The Threat Is Real
Insecurity remains a big problem and Nigerians are unsafe in and outside their homes
In a developed society like the United States, the president is rated by his ability to effectively protect its citizens and their properties. That is how important security is regarded there. Security is the number one duty of the state. It is the major duty assigned to the state under the social contract it signed with the citizenry. When government fails to protect the lives and property of its citizens, then its essence has been defeated.
In Nigeria, the constitution says that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” but successive administrations in the country have failed to guarantee the security of its citizens. The occasional assurances that government has the capacity to secure the nation have become trite in view of the orgy of violence that defines the daily lives of Nigerians. From rising cases of political assassinations, through periodic attacks by the Boko Haram militant group, to ethno-religious violence, kidnapping, armed robbery and other criminal activities, the country is enveloped in palpable insecurity which the security agencies look increasingly incapacitated to deal with.
The attempts by unpatriotic elements to import huge cache of arms through Nigeria’s porous borders and ports have equally been fuelling anxiety and a feeling of insecurity among Nigerians. The total picture of these incidents points to the fact that the country faces security challenges.
Ibrahim Babangida, a former military president, recently articulated the anxiety of the citizenry on the state of insecurity in the country. “The conflagration in the country, the mindless killings in the land and the heightening fear of uncertainty, which is currently enveloping the country, are not telling any good signs about our nationality. Different from what anyone may think, these negative indices have their negative impact on our democracy, investments in the economy, planning and forecasting for the future,” he said.
Indeed, as President Goodluck Jonathan begins his fresh term of four years, many Nigerians believe that he needs to overhaul the nation’s security system to effectively tackle these security challenges. Peter Egbe-Ulu, a retired lieutenant colonel, advised Jonathan to rise to the security challenges as whispers of complaints are now turning into howls of anger and resentment. He said that in order to address the problem, the Jonathan administration should quickly tackle the issue of unemployment and food security. He believes that the security challenges of the country have been compounded because many Nigerians are struggling to earn a living. “Jonathan’s administration should, as a matter of urgency, open up the economy so that there would be food security which would in turn promote national security. The income discrepancy must be bridged and wealth must be redistributed so as to help security agents to tackle the problem of insecurity in the country,” Egbe-Ulu said.
He also advised the new administration to deploy the security forces on ground to nip in the bud any plan by criminals to cause the breach of peace in any part of the country. But government must not use the military for partisan programmes but for quelling security problems that overwhelm the police, provided they are in the interest of the public. He believes the time is ripe for the creation of state police. To this end, he suggested that the incoming seventh National Assembly should initiate a bill and facilitate the promulgation of the law establishing the state police as this will pave way for effective policing.
Egbe-Ulu said the Boko Haram menace, the Jos sectarian violence and other criminal activities across the country were capable of pushing the nation’s internal security to the edge of a cliff. The retired military officer said that one of the reasons the menace of Boko Haram has remained unabated is because none of those who have been arrested for their involvement in the dastardly act has been prosecuted and convicted so as to serve as a deterrent to others. “The government must show iron determination to restore law and order across the nation. It must send a message to all groups that people who commit crime would be arrested, tried and jailed. A radical approach by the government is required to reassure everyone that murderers are being rounded up and put in jail where they belong,” the retired military officer told Newswatch.
Val Nze, managing director, Crimetech Limited, also believes that the introduction of state police in the Nigerian security system is long overdue. According to him, the composition of the Nigeria Police Force is unwieldy and this makes it very difficult for the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to co-ordinate its operations from the police headquarters in Abuja. To him, the lack of capacity by the Nigerian state to meet the minimum function of government which is the protection of its citizens is largely due to the centralised command structure of the Nigerian Police. While modern nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have opted for local policing, Nigeria remains mired in a policing system that has become unwieldy and lethargic.
The seasoned security expert, however, said that even if state police is introduced, the federal police should still be there at the national level to tackle serious crimes such as burglary, kidnapping, murder and misdemeanor.
On the other hand, the state police should be charged with the responsibility of quelling riots and other local duties that would be assigned to them by the state. Nze told Newswatch that once the state police is in place, Nigerians will see the police truly as their friend and this will improve intelligence gathering and crime control. He believes that with the state police in place, many crimes will be curtailed through the participation of local people in the maintenance of law and order.
He explained that the problem with the Nigeria Police as it is presently constituted is that it is short-staffed and does not have effective intelligence gathering mechanism. “They don’t have under-cover operatives and the money to pay informants to facilitate the investigation of crimes is not there. Even the sophisticated weapons to effectively combat crime are lacking. These issues must be addressed and the remuneration of police officers should be improved upon to motivate them to put in their best,” Nze said.
With particular reference to the Islamic fundamentalist movement like Boko Haram, he advised the president to fund the State Security Service, SSS, to enable it effectively tackle problems of sabotage, subversion, and espionage. According to him, what Boko Haram has been doing in the North in recent times is subversion and it is the responsibility of the SSS to infiltrate the group and they need intelligence gathering from people on their operation to do that. Nze told Newswatch that in order to check the activities of Boko Haram, the Jonathan administration should fund the security agencies to create a functional intelligence gathering network that would expose their plan to unleash mayhem on hapless Nigerians even before they strike. “Violent crimes like the post-presidential election killings and the October 1, 2010 bomb blast in Abuja, would have been nipped in the bud if the intelligence units of the police, SSS, and other security agencies were strengthened,” he said. The implication of Nze’s submission is that the security agencies responsible for all internal affairs matter must envisage the problems affecting the country and checkmate them before they actually happen.
Roland Owie, a former senator, wants the president to take a step towards addressing the problem of incessant breach of security in the country by considering issue of state police. He advised him to send a bill to the National Assembly to set up state police. “We need state police now. That will go a long way to address the complaints of state governors who have had difficulty curtailing ethnic and religious crises in their domains, despite the fact that they are the chief security officers in their respective states. For example, Jonah Jang, governor of Plateau State, has complained several times that he was unable to solve the security problem in his state because he is not in control of the police.” According to Owie, fears that the governors can abuse state police could also be taken care of in the enabling law that should empower the federal police to intervene, where it is established that the process has been abused.
Emele Uka, prelate and general assembly moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, PCN, said that Jonathan must make security of lives and property a priority. Uka, who is also a lecturer in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Calabar, believes that the recent crises in the north which led to the senseless murder of innocent people succeeded because the police have not been alive to their responsibilities. “I feel extremely sad that those who should take care of security of lives and property are not alive to their responsibilities. The army and the police are the cause of all those crises. The SSS gives them information but they don’t act fast. They only act when the damage had been done.”
Olapade Agoro, chairman of the National Action Council,NAC, urged President Jonathan to wake up to the great challenge posed by insecurity. He said that the dangerous trend should be stemmed quickly in the interest of political stability. Agoro believes that with the number of security personnel in the country, Nigerians ought to feel safer and called on the authorities to address the lapses in the security network.
On his own part, Amitolu Shittu, co-ordinator, Campaign for Democracy and Rights of the People, said that there is so much insecurity in the country, because successive administrations had failed to give adequate attention to education and the need to provide jobless Nigerians social security. He urged the president to accord priority to the social security of Nigerians because it is the leeway which would guarantee national security.
John Oshodi, a professor of Psychology, Broward College - North Campus, Coconut Creek, Florida, was much more forthright in his suggestion to the president on the way forward for national security. “Let security revolution be top on the agenda of Mr. President. The new administration should aggressively pursue strategies and methodologies that could effectively check the problems of national security,” he said.
Max Gbanite, another Nigerian based in New Jersey, United States, believes that in order to curb or control insecurity, there should be commitment from security personnel and financial mobilisation to strengthen all the security agencies. “The National Security Agency, NSA, must have clear and achievable objectives on how to keep this country safe. The objectives as envisaged by NSA must be articulated to the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, State Security Service, SSS, Nigeria Police Force, NPF, and Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and Ministry of Internal Affairs, MIA. The Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA, should co-ordinate the efforts of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, DMI, Directorate of Naval Intelligence Agency, DNIA, and the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence, DAI. Any and all information gathered that may be considered a threat to the stability of our country, be it from afar or within, must be shared with NSA for passage to the proper agency authorised to checkmate such insurgency.”
Gbanite explained that the security agencies responsible for all internal affairs matters must envisage the problems affecting the country and checkmate them before they actually happen.
Certainly, the security challenges are quite enormous. A few years ago, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former head of state, identified some of the major security problems confronting the Nigerian nation. They include political and electioneering conflicts, socio-economic agitations, ethno-religious crises, ethnic militias, boundary disputes, cultism, criminality and organised crimes. These problems individually and collectively constitute threats to the peace, security and development of the country. Invariably, they have implications for the continuity and survival of democracy in Nigeria. But they can be addressed through fairness and justice, especially on election issues.
Incidentally, the president is aware of these challenges. In a statement that looked like his riot act at the peak of the post-election crises in some parts of the country, he said: “As president, it is my solemn duty to defend the constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian wherever they choose to live. I will defend the right of all citizens to freely express their democratic choice anywhere in this country; to enjoy every freedom and opportunity that this country offers without let or hindrance. I assure all Nigerians that I will do so with all powers at my disposal as president, commander-in-chief.”
No doubt, the gravity of the situation requires that the security agencies should respond appropriately by effecting a change of approach and strategy. Nze, a seasoned security expert, suggests that they should change their focus from trying to nab the perpetrators after an incident has occurred to adopting preventive strategy that will avert disaster before it unfolds. “The security agencies under the new administration of President Jonathan need to work together and develop a proactive, integrated approach which will overwhelm the perpetrators of violence and discourage them from their heinous acts,” he told Newswatch.