The public must learn to take all reasonable precautions to prevent terrorist attacks and minimise fatalities at scenes of such attacks, writes Vincent Obia
It is well known that Nigerians are a caring people who are always more than happy to lend their support to those in need. This quality has been manifest in the scenes of all the terrorist attacks the country has witnessed. But the uncoordinated nature of such assistance has typically intensified the air of confusion at the terror scenes, while offering far slimmer relief to those who are injured and in need of help and, inadvertently, boosting the terrorists’ mission of causing as much casualties as possible.
On Tuesday, for the umpteenth time there was a regrettable escalation in fatalities after the twin bomb blasts in Jos due, apparently, to a crude response method to the terrorist act. Two car bombs exploded at the bustling Jos bus terminal and market that Tuesday afternoon, killing more than 120 people and wounding dozens.
Reports said the second blast occurred about 30 minutes after the first, killing many of those who had rushed to the scene to rescue victims of the first explosion.
Many believe the heavy casualties following the second explosion could have been averted if the authorities had deployed a properly organised rescue effort after the initial blast. Perhaps, the first blast could also have been prevented if the authorities did something when they were alerted by suspicious vendors to a white van said to have held the bomb, which had been parked for hours in the area.
The threat of terrorism in the country has become an ever-increasing concern and government at all levels, emergency responders, and the security agencies can no longer take the issue of public safety for granted. There must be a conscious, concerted, and coordinated effort to educate Nigerians on safety precautions at all times, particularly, during and after terrorist attacks.
Nigerians must be taught to be vigilant always and report all suspicious objects, acts or utterances to the authorities. And the security agencies must imbibe a new spirit of patriotism needed to spur them to action each time they are alerted to potentially dangerous situations. They must be equipped with training, arms and ammunition to facilitate effective response to emergencies.
Experts warn that during a terrorist attack, people should not rush to the scene of the incident. They should keep a safe distance from the scene and only act based on instruction from the emergency and security agencies, who should immediately cordon off the scene of the attack. But the lacklustre response of the authorities to emergencies has often encouraged haphazard interventions by the public.
The chaotic surge to the scene of explosion naturally increases the risk to the lives of victims and rescue workers, while the gathering crowds often become the target of a second attack. All these were evident in the Jos explosions.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2011 defines terrorism as an act deliberately carried out with “malice, aforethought and which:
“may seriously harm or damage a country or an international organisation.
“is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been intended to – unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act; seriously intimidate a population…
“involves or causes, as the case may be – an attack upon a person’s life which may cause serious bodily harm or death; kidnapping of persons; destruction to a government or public facility…”
Terrorist acts are, thus, usually preplanned. But there are signs that may give the terrorist away. Experts identify such signs to include: shadowy or mistrustful survey of an area; attempt to gain knowledge of the level of security in a place; accumulation of explosives, arms and ammunition, uniforms of the military and other security services, and pressure cookers; and strange/aimless movements by persons not known in an area.
Nigerians should also be alert for strange objects, such as parked vehicles and bags in their neighbourhoods and public places. Had people at the Jos terminal last Tuesday applied some of the basic safety measures, the parked bomb-laden van said to have been parked for hours at the place before it exploded, would have been discovered. The fatal blast would, perhaps, have been prevented.
Government at all levels in the country must take deliberate steps to increase the people’s security consciousness.