It is important to observe that the ongoing conversations on National Security are long overdue considering the various security challenges and failures recently witnessed in the country. There are also defects in the existing structure that justify these conversations. It therefore behoves on all patriotic and well meaning Nigerians, even without being asked, to make contributions on the issue. It is in this spirit this contribution is being made. To begin with, the narrowing of the views being expressed to only the police seems to be misplaced as the Police is not synonymous with National security. National Security is about all organizations that have responsibilities for protecting the lives and properties of the citizenry, the safety of critical National assets and the corporate existence and territorial integrity of the country. The conversation should therefore be a critical look at the entire National security architecture with a view to having a responsive and robust system for the country. This is the reason the search for solutions for the security challenges facing the country should be approached from the perspective of the factors militating against the effective performance of security agencies in the country. For an informed understanding, a holistic look at the strength and weaknesses of the security agencies is necessary. Fortunately, the factors militating against the effectiveness of security agencies in the country cuts across nearly all the security agencies. Succinctly put, the major problems militating against the performance of various security agencies in the country are, institutional, the legal foundations and orientation. A point that should not be overlooked is security challenges in the country have simply out grown the capacity of virtually all security agencies. In addition to sophistication of contemporary security challenges, there are also the problems of stunted growth and culture facing some of the security agencies. It is important to note that, the key security agencies in the country are creations of the colonial era. Most of the security agencies have therefore not inculcated into their personnel modern ideas and techniques for contemporary security management. The point needs to be reiterated that, you definitely cannot fight current security challenges with archaic and outdated methods and mindset.
Other challenges facing the security sector are absence of required tools and resources for effective discharge of their responsibilities. The most critical are, the dearth of vehicles and communication equipments, as well as, cutting edge technical support. Security practice in the countries where it is successful are at the moment migrating to drone technology, biometric capabilities and use of digitalized Crime Data Banks and forensic. The limitations currently experienced in these area should therefore be looked into if the Nation is to improve the security sector. Also, imbibing the culture of operating consistent with the dictates of democratic expectations is important. Civility should be the rule and the cardinal guide in all security operations. What this portend is, the challenges of security in our context is not about structure and type but is about mindset and orientation. Today, security in most countries is built on respect for human rights and rule of law. These principles should be enshrined in our National security system.
In security practice, designing a security architecture is dictated by careful identification of security challenges facing the country or envisaged, as well as, identifying vulnerabilities and gaps that could result in security infractions. Not the least important are, also the weaknesses and limitations of institutions and structures charged with the responsibility of preventing and managing security challenges. For lack of space, the major security challenges facing the country at the moment are, likely further attacks by armed herdsmen, the insurgency in the North East and separatist agitations in parts of the country. There are also acts of economic sabotage, politically orchestrated acts of subversion and criminal activities such as, kidnapping and hostage taking. Others are, the implications of the porous borders, proliferation of dangerous weapons and prospects of youth restiveness. It is estimated that, the current hardship occasioned by economic recession unless urgently mitigated could trigger upheavals of immeasurable consequence. Instability in countries in the sub-region are other security threats. These broadly are the potent threats facing National Security at the moment.
The other areas that need to be looked at in redesigning the National Security architecture are, the problems of poor distribution of security posts and manpower. From available statistics, only about forty percent (40%) of the country is at the moment effectively covered security wise. This inadequacy is what has informed the decision to establish more security posts by the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Airforce in parts of the country recently. Other security and law enforcement agencies especially, the Nigeria Police and the State Security Service needs to take a cue. The gravity of these gaps is better appreciated when seen against the backdrop of failures to promptly detect emerging criminal or subversive activities. There have been observations that, the absence of security posts and adequate personnel in areas assessed vulnerable are what singularly has led to security breaches. Investigations in the past reveal that this defect is partly responsible for the spates of attacks by herdsmen, kidnapping and the insurgency in the North East. One can authoritatively say that, the vastness of States in the North and thin spread of security contributed to the emergence of terrorist cells in some remote areas such as the Sambisa Forest in Borno State. The same can be said of the situation in the Niger Delta. The remote riverine areas are not properly policed. These gaps must therefore be addressed if the performance of the National Security System is to be enhanced.
The effects of negative societal influence on security agencies is the other factor that have affected their performance. The security agencies more than ever before are, contending with the problems of collapse of societal values, nepotism and influence peddling. A system that is not built on fairness, equity and inclusion cannot definitely be productive and effective. Other related problems are, problems associated with recruitment and professionalism in most security agencies. Narrow interests seem to have eroded requirements in many security agencies. This in turn has affected performance. The need to insulate the security agencies from politics is therefore imperative.
The other major area of interest is the ongoing conversations is the suggestion that the creation of State Police is a solution to the security challenges facing the country. This point of view deserves critical interrogation. As informed practitioners, we believe this view is not progressive. I don’t believe States that are already contending with challenges of paying workers salaries and demands of development can sustain added burden of State Police. Experience has shown that, a Police system that is controlled by a dominant party at the State level is likely to abuse the previledge. Already, there are indications that States are likely to misuse some quasi Police outfits created ostensibly for tax collection, traffic control and security support. Much more serious is, the fact that such outfits could be used to manipulate elections. Concerns are also being expressed that, State Police could be used to aggravate the already fractious socio-economic, religious and partisan divides in States. In effect, there is nothing that will stop a hostile state authority from being belligerent towards the centre if it controls the State Police. The other reason not supportive of State police is having armed men not properly trained, paid and controlled. There is also no guarantee that a State Police system will not be heavily politised. The suggestions for the creation of state police therefore needs to be examined further. Also, the fact that a State Police could be used as an instrument of oppression against perceived political or religious opponents portends serious threats to National Security. An equally serious reason why the country should not go for State Police at the moment are, the likelihood of its being used for subversive purposes. It must be appreciated that, one of the most potent threats to National security facing the country at the moment is, the activities of separatist groups, economic saboteurs and ethnic militia. Creating State Police will therefore simply mean arming such groups and unwittingly emboldening groups whose activities are inimical to National security. Therefore, the option that could be explored is strengthening community policing competence at the State level within the existing framework.
Discussions on the whole gamut of security processes and practices with a view of identifying factors that impede the effectiveness of the system in the wake of several security failures is also very important. The problems of intelligence gathering or collection, processing and timely dissemination should be looked into. From experience, the lack of adequate security coverage, challenges of processing, sharing and timely dissemination of intelligence are huge challenges in security management in the country. Appreciation of intelligence by some consumers is also a problem. These challenges are collectively counter-productive. Any security arrangement being envisaged or solutions being proffered must therefore address the inadequacies in intelligence management in the security architecture.
Other shortcomings of the existing practice that should be looked into is, lack of Inter-Agency cooperation and poor coordination. It is disheartening to note that, some agencies have been accused of not taking the issue of inter agencies cooperation seriously. Many agencies incidentally have not imbedded the culture of intelligence sharing and cooperation. This is despite the huge successes usually recorded when agencies cooperate and share available intelligence. There is the belief that, the coming on board of the Fusion Centre in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) will hopefully address this shortcoming. Regardless, the innovation cannot be an alternative to the time tested practice where actionable intelligence is shared and passed to action agencies. It also should be noted that, cooperation is the hallmark of effective security management.
The other major aspect of the National Security conversations that needs further discussion and strengthening is border security and aliens control. To say that the Nation’s borders are porous is an understatement. The country incidentally has very long and poorly manned borders due to lack of adequate manpower, and the absence of technical border monitoring and surveillance capacities. This is not surprising as, the country’s borders and immigration control responsibilities attracted little attention until now. It needs to be noted that, the problem is further compounded by poor Aliens control in terms of visa issuance, aliens registration and residency authorization. It is therefore not surprising that, the country is among those listed with poorest aliens control regimes especially as some categories of foreigners known to be suspected sponsors and supporters of terrorism and financial crime stay in the country undetected. As things are, the country must strengthen its borders and closely monitor foreigners by introducing biometric capabilities and possibly electronic monitoring at the borders. Also, the Nigeria Immigration Service and other agencies with border security responsibilities should be provided adequate vehicles for patrols and other capabilities. The challenges of the land borders sadly face the country’s maritime sector.
Closely linked to the problems of porous borders and Aliens control are the challenges posed by arms proliferation. The dangers of proliferation of dangerous weapons is better appreciated when viewed as one factor that fuels violent crime, attacks by herdsmen, sabotage and violent separatist agitations in the country. Any security design and architecture that does not proffer workable solutions to deal with the dangers of proliferations of dangerous weapons is definitely incomplete hence the suggestion that it should be accorded desired seriousness in the ongoing conversations. This is particularly important as, the country is believed to be awash with dangerous weapons and security projections are, the threats of dangerous weapon will be more grave in the coming years.
In the light of the grave consequences of the gaps, flaws and deficiencies featured in this write up, the most sensible option for the country at the moment is, working to improve the current Police system. There is no need to contemplate setting up a new Police arrangement as it would amount to transferring the burden of the current challenges impeding the effectiveness of the Police to the States. Also, to achieve the desired result, it is important the Nigeria Police Force is given a new orientation to make it more responsive and accountable to the people. On a general note, the distribution of security posts across the country to ensure optimum security coverage should also be pursued with all seriousness. The manpower shortage currently faced by the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service therefore need to be addressed immediately possibly before the 2019 elections. Increased funding to the Nations security agencies is also a critical requirement at this stage of our National development. The training and retraining of all cadre of security personnel to expose them to trends in contemporary security management should be made mandatory. Also, for the security agencies to meet the expectations of the Nigerian people, concrete steps should be taken to provide them with required vehicular and communication capabilities and also the drone system which at the moment is a critical requirement for surveillance and realtime imagery production. Not the least important is, the setting up of a National Crime Data Bank and Forensic laboratories. There is the need to finally stress that, a responsive and robust Police system for the country is only achievable under a well exposed and focused leadership. The problems of the security sector at the moment cannot therefore be achieved with mere cosmetic make up. The observations contained therein should be considered as contribution to the on-going conversation on National Security.
A. A. Gadzama OFR, mni, former Director General, SSS