Politicians have been competing among themselves as to who could write the best ‘wailing’ script as it were. The Nigerian government also held a minute silence in honour of lost souls during its Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday. This has always been the pattern. It is our own way of responding to monumental tragedies. In fact, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kaduna State Chapter, says mourning has become a normal occurrence in the state.

We live in a country where the leadership places zero value on citizens’ lives. Our leaders don’t give a damn about sacrificing the citizenry on the altar of politics. In 2014, Nasir el- Rufai, the same governor of Kaduna State, where mourning has now been described as a daily affair, said terrorism had become an industry in Nigeria while marketing the present government’s CHANGE agenda. Seven years after, terrorism has moved beyond being an industry to being the government. Terrorists are now in charge.  El-Rufai’s Kaduna seems to be the headquarters of kidnapping and terrorism now. The governor recently withdrew his son from public school to prevent him from being kidnapped. In the last one week, nearly 100 people have been killed in Giwa LGA. Fifteen villagers were reportedly killed when bandits invaded Hayin Kanwa village, Yakawada ward in Giwa Local Government Area of the state on Sunday. Three days earlier, about 50 people were reportedly killed across nine villages in the same LGA.

Imagine the terrorists’ response to the order of Nigeria’s president and commander in chief, Muhammadu Buhari, to service chiefs to deal with them ruthlessly – They reportedly ambushed another passenger train along the beleaguered Abuja-Kaduna track as the train was returning to Abuja from Kaduna. If we think this is one of the fake stories out there, what about the report from the Daily Trust on Wednesday morning that terrorists have again killed another set of 23 people and injured many in two villages of Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State. This is the fourth attack in a row by terrorists within a week in villages across the local government area.

In Nigeria, security operatives help in picking up dead bodies. They did it at the Kaduna-Abuja bound train, they also did it on Tuesday night at Anguwar Maiwa and Anguwar Kanwa.  Although the villagers duly informed the security agents when they saw that the terrorists were regrouping on motorbikes as early as 5 pm on Monday evening, they did nothing about the information. They however helped in discovering 22 bodies out of the 23 said to have been killed and subsequently buried according to eyewitnesses.

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All lives matter and no Nigerian, no matter how old they are, deserves to be wasted as being currently witnessed. But the rate at which this country is cutting down the lives of its promising stars is worrisome. We have not only ruined our present, but we are also destroying our future. I ask myself what should these two young ladies have done to themselves that they hadn’t done? These are young bright stars-a lawyer and a doctor-two of the competitive courses in our universities. Aside from the huge cost of studying these courses and the tough hurdle that must be crossed to gain admission, the courses place a lot of demands on one’s mental faculty. You have to read volumes of books combined with lots of practicals etc. To imagine that these young ladies went through all of that only to be killed by some illiterate blood-thirsty beings is unimaginable. Very sad!

I can’t count the number of young Nigerians that I know who have left this country in the last few months. You can’t blame them. They are tired. It is becoming increasingly frustrating to remain in this country. Unfortunately, our leaders don’t care. They are insensitive. Right now, the only thing that matters to them is who gets what in 2023.

We keep replacing tragedy with tragedy. The painful thing is that most often the solutions to our problems are too cheap and you just wonder why we are not interested in cheap solutions but keep choosing the expensive alternatives. Take the case of Oluwabamise Ayanwola, the lady killed in a Lagos mass transit bus, for example, a simple installation of CCTV cameras could have cautioned drivers and regulated social behaviour in the buses, but that cheap option was jettisoned for an expensive one – the death of a promising Nigerian youth. Never mind that the countries where Lagos imported these buses from have cameras in their own mass transit buses.

We invested billions of Naira in building train tracks and getting locomotives and gave no consideration to the security of the passengers. This is simply because we don’t put people at the centre of our planning. When Bill Gates advised Nigeria to concentrate on building its human resources,  some people in government criticised him. If our government had cared about the people these trains are meant for, they would have spared some money to mount security surveillance along the tracks. Were there any onboard radio communications/GPS with control centre or track cameras in the trains?

The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, on Tuesday, said he predicted the Monday attack, lamenting that he had requested digital security apparatus to forestall such an incident. Amaechi said that the attack would have been foiled if the government had procured N3 billion high-capacity rail track cameras and sensors. He said the equipment would eliminate all blind spots on the train corridors across the country.

Well, the minister’s disclosure has further confirmed that people were not at the centre of our planning. The issue of in-built security devices in the trains was an after-thought. Otherwise, those locomotives wouldn’t have commenced operations at all without the security devices in place in the first instance. That is what nations that value human lives do. The President has just ordered the installation of these devices now – after a huge sacrifice of deaths!

Why are we always reluctant in using available technology to solve our problems? For example, we know that satellite images can help in fighting insecurity. That is why countries like the US, UK, and China have many satellites in the orbit. But Nigeria has just two satellites. One of them is on the verge of shutting down due to an expired battery. Meanwhile, we ought to have about 15 to 30 satellites orbiting the Earth performing different functions. Security operatives can use satellite imagery to monitor all exit and entry borders and gather intelligence. Satellites can monitor terrorists’ movements. Of course, there could still be pockets of attacks here and there, but we can nip many in the bud with the use of technology.

Perhaps, things will get better in this country when we all realise that a functional society serves the good of all. Let’s remember that terrorists shut down the Kaduna airport before the attack on the train, so let no one think they are invincible. As Bill Gates rightly noted, Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive.

Olabisi Deji-Folutile (PhD) is the editor-in-chief of franktalknow.com and member, Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: bisideji@yahoo.co.uk