The Nigerian Police have given reason why places of worship have become the main targets of bombing attacks in the country.
According to a release by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, most churches have limited protective measures and do not demand any means of identification before worshippers are allowed in. Mba said the acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar has recommended to churches and mosques in the country to institute standard security committees to work with the Police in protecting members against attacks.
According to Mba who said members of the committee should be comprised of volunteers with impeccable background and passion for the safety of fellow worshippers stressed that the background check on the proposed members would be necessary to prevent infiltration by ‘enemies’
Mba named absence of physical security gadgets such as Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras as another factor making them to become `soft targets’ to criminal elements. “Churches and mosques are safe heavens and sanctuaries for worshiping and experiencing God’s love, mercy and grace. They are hallowed places and somewhat immune from the troubles, conflicts and violence of the world, including wars.
“However, recent events in Nigeria and other parts of the world, particularly the serial attacks on churches in some parts of the country, appear to have fundamentally altered this age-long view.” Churches and mosques provide a pool of large crowd." Consequently, the possibility of mass casualty in the event of an attack is high. This is a big attraction for terror groups.
“Any attack on a place of worship is considered sacrilegious. It will, therefore, elicit mass condemnation and extensive media coverage. Terror groups savour such free and elaborate coverage. “Because of the sensitive nature of religion, an attack on a church or mosque can easily provoke hatred, suspicion and reprisals amongst the various religious groups.
“When that happens, there could be breakdown of law and order. Such state of lawlessness, even if temporary, fitted into the desire of terrorist organisations.” The IG also recommended to officials of places of worship, to carry out what he termed “risk assessment and vulnerability surveys” which he said will determine the risk they were exposed to.
According to him, factors to be considered in such assessment should include location, analysis of their neighbourhood demography, size and architectural design, population and access roads.
He advised leaders of Churches and Mosques to consider erecting barriers to keep human and vehicular traffic away from designated areas.
“One of the most effective ways of preventing suicide bombing is to isolate the suicide bomber to himself and prevent him from reaching his targeted audience. Churches and Mosques officials are advised to make conscious efforts to know their members. This will make it easier for them to spot and identify strangers and intruders.
“Churches and Mosques in restive areas must avoid the temptation of isolating themselves from the public or their host community. They must avoid the 'fortress mentality'. “There is need for perimeter fencing of all places of worship to prevent invaders from gaining cheap access, especially during prayers/services,” he said.
The police boss encouraged officials of churches and mosques to build strong relationship with local police and other security agencies to encourage seamless flow of information.