Mr. Ethelbert Onuoha Oney is a US-based Counterterrorism Expert. In this chat with JULIANA FRANCIS, Oney gives his perspective on the Kuje Prison attack and escalating insecurity in Nigeria


What is your opinion on escalating insecurity and Boko Haram attacks?

The emergence of Boko Haram and its subsequent factions since 2009 placed additional demands as well as embarrassments on our intelligence agencies and law enforcement workforce. It requires advanced intelligence collection against new targets, many of which possessed different collection methods than they are conversant with.

As an expert in counterterrorism, in 2013, I told Nigerians that they should expect different forms, factions of Boko Haram, and attacks, until such time the sponsors, sympathizers, and its members in the government are exposed and sanctioned.


Is the Kuje Prison attack an intelligence failure?

The Kuje Prison attack was not an intelligence failure because they got the Intel that an attack was imminent. This attack was a classic mastermind (conspiracy) and a plot to release the Boko Haram members in that prison for the purpose of the upcoming election. And to draft them into the various law enforcement agencies for selfish reasons.

What do you mean by “ for the purpose of the upcoming election”?

Nigerians should wake up and ask questions, had this conspiracy been a terrorist attack per se, the result would be completely different. Have you asked yourself these questions?

How can the deadliest terrorist organisation on the planet earth attack a facility and only one uniformed personnel was recorded dead?

The other four dead persons were inmates if that is true in the first. Why were other VIP prisoners not released? It is impossible considering the sophisticated weapons the Boko Haram group possesses, their ruthlessness, heartlessness, and thirst for blood.

The whole operation if investigated, and only if, you will unravel that it was an insider dealing with the order from the top. And the dead personnel probably was not part of the conspiracy, a newly recruited personnel, or from the other part of Nigeria (sacrificial lamb).

One of the most important types of intelligence that exists within its frame is strategic Intelligence because it provides the law enforcement agencies with an overview of criminals, their capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions. This formula allows law enforcement agencies adequate time and information to formulate plans to mitigate terrorist activities such as this.

What does that mean sir?

There was enough time to foil the attack from the time intelligence was given to the authorities and the time of the attack. The road leading to the facility was blocked and a bomb exploded, yet no Police or Army reinforcement throughout the duration. Did the Boko Haram terrorist sect come with private jets?

No! They drove vans, trucks, motorbikes, and busses, and yet the information was not shared with other law enforcement agencies outside Kuje Prison, the Federal Capital of Nigeria.

The effectiveness of any law enforcement organisation depends, to a reasonable extent, on its ability to obtain, process, and effectively utilize intelligence information. Therefore, what really happened here?

Tell us what you think happened…

The answers Nigerians deserve include, what was the reason intelligence about this imminent attack was ignored? Intelligence Circle constitutes: Planning, collection, evaluation, analyze, dissemination and policy. All these processes are intertwined and vital. However, the most imperative is evaluation and analyst because after the information has been collected, it is the responsibility of the analyst to determine whether the data is useful and/or accurate.

If the information emanates from an informant, the analyst determines the informant’s past and source reliability. For example, the analyst maintains a code used to establish whether the information is highly reliable, usually reliable, seldom reliable, or reliability unknown.

Can someone tell Nigerians where the intelligence regarding imminent attack falls? Is there going to be accountability for this conspiracy?

We must realise that a country under attack must genuinely protect its citizens because under international law, the response of a targeted country is predicated on principles of self-defense, and these are in turn based on what the international community regards as the “inherent” right of national security and the attendant duty to protect her citizens from terrorist attacks.

The norms of self-defense revolve around survival and are parallel to the common law. Clearly, we start with the principle that a Country has the inherent right to protect and defend its sovereignty, it appears these fundamental principles are farfetched due to greed and corruption. Under-reaction within the concept is an intentional failure to uphold the constitutional responsibility of a given country and the rule of law.

It is a suicide mission for any given administration because it is a self-inflicted wound that usually ends or totally leads to anarchy. A society constituted without authorities or a governing body like we saw on the 5th July 2022 attack in Kuje prison and Borno State since 2009.

What is the way forward?

We should unanimously say no to corruption, shame, and sanction the sponsors of Boko Haram holding power in the land. The sooner we stop protecting the Boko Haram terrorist sect, their various factions, use their services during elections and the mentality that elected officials are above the law, the less we experience the likes of Kuje prison attacks conspiracy.

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