A statement by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, advised churches and mosques to carry out risk assessment and vulnerability surveys to enable them determine the level of risk, they are exposed to.
According to Abubakar, location of the church/mosque, analysis of its neighbourhood demography, size and architectural design of the church/mosque, population of the members, nature of access roads to the place etc are crucial to the assessment survey.
Some of the measures are: “Churches and Mosques should establish standard security and safety committee. Members should be volunteers with impeccable background and a passion for safety and security. Proper vetting and background checks must be carried out on all prospective members to avoid infiltration by enemies.
“The committee members should work closely with the local police authority and other relevant security agencies in formulating appropriate security measures. The churches/mosques may consider the options of organising constant trainings, workshops and seminars for committee members.
“Ushers in churches should be encouraged to perform additional security duties. Ushers should be given extra trainings and briefings on security. Competency and individual pedigree, rather than mere looks should be the yardstick for appointing ushers.
“Churches and Mosques may 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”. They are encouraged to go into the society and play positive roles in solving the problems of the community and changing the society for good. They must build bridges and build bonds.
“They should strive to build strong relationship with local security agencies (Police, Military, Fire Service etc) and encourage seamless flow of information between themselves and the agencies.
“Worshippers should park their vehicles at designated distances away from the places of worship. Worshippers who reside close to the places of worship are encouraged to walk rather than drive to the worship centres. This will reduce the number of cars around the worship centres.
“Worshippers should be discouraged from entering the worship centres with handbags, briefcases and other similar items. There is need for perimeter fencing of all places of worship to prevent invaders from gaining cheap access, especially during prayers/services.
“There is need for training of churches/mosques guards by the law enforcement agents to meet up with their responsibilities at their duty posts. Churches/mosques are advised to invest on modern security gadgets such as CCTV cameras, scanners, etc.
“The officials and worshippers at churches and mosques should be ready to partner and cooperate with the security agencies deployed to their places of worship on Sundays and Fridays. People should avoid rushing to the scene of incidents, especially explosions, to avoid distorting the scene of crime and exposing themselves to further danger.
“The youths and other members of the congregation must be sufficiently sensitised on the need to always allow the security agencies unrestricted access to scenes of incidents in all emergency situations. Worshippers should be advised to return to their various homes rather than clustering/loitering around the worship centres after Sunday services or Jummat prayers.
“Worshippers should be security conscious and report all suspicious characters and observations to the police.”
The statement regretted that churches and mosques, which are traditionally regarded as safe havens and sanctuaries have come under relentless terrorist attacks in recent times, particularly in certain parts in the north.
“They 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,” the statement said.
The police said the decision to issue the above safety and security tips should not be seen as an attempt by the security agencies to abdicate their responsibility of protecting lives and property.
The statement added that the periodic release of security tips and other advisory notes was in line with the concept of community and democratic policing, which demands constant engagement and interaction with stakeholders.
“Although, we concede that the concept of absolute security is almost impossible, nonetheless, we believe that with adequate advance planning and systematic synergy amongst the officials of the various places of worship, the worshippers, the host community and the law enforcement agencies, the risks of criminal attacks on our places of worship could be reduced almost to a zero level,” the statement added.