Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bombs: Security chiefs in panic

The heads of all the nation’s security agencies are in panic mode. THE PUNCH learnt on Tuesday that the security chiefs were reprimanded by President Goodluck Jonathan for their inability to stem the growing wave of bombings in the country.

The President indicted the security chiefs at a meeting held to review the security situation on Monday.

Attendees at the meeting, which a source described as very frank, included the three service chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, the Director- General of the State Security Service and the National Security Adviser. The meeting, our correspondents gathered, was called to review the bombing of the United Nations office, Abuja and the country’s security situation.

A source privy to the happenings at the meeting told our correspondent in Abuja that the President was concerned about the public criticisms attracted by his administration’s inability to stem the bombings.

The source said that the countenance of the service chiefs changed after the President, who is usually very genial at meetings, started the meeting by expressing his disappointment with “much anger”.

“I think because of the way the President spoke, the security chiefs are now jittery. They think they could be fired if they failed to deliver,” the source said.

The source, a senior security official, said the President blamed the rising incidents of bombings across the country on a failure of intelligence on the part of the security chiefs and their institutions.

He added that the President ordered the security chiefs to fish out the masterminds of the serial bombings, and to cooperate with the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who are helping in the investigation. The source did not however say whether the President tied his ‘orders’ to an ultimatum.

He said, “I can tell you that the President is not happy with what is going on in the country, especially the security situation. He is not happy that the security chiefs and their subordinates have not been able to find those responsible for several bombings in the country.

“He is particularly embarrassed by the bombing of the UN building and, he told the security chiefs that they must get the perpetrators arrested.”

Asked what the response of the security chiefs was, the source said they promised to “improve on their intelligence gathering.” The source said some of them also told the President that terrorism was now a global problem.

On the claim by the IGP, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, that some suspects had been arrested in connection with the UN bombing, the source only stopped short of dismissing the IGP’s claim. While announcing the arrest, Ringim had said that he had passed the information to the President, who would brief Nigerians about it.

But the source wondered why the IG could not provide the details himself. “Is it now the duty of the President to parade suspects?” the source asked.

Asked if the security chiefs would deliver on their promises to the President, the source said, “You know, our security chiefs are always eager to give commitments like, ‘we will get the perpetrators,’ and ‘those responsible for this heinous act will not go unpunished’. But at the end of the day, what do we get?”

Our correspondent also gathered that President Goodluck Jonathan had met with the security chiefs thrice since the UN bombing incident.

He was said to have warned the security chiefs against inter-agency rivalry. The President reportedly warned that inter-agency rivalry could jeopardise investigations into the activities of Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the bombing of the UN office.

A source in one of the security agencies told one of our correspondents that Nigerian security agents would carry out field work, while the FBI would handle the technical aspect of the investigation.

The top security chief, who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the incident, said, “The President emphasised the need for inter-agency cooperation and the need for our officers to work with the FBI men.

“It is not true that the FBI has completely taken over the investigation. Our men are already on the field for intelligence gathering. They are being guided by experts from the US. Our plan is to improve data-gathering.”