On October 1, 2010 as Nigerians and foreign dignitaries gathered at the eagle square to celebrate Nigeria's 50th anniversary, a car loaded with bombs exploded. As a result, many Nigerians as well as security operatives lost their lives. That incident ushered Nigeria into a new era of bombing. Tomorrow marks the second year anniversary of the bombing. While the suspects are still undergoing trial, the spate of bombings and terrorism acts in the country is taking a scary dimension, Michael Oche writes.
Henry Okah, the alleged master-minder of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja will tomorrow face trial in far away Johannesburg. His trial will evoke sad memories of relatives of victims who lost loved ones in the October 1st Independence Day bombing in Abuja.
A South African district court in January postponed the terrorism trial of Nigerian-born Henry Okah until October 1st 2012. Since that attack, more groups emboldened by its success have launched several attacks on innocent Nigerians, and like Okah's trial, no significant headway has been made in winning the country's fight against terrorism.
In June 2011, the Boko Haram sect attacked the force headquarters, which was eventually Nigeria's officially recognised first suicide bomb attack. The United Nation (UN) building was attacked a few months later. Without doubt, it was the October 1 bombing of 2010 that gave birth to subsequent bomb attacks in Nigeria.
Prior to these, Nigeria had witnessed various forms of uprising, especially in the country's rich Niger Delta oil region, where militants constantly attacked oil installations, but bomb attacks were rare - like in the case of the March 2010, attack in Delta state.
The Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) immediately claimed responsibility for the October attack, claiming it had earlier alerted security operatives of its intent. Few hours after the attack, Henry Okah was arrested in South Africa in connection with the attack.
Tomorrow will also mark the second year since the trial of Okah. During this period, the militant group which had been granted amnesty by the Federal Government during the short administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua appeared to have since 'ceased fire.' Meanwhile, the Boko Haram sect has escalated its attacks in what is now threatening to divide the country.
Hundreds of Nigerians have been sent to their early grave in the last two years as a result of terrorist activities. Attacks on worship places have escalated even as attacks on government buildings have also increased since the attack on Eagle Square.
Terrorism is not limited to Nigeria. From Somalia to Pakistan, Yemen to Afghanistan, the world has witnessed an upward surge in the activities of terrorism. Last Tuesday the world celebrated the eleventh year anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in the United States. However the new threat from terror groups is on the increase globally.
In Africa, the Arab spring and the Libyan war have been blamed for the proliferation of weapons in the region. And Nigeria's Boko Haram militant group has been identified as one of the main causes for an increase in terrorist attacks in Africa.
Other groups such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have seriously been linked to al-Qaeda.
Africa experienced 978 attacks in 2011, an 11.5 per cent increase over the previous year. Boko Haram conducted 136 attacks in 2011, up from 31 the previous year, according to a US Department of State report on terrorism.
Since the October 1, 2010 bombing and the subsequent attacks by Boko Haram sect, the country has witnessed the biggest deployment of soldiers in peace time. From Bayelsa to Kano, Yobe to Jos, soldiers have been deployed to volatile areas to maintain peace in the country.
The country has also seen emergency rule declared in various states in the country. And the question remains: Is Nigeria winning the war against terror?
Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika, said that efforts of the Federal Government in fighting terrorism and other similar crimes are so far paying off.
"When you consider the fact that for every bomb that goes off, several others have been stopped from going off. Arrests have also been made. Only this week, and the week before, bomb batches were uncovered; in some instances, the perpetrators were killed; in some other instance, others were arrested. So I think we are making tremendous progress," he told reporters after commissioning some completed projects at the 103 Battalion, Awkunanaw Barracks, Enugu.
While taking over as the acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar vowed to fight the dreaded Boko Haram sect in all its ramifications.
Today, Nigerians live in fear unsure of where and when the next attack will take place. The last independent day anniversary was not celebrated at the traditional Eagle Square, after the President insisted he wanted a low-key celebration. Many analysts said the 'low-key' celebration was not unconnected with the security threat the country faced at the time.
A security analyst, Okoye Emmanuel told leadership sunday that "The security operatives are doing their best. However, what is required to win this war is not only the use of force but intelligence gathering that is significant and effective. Meanwhile, there is need to also engage in dialogue but that depends on whether the terrorist group is ready for peace talks"
The military authorities in the country have introduced several measures including training of its personnel on anti-terrorism as measures to defeat the insurgents.
"Anybody or group has the right to have that aspiration to rule Nigeria by a certain set of rules. But the way to do it is to form a political party, contest an election and then the rest of us, even if we did not vote for you, we will subject ourselves to your rule.
But for anybody or group which has not formed a political party, has not won an election, to want to impose a type of rule on the country, it will never happen in Nigeria," Nigeria's Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, said while commissioning the Nigerian Army Dog Centre in the Ipaja area of Lagos.
The Defence Chief explained that the establishment of the Dog Centre demonstrates determination of the Armed Forces to fully embrace transformation agenda of the Federal Government. As the country celebrate its 52nd anniversary, and as the court begins hearing of the Okah case, the revelations will definitely help in the fight against terrorism in the country.