Lessons for Nigeria from Guy Fawkes
Terrorism and Nigeria. Article by Paul Obanua
Bombed police force headquarters in Abuja... recently
Security is simply defined as the state of being free from danger or injury. But I’m going to deal more on the most bedeviling security situation in Nigeria called terrorism.
Terrorism is defined as the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes, which I strongly believe should also include all forms of kidnapping and armed attacks.
The earliest act of modern terrorism in recorded history, though averted, was in November 5, 1605, known as The Gunpowder Plot of 1605.It was also called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason in earlier centuries. This was a failed assassination attempt against King James 1 of England by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.
The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England’s Parliament on November 5,1605, as a prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands during which James’s nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was to be installed as the Catholic Head of State.
The plot was revealed to the authorities in an anonymous letter sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, on the 26th of October 1605.
During a search of the House of Lords at about midnight on the 4th of November 1605, Guy Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder—enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble—and was arrested. Most of the conspirators fled from London as they learnt of the plot’s discovery. However, eight of the arrested plotters, including Fawkes, were tried, sentenced and convicted on the 27th of January 1606. From then on to this day, UK’s Bonfire Night is marked every November 5 in commemoration of the failed terrorist attempt.
This event presents several lessons that people, and we, as individuals could learn from, amongst which are:
Ones sense of responsibility to oneself, relations and community. The November 5 Gunpowder Terror was averted by the revelation of the plot to the authorities in an anonymous letter. Imagine what would have become of England without this single citisen having a good sense of responsibility, probably to his friends, brothers or country…
For security to be everyone’s business all we need is for every individual to care enough for brother, friend, community or oneself. If the individual knows that the next terrorist act could eliminate a daughter, a son, a friend or oneself, there would be an overwhelming sense of responsibility and patriotism to send anonymous information, by today’s means of communication like: SMS, phone call, email and others. That single individual that can save us all, as a people under siege is you! Pass that anonymous information to the police, the Joint Task Force (JTF), the State Security Service (SSS) and other Government authorities, because the next victim of terror could be you.
There is a need for secured information channel where the individual can give vital information anonymously on voice-call or SMS using a 3-digit easily memorable phone number. Remember, the anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, a member of the House of Lords, and the sender has remained anonymous to this day; 412 years later. How many of our political leaders can we pass security information to, while the anonymity is maintained and the needful done without losing the essence of the intelligence, in an attempt to see what political capital could be gained from such?
Even some security operatives have also been found wanting in matters of confidentiality.
In the face of this question of who to trust, it is pertinent that an information gathering call centre (platform), that guarantees anonymity - jointly managed and accessed by the security agencies, is established. I know you want to let me know that the Inspector General of Police released to the public his direct lines , the SSS, the JTF and others also have special emergency lines for distress calls and information on any security situation, but how many of you can remember these 7 to11 digit phone numbers? How much publicity was given to these phone numbers? That is why the proposed anonymous information platform should have nothing more than 3-digit phone numbers like the 911 in the US.
A well-publicised 3-digit information phone number will be a veritable game changer in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria. If this joint information platform is put in place, it is now the burden of the authorities to continuously evolve competences in verifying&authenticating information, and acting swiftly on any lead coming in from all of us, as it took the then English authorities less than eight days to unravel the Gunpowder Plot.
Prompt dispensation of justice. It took only 3 months to try, sentence and convict the eight surviving suspects. In modern times, the need for accelerated hearing and speedy dispensation of justice against terrorism cannot be overemphasised. This can be achieved by setting up special courts and assigning specially trained judges to focus on only terrorism related cases. Hence, the need to review judicial approach to terrorism, as practiced globally in modern times, through legislative enactments.
i) Let’s take France for example - which has been a target of international terrorism due to the political situation in the Middle-East in the 1980s, the Islamic Armed Group (Groupe Islamique Armee, GIA) in Algeria in the 1990s, and since 2001, in relation to international jihadist movements inspired or connected to Al Qaida (assassinations and kidnappings of French residents in Saudi-Arabia, Mali, Algeria and Afghanistan in 2007, 2008, and 2009). The French Legislature responded to each terrorist onslaught with the enactment of new laws. Hence the enactment of four major counter-terrorism laws, namely, the 1986 (law no. 86-1020 of September 9), the 1996 (law no.
96-647 of July 22), 2001 (law no. 2001-1062 of November 15) and that of 2006 (law no. 2006-64 of January). But we are only going to look into law no. 86-1020 enacted in September 9, 1986 as a result of terror attacks in that year. This law did not create new crimes, but classified certain crimes committed in terrorist context under a special regime -to which special procedural rules applied. This called for centralization of counter-terrorism effort in Paris, resulting in enhanced specialization of dedicated competent Judges and prosecutors.
Consequently, this framework provided more robust knowledge and expertise for ever-evolving terrorist matters. The law also provided prolonged police custody (garde a vue) of up to four days, and house searches without the consent of the owner. Furthermore, similar to the UK’s policy; lay judges were not involved in courts that handled terrorist trials, but competence to try terrorist cases were assigned to special Assize Courts.
ii) We can also refer to the USA PATRIOT ACT, which means, Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. This was the swift response of Capitol Hill (US Legislature) to the attacks of September 11, 2001. This Act is structured primarily for the detection and investigation of terrorist activities. This kind of Act further reinforces our need for anonymous information call center to enable everybody participate in citizen surveillance, thereby effectingSECURITY BEING EVERYONE’S BUSINESS in Nigeria.
Government must have and be seen to have more capacity for
Violence. The government of King James 1 of England exercised its authority and greater capacity against violence than Gunpowder Treason plotters by hounding them down, as most of the conspirators fled from London, when they learnt of the plot’s discovery. These terrorists tried to enlist support and incite insurrection along the way, and further made a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester and his men at Holbeche House. Consequently, during the ensuing battle,the mastermind -Catesby was one of those shot and killed, and the surviving eight were brought to prompt justice as I earlier mentioned.
i)We can also refer to a more recent event where President Mahinda Rajapaska became decisive in unleashing the superior might of the state to end 25 years of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, AKA LTTEor Tamil Tigers’ Terrorism on the island nation of Sri Lanka.
In less than 16 months ofpulling out of the peace agreement that had been disregarded by Tamil Tigers, the Government totally vanquished the terrorist group. The decision for full crackdown only happenedyears after 80,000-100,000 lives were lost and two heads of state assassinated (Rajiv Gandhi of India in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 - using suicide bombers on both occasions). All entreaties or negotiations for peace, and truces for ceasefire, were either rejected or broken for 25 years by Tamil Tigers. Between February 2002 to May 2007, the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission documented 3,830 ceasefire violations by the Tamil Tigers. It was after these and so many other atrocities, that an administration realized that as the saying goes: ‘you don’t negotiate with terrorists…’ But, I will use this avenue to acknowledge and encourage the recent decisive combative efforts of the security agencies in Nigeria, especially the Joint Task Force (JTF), whose crackdowns are already yielding results towards tightening the noose around terrorists and defeating terrorism in our homeland.
May I hereby use this opportunity to implore the Federal legislators to strengthen our laws on security, by enacting a homebred anti-terrorism act that recognizes every form of kidnapping, armed attacks and other well-known mass murders as terrorism. The prospective anti-terrorism law should also be fashioned to create special courts and produce specially trained judges and prosecutors in this our collective patriotic efforts against all forms of insecurity.
In conclusion to this topic of security being everyone’s business, the media must accept to play an enhanced pivotal role of mass mobilization by giving some free advert spaces to represent Corportae Social Responsibility (SCR) for sustained public enlightenment campaign in conjunction with Security Agencies and other relevant government institutions.
However, as patriots, we should also rise in protest to flush out terrorist in our towns and cities – as recently demonstrated on September 22, by the citisens of Benghazi supporting their small police force in flushing out terrorist groups associated with the killing of US ambassador and disbanded the groups from their society. I hope the non-partisan civil society groups and labour unions will champion our people’s revolt against insecurity without politics.
And as a people of forces of good, we must all continuously have this abiding faith and assurance that we shall triumph over evil, and we shall someday, very soon, commemorate the defeat of terrorism.