Sunday 24 August 2014

Ebola: Nigeria must guard against bioterrorism – Security expert/ New Telegraph

Nigerians have been subjected to fear and discomfort following the introduction of Ebola Virus Disease to the country by a Liberian American Patrick Sawyer. Though so many explanations have been given on how he came into the country, a counterterrorism expert, Oludare Ogunlana, tells AHAOMA KANU that the act may have been premeditated

Would you consider the way and manner by which EVD was introduced into Nigeria as an act of terrorism?
I think Liberia must be held responsible. It was a deliberate action, which involved state actors. It is a kind of high level ‘politics’ of Ebola, with a small West African country like Liberia trying to drag a big nation like Nigeria into Ebola politics in order to get the needed international response. I will not want to rule out the clandestine action of the Liberian intelligence agency in plotting this deed. Somebody in government deliberately authorised Mr. Sawyer’s trip to Nigeria.

They know that Nigeria has no capability and there is yet no known vaccine in place to treat the Ebola virus. It is on that basis that I want to fault the argument of Sawyer’s spouse who claimed that her husband felt he could get proper medical attention in Nigeria. How come her husband didn’t travel to the United States and instead chose to come to Nigeria? After all, he had dual citizenship of the United States and Liberia.
Of course, the strategy worked for them because it became a big international crisis with more attention from the international community the moment Ebola surfaced in Nigeria. Meanwhile, this does not in any way constitute bio-terrorism against Nigeria. Terrorism is about a game of power, acquisition of power through deliberate use of threats, intimidation or violence in pursuit of power. Therefore, it is not a bio-terror attack against Nigeria as is being insinuated.

Does Nigeria have a bio-terrorism department?

Bio-terrorism has never been an issue for us in Africa. I am not sure any country in Africa, , including Nigeria, is prepared for a bio-terror attack. Of course, the fear at the present is that terrorists in Africa may weaponised Ebola virus to attack civilian or military populace.
Terrorists have used anthrax against the United States. The 2001 anthrax attacks on the United States killed five people, crippled mail delivery in several cities for a year, and imposed more than $1 billion in decontamination costs. There is no doubt that biological weapons are cheaper and easier to acquire than nuclear weapons. Boko Haram and other terrorist groups may be inspired to build biological weapons capability. Hence, we must also prepare ways to tackle biological and chemical weapons.

Have there been cases of bioterrorism on African soil?

So far, there has never been any record of such an attack on African soil. However, with the level of the sophistication of the 21st century terrorists, it is possible in the near future. The threat is deeply troubling today; it will be more so tomorrow, when genetic modification techniques will allow the creation of even worse biological weapons.

How can an act of bio-terrorism be determined?

Most of the traditional Intelligence community collection tools are of little or no use in tackling biological weapons. We don’t even have such capability here in Nigeria. Therefore, the intelligence community and the government as a whole need to approach the problem with a new urgency and new strategies. There is a need to collaborate with the biological sciences community; make targeted collections and also channel more fund into research and capacity building.


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