Monday 26 November 2012

Bomb Threat Guidelines and Policy for Schools and Churches

The rising cases of bombings and other violent attacks in public places have generated great concerns in Nigeria. No week passes without one reported case of bomb blast or the other. It is either an explosion in the Church killing and maiming worshippers and destroying the house of God or a suicide bomber is creating havoc on the street or one public figure is assassinated in his resident or ambushed or trailed and murdered on the way. Increasing numbers of bomb threats incidents is also becoming problematic. The concern expressed by Christians and parents and guardians about their safety and that of their children and wards at a seminar recently necessitated this write up. In the case of either bomb threat or actual envisioned bombing, Church/School leaders are expected to assist in the following areas:

a.       Avoid panic and maintain calm.

b.      Search for a possible bomb on the School/Church premises after receiving a bomb threat.

c.       Coordinate and manage the threat notice.

d.      Communicate the threat to police as soon as possible. 

As part of preventive mechanism, leaders of Schools and Churches and other public places should be required by law to have a Bomb Threat Policy and be mandated by regulation to present and defend same in cases of actual bombing of the facility.

Government should be more interested in how the bomb threat was handled (if any) and how the real bombing was managed and not only in rendering of assistance and payment of compensations.  

The following bomb threat policy and guidelines is presented for your guidance and adaptation to suite your circumstances.

1.      Written Bomb Threat Policy:                        The first step towards preventing and managing bomb threat and reducing losses resulting from real bombing is to put in place a realistic Bomb Threat Policy. This policy and procedure should be written and read in conjunction with the School/Church Security and Safety Policies and Procedures.

“Should a Church have a Bomb Threat Policy?” I have been asked several times. My answer has always being, YES. Every Church/School should, as a matter of policy, have, in addition, a working Security and Safety Policy and Procedure, and a Professionally Designed Bomb Threat Checklist.

The Bible is full of instructions on security and safety and also warned us not to be ignorant of the devices of the devil. There were well defined protective procedures for meeting with Jesus that was perfectly adhered to by His disciples while He was on earth. Security threats have always existed and countermeasures must be upgraded regularly to check possible security breach.

The receipt of threat or actual setting of explosive or other potential dangerous devices spells impending hazards in all premises. The consequences of an incident within a School or Church could be very destructive as we have experienced of recent. The aim of School/Church leaders at all times must be to ensure that effective procedures are in place and are clearly understood to ensure, as far as it is reasonably practical, the safety of students/worshippers and the general public.

All members of leadership within either the School or Church have a legal responsibility to observe the Bomb Threat Policy and Procedures at all times. It is imperative that all staff and church workers understand what to do and how to do it in the event of a bomb threat to ensure the safety of their brethren, colleagues, students, the general public and themselves.

2.       Chief Response Officer:       The Head of the School or Church has the overall responsibility for managing all bomb threat situations throughout the School or Church. To assist the Chief Response Officer, the responsibility for the supervision of the day-to-day precautions and the coordination of workers’ action in a bomb threat emergency should be delegated to Heads of Departments or in his/her absence, a Nominated Deputy.


3.      Head of Department/Nominated Deputy                 The role of the Head of Department or Nominated Deputy within the School or Church should be properly defined which include:

a.       Implementation of the procedures and precautions when dealing with bomb threats.

b.        Ensuring that all School staff or Church workers receive the necessary training and clearly understand the procedures for bomb threats.

c.       Coordinating and directing students or worshippers and workers and the general public in the event of a bomb threat.

d.      Reporting all bomb threat incidents to the Chief Response Officer (CRO) and Police.

e.       Completing the Bomb Threat Checklist and forward same to the Church/School Chief security officer.  


4.      Workers         Security is everybody’s responsibility and counterterrorism is a step towards protecting oneself and others from terrorists’ attack. Therefore workers, either in the School or Church, need basic knowledge of the devices of the terrorists and how to respond in the event of threat or actual attack. In this context, workers own it a duty to among other things:

a.       Know what to do in the event of a bomb threat and take appropriate actions.

b.      Know what to do if a suspicious package is discovered and take appropriate actions.

c.       Participate in bomb alert training and evacuation procedures.

d.      Be familiar with what to do in the event of actual attack to minimize losses to both human and material resources.


e.       Never compromise the security of the School or Church in any way (leaving doors and windows open and insecure and freely accessible, allowing unrestricted movements into and from the premises).

Apart from being conversant with the above general points, School/Church workers must be exposed to the necessary skills and techniques of the following specifics. They must be trained to:

a.       Know what bomb threat and bomb attack really entails.

b.      Understand the gravity of impact of a possible bomb threat or attack and then appreciate the importance of well defined and properly packed preventive actions.

c.       Maintain tidy surroundings, look out for the unusual in the environment always and report suspicious persons seen around the School or Church vicinity to the Chief Response Officer (CRO) and the Police.

d.      Display vigilance and carryout periodic inspection and review of the premises as this enforces protection and acts as deterrent.

e.       Always watch out for strange and strategically parked car, lorry, motorcycle, bicycle, etc. and report same as soon as possible to the Chief Response Officer and the Police.

f.        Carryout simple search and evacuation procedures. Do not be afraid of search. The best qualified people to conduct a thorough search in any given area are the occupants. They have a good knowledge of what belongs or not in a location at any given time. The Police generally do not have such knowledge of the threat area and would be less likely to recognize something that is suspicious or out of place. Police will definitely assist in the search. Therefore, if a suspicious object is found, call in Police Bomb Technicians to deal with the device.


Deliberate threats to public safety are becoming a high priority issue in Nigeria. Boko Haram is extending their tentacles. They have put the Churches in the northern part of the country under siege, panic and fear. The next victim may be the School and other public places. And schools are particularly vulnerable to bomb threats, which are easy to make and difficult to assess in terms of whether they are hoax or real.  Actual bombing have done devastating damages in the Church already apart from causing maximum disruption. Proper planning and the nomination of appropriate authority to take charge of a bomb threat incident in a School/Church can minimize the danger and disruption caused.

The appointed Coordinator (and Deputy) should be Response for assessing the bomb threat and controlling all search and evacuation activities and establishing a good communication centre.

Caution is in place here. Adaptation is the key word. As Richard D. Sem, Former President, International Security Management Association said, “Security is more art than science. Few formulas will cover all organizations, situations and needs, and that’s the beauty and challenge of our profession. Modern Schools and Churches must be organized and equipped to respond to virtually every types of conceivable security threats.  

Monday 19 November 2012

Containing the Menace of Boko Haram Part 2

Boko Haram is known to have obtained support from willing sources and from individuals and organizations that have been duped or coerced. They also force members of the public to provide Schedule intelligence, funds, accommodation and special materials used in terrorist operations. Innocent youths are commandeered and used to provide real-time intelligence, surveillances, transportation, couriers, medical assistance, food and local security against their wishes. In all these, the government is dragging its feet thus invariably contributing to Boko Haram’s unity.

The use of provocative tactics by Boko Haram necessitated the employment of the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) by the Federal Government in an attempt to put Boko Haram’s activities in check thereby generating international and local sympathy and outcry with the Amnesty International condemning the Nigerian government’s handling of the issue and the Northern Nigeria Leaders kicking against full scale military intervention.   

Boko Haram spouts from the existence of aggrieved group in the north.  This aggrieved group shares two essential characteristics, namely: they have specific objectives, and they believe that violence is an inevitable means to achieve their goals. The socio-political dimension of Boko Haram sect is the key factor that distinguishes it from other criminal groups. Boko Haram should not be confused with a mere gang of criminals. Although the political and religious objectives sought by the Boko Haram group are not legitimate, members of the group share the perception that their grievances have been ignored and their demands neglected. It is this shared perception that helps to define Boko Haram as an aggrieved group out to address their grievances to the government, and have established its operational stronghold in Maiduguri from where it directs its terrorist activities against domestic targets across the north. It is evident that Boko Haram is also receiving direct financial and military assistance from a-Qaida in Maghreb and training and other contingency supports from Niger Republic. The link must be traced and cut and the collaborators and facilitators prosecuted accordingly.
The attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja was intended to serve as message generator to lure America into Nigeria, and force the Federal Government to apply maximum force thereby attracting more sympathy and support in terms of personnel and resources to Boko Haram. Both the American and Nigerian Governments acted wisely in managing the attack maturely.
 However, in Nigeria, major acts of violence, kidnapping, assassination and bombing including open hostilities against targeted groups and the law enforcement agencies are usually painted either as political, economic, religious, tribal or ethnic crisis. This makes it complex to have a genealogy of terrorist activities in the country and difficult to design and manage proper terrorist countermeasures.
Major General Sarkin Yari Bello, the Coordinator of Counter-Terrorism in the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has a lot to do to contain the activities of Boko Haram. First Boko Haram must be seen as and treated as a terrorist organization, its leadership identified, its structure known and the chain of command established and its link with government exposed. It is disheartening to note that between 2002 and 2012 government security agencies are unable to understudy and understand Boko Haram’s surveillance technique, its targeting methodology and attacking tactics. I remember some years back, undercover agents and intelligence operatives are sponsored in various institutions across the country and overseas as either students or workers, some assigned to communities and cities to do odd jobs or fake madness as cover to gather real-time security intelligence that helped in effective governance and management of the nation’s security system. It pains to hear that undercover agency operation is now redundant and that luxury and self-interest has taken over the place loyalty, professionalism and patriotism.
However, we still have people, agents, serving or retired who are worth their salt, who can infiltrate Boko Haram no matter how close an organization it is. Intelligence information does not move on its own, people or a medium carry’s it. What happen to our well cherish intelligence security and effective policing mechanism? Yes, there are more security-officers determined to salvage Nigeria than those who want her down and out. But 52 years after independence we cannot tell who our external and internal adversaries are, we lack knowledge of their attack methodology, previous incidents, target of choice, explosive components, blast impact zones, levels of sophistication, size of organization, affiliates, current intelligence, and their methods of targets acquisition.   
This is not the appropriate medium to discuss the available techniques. But, with appropriate policy in place and wide interagency and civil group coordination and effective management Boko Haram containment is possible. Agents must be carefully recruited, trained and enticed into cooperation. In enticing agents extreme caution is required to avoid infiltration of double agents. That is the fear of our President when he said Boko Haram is everywhere.
Penetration of Boko Haram is now the most acceptable way to contain it. We must infiltrate the leadership so as to obtain advanced knowledge of the location and identity of intended victims, nature of the disguises being used by the hit team, and the secret sources of weapons. The government needs this information to foil Boko Haram activities in the bud.   Security professionals do not get involved in socio-political disputes or correct deviant behaviours. Rather they deal with the symptoms of the problems, namely: crime and pure risk losses. (Excuse my technicalities).

In the Nigeria context, government has employed two kinds of remedies to the problem of terrorism. These are: Direct Military Confrontation (JTF), and Dialogue. It is on record that Direct Military Confrontation has failed to address the activities of Boko Haram. Rather it is generating international and local condemnations. As usual the government is considering Dialogue. Unfortunately dialogue has never been successful in solving the problem of terrorism. Dialogue can address development problems not terrorism. Dialogue can open up economic opportunities and not check Islamic Fundamentalists that are determined to abolish western education and forbid interaction with the western world, support opposition to the Government of Nigeria, institutionalize Islamic law and enthrone Islam in Nigeria. Dialogue is in line with Article 33 of the United Nations Charter which requires parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger international peace and security to seek a solution, among other peaceful means, by negotiation, mediation and conciliation but Boko Haram is not asking for socio-economic development of the north, good governance and/or the rule of law. To Boko Haram all these are part of Western Education and the Western world that are sin.
 It is unreasonable to expect the Federal Government to organize and support a discrete system (police, intelligence, courts, military units and other government agencies) solely to combat terrorism. Rather, it is necessary to use existing organizations and institutions, with special units organized and trained specifically to deal with visible problem like Boko Haram. With policy on terrorism established, the organization created, intelligence operations defined, operational security put in place, training programmes institutionalized, and counteraction programme ongoing the government is on the way to containing terrorism irrespective of those behind it.

 Of all the activities and programmes discussed in this write up, two most vital to the defeat of Boko Haram are intelligence and policing. Police are accustomed to the legal procedures, which follow counterterrorism actions, and the society generally accepts the use of force by police. However, it appears Boko Haram is well supported, and might not be defeated by present level of intelligence and policing. We must raise our intelligence and policing approach to the next levels, adopting the most current technology and skills. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should avoid the use of military methods and military forces because of the potential danger to innocent people. The use of military measures could lead to an overreaction, which can be exploited by Boko Haram. Security holds the key to defeating Boko Haram not militarism.  In the words of Colonel James Hall, the British Defence Attaché in Nigeria the war against Boko Haram is a “battle of minds that requires the use of intelligence”. It is suggested that civilian authority command the war, the police lead the battle while other intelligence agencies support as foot soldiers and the military play civilized second fiddle. Enough is enough!

Checking Suicide Bombing in the Church

Terrorists have used suicide bombers for decades. Suicide attacks have been employed successfully around the world. This tactics although new in Nigeria has become common place of recent. Suicide bombers used a car to destroy the UN headquarters in Abuja. The Pentagon and World Trade Center were brought down by the use of plane. Ships or other kind of vehicles have been used as a bomb (either carrying explosives or using the fuel aboard as a makeshift explosive). Suicide bombers may also conceal explosives on the persons.

These kinds of attacks are generally perpetrated without warning. The most likely targets are symbolic locations, key installations, VIPs or mass-casualty soft targets. Readily available examples in Nigeria include: the 19th September, 2011 suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja, the suicide attacks of several Police Stations in northern Nigeria, the killing of Major-General Mamman Shuwa in his residence in Maiduguri and other prominent civil servants including soldiers and other security agents, and the bombing of the Christian Churches across northern Nigeria. Because of the wide scope of impacts of suicide bombing and its ability to attract press attention, the Boko Haram Islamists have continually used the tactics.
Several remedies have been advanced to solve the problem of suicide bombing in Nigeria. This article will not delve into such large scale suggested solutions rather we will restrict ourselves to solving the problem of suicide bombing in the church. Therefore, when considering protective measures against suicide bombers in the Church, the following recommendations can be adopted to suite individual church circumstances:

1.                  Although it is not easy to deny access to anyone or anything that required to be thoroughly searched before granting such entrance into a church, the church authority reserves the right to designate its auditorium, cathedral, building or even premises a protected area as a matter of priority and to ensure that church security or ushers are trained to be security conscious, vigilant, and to look out for the odd or extra-ordinary always and report same promptly and appropriately to a designated Senior Church Leader and the police.  
2.                  Ensure that no stranger under any disguise visits or enters the protected area without security or ushers being sure of his/her identity or without proper screening. Visitors and first-timers should be received at an appropriate isolated point before being ushered into the protected area without breaching or compromising the security of the protected area. This can be done politely in Christ-like manner without causing anyone embarrassment or attracting unnecessary criticisms.  

3.                  Establish the visitors/first-timers reception spot at a distance from the protected area, set up regular patrols by ushers and brief them to look out for anyone behaving suspiciously or anything unusual. Many bomb attacks are preceded by reconnaissance or trial runs. Ensure that such incidents are detected timely and reported to the designated Senior Church Leader and then to the police immediately.

4.                  Effective Close Circuit Television (CCTV) systems can help prevent or even deter hostile reconnaissance, and can provide crucial evidence – link and investigative lead.

5.                  There is no definitive profile for a suicide bomber, so remain vigilant, maintain high level of security consciousness/awareness, and report anyone suspicious or anything out of the ordinary to the designated Senior Church Leader and to the police.

So many churches in Nigeria today can afford a 24/7 technology-driven close circuit television (CCTV) and professional security personnel charged with the responsibility of providing church leaders, worshippers and other church assets the needed protection. Unfortunately many church leaders consider cost thus hide under the erroneous believe that they cannot do anything about protection and concludes, “God protects”. Yet they provide for their own self protection and that of their immediate families leaving followers to their fate. Statements such as, bombing that will never happen here, or I/we can’t do anything about it signify a sorry altitude of fatalism and defeatism, which is quite common today among Christian leaders and security professionals. Hear me out, The LORD Watches the City through People and Technology. Employ them prayerfully and use them professionally. It is not sin to be wise! Let the Living Praise the LORD!

Saturday 17 November 2012

Containing the Menace of Boko Haram Part 1

Containing the Menace Boko Haram Part 1

Boko Haram (Western Education Forbidden) also known as The Group of Al-Sunna for Preaching and Jihad or Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Liddaa’awati wal-Jihad has been a source of concern to Nigeria and he international community. Founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf (1970-2009) the group among others sets as agenda the abolishment of western education and forbids interaction with the western world, support opposition to the Government of Nigeria, institution of Islamic law in the country and full enthronement of Islam in Nigeria. To achieve these goals, Boko Haram’s leadership assembled together Islamic militants, available criminal elements and disgruntled politicians who do not only volunteered themselves but also provided the needed  funds, equipment, training and travel documents; and are readily supplying intelligence information, motivational resources and protection. They cash into the already existing societal gaps created by corruption in governance, ethnic hatred, oppression, frustration, drugs, weapon proliferations, increasing violence and lack of respect for human life, existence of small to large size hate groups, rising numbers of family breakdowns and desperate politicians who see political leadership as a do-or-die affair to recruit personnel and mobilize funds to promote their cause.
Boko Haram has been described as having no clear structure and no evident chain of command.  Most terrorists’ organizations are compartmented for security reasons. This is done through the use of small cells, often with as far as three or four members. Members of the cell may know very little about each other and may use assumed names (or numbers) for identification. Communications with other cells may be maintained by using only clandestine techniques. In the event a member is captured, he will be unable to identify members of other cells for police. New recruits are expected to be tested by various measures to ensure they are not government penetration agents. Participation in a crime such as a robbery or a murder may be a “rite of passage” into the organization. A new recruit thus proves his fidelity to the cause and dispels doubt regarding his motivation by committing a crime. All of these methods contribute to organizational security. But also sets the pace for the containment of several such organizations where the government is desirous in dismantling terrorism through the breeding of suspicion, mistrust, and factionalism in the system.   
Although President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s government inherited Boko Haram he failed to tackle the menace with all seriousness until it became a wild wind that is blowing no one good. The Israel’s policy of containment to defeat Hamas is partly successful because of the distance between them. And the America’s policy of elimination to defeat a-Qaida is working because a-Qaida is outside America; even then America has been widely criticized for taking the war against terrorism to Afghanistan and Iraq and failed. Back home, what is Nigeria’s approach to combating Boko Haram? Direct Military Intervention (DMI) or Dialogue? Compensation and Rehabilitation as is being suggested in some quarters? What did the Federal Government of Nigeria say Boko Haram is? For God’s sake, Boko Haram is not a mere band of religious fanatics, rioters, or militants for negotiation for development (political power?) as are widely assumed.
Although link to 1980 Maitatsine group in origin, it is far more advanced in terms of organization, training, skill, technology and techniques.  Boko Haram sects are trained on how to conduct surveillance of targets, collect information about these targets and how to attack such targets. The surveillance and targeting of the UN building in Abuja started some two years prior to the actual bombing. Is it not embarrassing to hear that there were soldiers on guard in the premises of Major General Muhammed Shuwa (rtd) when he was assassinated even though the JTF recently claimed that the perpetrators have been killed – legally or extra-judicially?   
A group that is armed resistance to the Nigeria government, championing the establishment of an Islamic State following Sharia Law in a secular state like Nigeria and have allied itself to the global Jihad ideology expanded by Osama bin Laden and do not only forbids western education but also threatened western interest is nothing but a terrorist organization by every standard. Until we tell ourselves the truth, call Boko Haram by its real name, Terrorist Organization and go all out to combat it, we will be doing the nation no good. The government must show decisive leadership, establish first class intelligence operations and equip our operatives with superior technology and skills.
My investigations have revealed that Boko Haram is not such a close organization that a well equipped and managed intelligence operation cannot penetrate. We are all aware of how Boko Haram has grossly penetrated government intelligence and security system to the extent that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan believes Boko Haram is everywhere, even within his administration. They have used attacking of Christians and bombing of Churches to perpetuate fear in the country. And boldly dictated to the Federal Government where and how they want to dialogue. Recently, Alex Thurston joined many others to suggest conciliatory visits/speeches by President Goodluck Jonathan to the north. What an advice!
There are indications that several American correspondences including the Department of Justice (DoJ) are asking for Boko Haram to be put on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organization. Yet, back home, the Federal Government of Nigeria still categorize the sect as real, political and criminal(?) because it lack the political will to declare Boko Haram a terrorist’s organization and confront its menace in that light.
Boko Haram is a terrorist organization by every standard because it engages in illegal acts punishable under criminal law committed for the purpose of undermining Public safety, influencing decision-making by the authorities or terrorizing the population, and taking the form of violence or the threat of violence against natural or judicial person, destroying (damaging) or threatening to destroy (damage) property and other material objects so as to endanger peoples lives; causing substantial harm to property or the occurrence of other consequences dangerous to society.
Boko Haram is known to have obtained support from willing sources and from individuals and organizations that have been duped or coerced. They also force members of the public to provide intelligence, funds, accommodation and special materials used in terrorist operations. Innocent youths are commandeered and used to provide real-time intelligence, surveillance,