• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Expectation high as Nigeria’s new security chiefs talk tough

Agenda for new security chiefs

Last week, Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu instructed his newly appointed security chiefs to work together to end the unyielding spate of insecurity in the country.

“He told us that we must work as a team and that there’s work to be done,” National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu told State House Correspondents after a closed-door meeting with the President and Service Chiefs at the Aso Rock Villa in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
Tinubu’s directive is not dissimilar from the order he had given to the immediate past Service Chiefs on June 1, where he declared that he would not condone them working at cross purposes.

Africa’s most populous nation has been grappling with severe security challenges for over a decade. In addition to the infamous Boko Haram terrorist group, Fulani terrorist groups, armed gangs, kidnappers, and separatist groups continue to aggravate the security situation in the country.

Figures from the Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker show that between May 2011 and July 2023, 98,906 violent deaths were recorded in the country with perpetrators including Boko Haram, state actors, sectarian, and other armed groups.

In June 2023, one month after president Tinubu came into office, 690 people were killed in the country by violent actors.
Tinubu says his government is conscious of the security situation in Nigeria and ready to address all the concerns of Nigerians on the issue.

Many Nigerians aren’t so sure his promise would be fulfilled.
Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari had promised to end insecurity while campaigning for office in 2015. He had pointed to his military background and vowed to end Boko Haram.

Read also: Withdrawal of Police from VIPs: Good policy, but ill-timed — Experts

Buhari was unable to end the insurgency in the North-East. Rather, unprecedented massacre of people and destruction of communities were openly, blatantly and systematically advertised by Fulani terrorists assured of their protection by the certainty that their kith and kin controlled the commanding heights of state power in the country.

Under Buhari, Nigeria became a vast crime scene with daily killings and pillaging especially by unrestrained ethno-religious militias.

The London based Economist Newspaper in its October 23, 2021 edition, lamented Mr. Buhari’s feebleness and cluelessness in tackling the expansive insecurity in the country. Terrorists and armed bandits are running wild because Mr Buhari is corrupt and lazy, failing to do anything but render lip service following every deadly attack, the paper argued.

“When violence erupts, the government does nothing or cracks heads almost indiscriminately…Economic troubles are compounded by a government that is inept and heavy-handed…He has failed to curb corruption, which breeds resentment. Many Nigerians are furious that they see so little benefit from the country’s billions of petrodollars, much of which their rulers have squandered or stolen,” the paper added.

Former lawmaker and social critic, Senator Shehu Sani accused the former president of wasting more money on security but failing to secure the lives of Nigerians.

“About twenty billion dollars was budgeted for Defence in the eight years of this administration and over 63 thousand people were killed in the same period, going by the financial figures from Macrotrends and casualty figures from Council on Foreign relations. The Buhari regime wasted more money and failed to secure the lives of Nigerians,” Sani tweeted in May.

President Tinubu’s order to his security chiefs saw his new police czar, Kayode Egbetokun vowing to “devour Nigeria’s internal enemies” like a Tiger.
Egbetokun said he would devise both human and technical intelligence to tackle the country’s security challenges.

“So, it’s going to be our collective responsibility. Everybody is going to be involved. Everyone will be turned into a policeman. We are going to partner with every group. Every law-abiding citizen will have to be brought on board. You must give us the information.

“Apart from technical intelligence, we will also rely so much on human intelligence which we believe is available within our communities. We are going to be proactive in our approach to solving our security problems,” the IGP said.
In June, the police chief announced that personnel of the Police Mobile Force (PMF) would be withdrawn from VIPs escort and guard duties.

“While the protection of dignitaries remains paramount, it is imperative that we realign our priorities to address the escalating security challenges faced by the nation as a whole.
“By relieving the PMF of VIP escort and guard duties, we can redirect their focus and efforts toward addressing critical security concerns that affect our communities at large,” Egbetokun said.
Despite the deteriorating security environment, Nigeria’s Police hierarchy is notorious for renting out its officers to important personalities in the country in exchange for money. More than 150,000 policemen are attached to VIP’s and unauthorised persons in the country.

“We cannot afford to have more than half of the population of the Police in private hands,” Mike Okiro a former Inspector-General of Police and then Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), said in 2018.

That same year, the then Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Zone 5 in Benin, Rasheed Akintunde asserted that only 20 per cent of police officers were engaged in core police duties of protecting lives and ensuring peace in the country.

“The remaining 80 percent are just busy providing personal security to some prominent people on guard duties”.

It has almost become a meaningless ritual for every newly elected Police chief in the first days following his appointment to immediately direct all Mobile police personnel withdrawn from VIPs escort, order the dismantling of roadblocks and ban its officers from harassing car owners with tinted vehicles.

Inspectors-General of Police since 2007 have all vowed to recall police escorts from VIPs. They never go ahead to do so.
Since Egbetokun’s vow, mobile policemen have yet to be withdrawn from protecting VIPs, their homes and properties.

Ending insecurity in the country is key to Tinubu’s ambition to drive Africa’s largest economy into a $1 trillion economy by 2031. Doing so would depend on his ability to drive reforms in the security services, police and military.

Nigeria’s security architecture is not fit for purpose and unable to meet the security demands of the next decade.

Nigeria’s police are understaffed, demoralised and poorly trained. Many, noted the Economist Magazine, supplement their low pay by robbing the public they have sworn to protect.

On 4 October 2020, a video went viral showing officers of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) dragging two men from a hotel and shooting one of them outside. A few days later, protests erupted across Nigeria under the umbrella of the #EndSARS movement.
Since then, not much ha changed. Policeman continue to brutalise and extort citizens across the country.

Nigeria’s military suffers from an acute readiness crisis. They are overstretched, under-manned, grossly under-equipped, ill-trained, and poorly led. Even more unpleasant, is the fact that the three services are locked in intense unhealthy competition, with neither the administrative head of the military (Minister of Defence) nor the operational head (Chief of Defence Staff) able to arbitrate. This has resulted in lone wolf approaches to operations; with individual services working in silos rather than in concert, thus imperilling the counterterror/counterinsurgencies campaigns across the country.

The challenge facing the Nigerian military as clearly evident over the last decade is to train a force that is capable of winning wars.
In the conflict against Boko Haram, whole battalions have been accused of running away from the battlefield, with cases of soldiers losing their will to fight. While access to efficient equipment has been cited as the main reason for this, many experts believe that it is a secondary reason.

One of the critical factors responsible for this lethargic approach by the Nigerian military, according to a former Chief of Military Intelligence, is the methodology for recruiting officers and soldiers, their manner of training and on-boarding, as well as the methodology for deploying and promoting them.
“The Nigerian military has over the years become a ‘tribal employment portal’ where emphasis is placed on language, tribe and religion at the expense of capability, efficiency and merit. The resultant outcome is a large corps of officers and men incapable of securing the country and unwilling to put their ‘best foot’ forward in the arena of battle. The reason is not hard to fathom; many joined the military not out of patriotism and a willingness to serve, but out of material need for a source of regular income,” he noted.

President Tinubu’s reforms would need to redefine who can become a soldier and how that process takes place. The distorted system of recruitment, postings, transfers, promotions, rewards and punishment needs a complete overhaul to engender patriotism and selflessness and thus, get the best of the best into the military.

Furthermore, the deployment of soldiers for internal security operations such as anti-kidnapping, anti-crime and anti-cultism operations completely negates the training and doctrine as well as the responsibilities of the military.

The end result has been the erosion of the professionalism of soldiers as well as the vitiation of their distinctive soldierly quality as they get more and more involved in civilian matters.