Can the explosives’ sniffer help with fighting Boko Haram?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Those who attended TEDGlobal 2017 at Arusha Tanzania say it was one of the best events of the year.

Living up to the TED standards in the quality of ideas being shared by Africans from a vast array of walks of life, the meet offered a number of interesting innovations that are expected to influence society for good.

One of those ideas was that introduced by Oshiorenoya Agabi, a Silicon Valley-based neurotechnology entrepreneur. Mr Agabi’s name has spread like some sort of wild fire over the past week for his device which he says could sniff out explosives. The device is said to be based, not on silicon, but on live mice neurons.

The world is at a point in history where fatal explosions in public places are a thing to which many are becoming desensitized. From the past year until now, many major cities in the world including Paris, Brussels and Manchester have experienced deadly bombings that have raised tensions about terrorism, as well as raising the urgency for solutions.

Nigeria, Agabi’s home country, is not exempt to the flurry of terror attacks, even as Boko Haram refuses to be defeated and eliminated. The sect have killed about 200 persons in 2017 alone with attacks in North East Nigeria. The use of female suicide bombers has been of particular devastating effect.

In its determination to deal with the group’s relevance, it would be curious to see if Mr Agabi’s device would become of interest. It may not have a broad role in definitively bringing about an end to Boko Haram but it could be a part of the process of making them less able to pull off their dirty tricks. Identifying and stopping the suicide bombers from detonation appears to be one area where this could become relevant.

To be sure, the device has wowed those who have heard about it but will not necessarily get an immediate pass into everybody’s to-get list. Like GMO, a biologically-engineered gadget, even of defence, will have its critics and skeptics.

That said, Mr Agabi’s device should be worthy of a look by the Nigerian authorities either for adoption or for lessons for customization.


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