• Thursday, November 30, 2023
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In Ribadu, Nigeria’s internal security gets a makeover

In Ribadu, Nigeria’s internal security gets a makeover

The man appointed to advise the president on internal security made his bones sending his boss to jail and compelling him to cough up over £150m he stole from the Nigerian police.

Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s first anti-corruption czar is no stranger to controversy, some say in certain circumstances, it’s oxygen for him. How he navigates the maze of the country’s security challenges will test his mettle.

Mild-mannered and soft-spoken, Ribadu carries an intellectual heft and strength of character that belies his quiet demeanour. It’s why those who underestimated him, quickly found out it was an egregious error.

Ribadu, a close ally of President Bola Tinubu, takes over the role of NSA at a time, the country is beset by troubling security challenges.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) ranks Nigeria among the ten most terrorized countries in the world. The non-profit think tank, Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) publishes the GTI and the most recent report indicates Nigeria, Syria, and Somalia, saw marginal improvement, they remained among the most terrorized.

Bands of herdsmen routinely ransack farming communities, marauding bandits waylay towns, a low-grade pogrom is being ignored in the Middle Belt while highways across the nation have morphed into hunting grounds for kidnappers.

Among military officers, morale is low while corruption is rife. A series of operations sanctioned by the military brass have failed to curb oil theft, banditry, and wanton killings across the country.

Police officers are often difficult to tell apart from armed robbers and VIP escort is the most preferred posting for the country’s elite police force.

But national security isn’t only about defense against military attacks. It encompasses non-military dimensions, including security from terrorism, reducing crimes, economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, and cyber-security.

National security risks also include actions of other states, actions by violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, organised crime, white-collar crimes by multinational corporations, and also the effects of natural disasters.

The threats against the Nigerian state are numerous. Sabotage of oil infrastructure is still treated as communal agitations and criminals run around carving out portions of the state for control. In many eastern Nigerian states, a rag-tag army determines days economic activities must happen and a militant provocateur claims credit for securing the Kaduna-Abuja highway.

Floods routinely sweep away farmlands, draught force herders farther into the hinterland provoking clashes between farmers and herdsmen, a truckload of tomatoes from the northern can pay over dozen taxes from Sokoto Lagos and internet fraud is fast morphing into careers for many of Nigeria’s young. Government regulators kill businesses with awful rules and rising inflation erodes the income of many.

Ribadu has his job cut out. In this environment, courage, intelligence and discipline are important and Ribadu possesses these and some more. A cross-section of military and top police officials interviewed for this piece was in unison that he was the right man for the job.

An Assistant Commissioner of Police, Nuhu Ribadu, in 2003 was appointed as the pioneer Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Read also: Human rights lawyer calls out DSS over continuous detention of suspended EFCC chairman

Born on November 21, 1960, in Adamawa State, Ribadu studied law at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Kaduna State, from 1980 to 1983, receiving a Bachelor of Laws Degree. He was called to the bar in 1984. He also earned a Master of Laws Degree from the same university. He is a Senior Fellow at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK.

In his role as EFCC Chairman, Ribadu was instrumental in helping to de-list Nigeria from the FATF List of Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories, admission into the prestigious Egmont Group, and the withdrawal of the US Treasury FinCEN Advisory on Nigeria. These achievements helped make the EFCC the foremost Anti-Corruption Enforcement Agency on the continent.

His appointment is a departure from the norm. Before Ribadu’s appointment, several other top-ranking police officers had served as NSA. They include MD Yusuf, who served as NSA under the regime of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa/Nnamdi Azikiwe; Umaru Shinkafi, who served under President Shehu Shagari; and Gambo Jimeta, a retired Inspector General of Police (IGP), who also served under the regime of Ibrahim Babangida.

Ismaila Gwarzo, a retired AIG, served under the late Earnest Shonekan and later Sani Abacha’s military junta as NSA. He was also a police officer, and the first Director of the State Security Service, Minister of Police Affairs.

Lawrence Alobi, former commissioner of police, Federal Capital Territory, told BusinessDay that President Tinubu’s decision is in tandem with global best practices “Under a democratic system, the police heads internal security,” he said.

Former United States President, George Bush Jnr, a former retired soldier turned president, in 2001, appointed Condoleezza Rice, as his NSA. Rice was not a military person but had rich credentials in security studies and work experience.

Even in Nigeria, the precursor organization to the NSA office was the National Security Organization – NSO – which was formed in the 1980s and was headed by a serving Police officer and had some agencies that mutated into various intelligence departments of Nigeria’s security services like the Department of State Security.

Alobi, who described the job of NSA as “purely advisory”, said: “Nuhu Ribadi is an intelligence officer, and from his antecedent as former chairman of the EFCC, I don’t see any reason why he will not excel in this position.

“The National Security Adviser is a senior official in the President’s team, and his job is to manage national security on behalf of the President and serves as his chief advisor on all matters that are vital to the very survival of the state.”

To burnish his intelligence credentials, Ribadu in 2008, attended the Harvard Business School where he did a programme on the strategic management of law enforcement agencies.

Some security experts who spoke to BusinessDay that Ribadu should not have any problem coordinating internal security intelligence.

According to Mike Ejiofor, former director, the Directorate of State Security Service, there is no where in the constitution that is written that the NSA must be a military officer, and mind you, the president who is the commander in chief of the armed forces is not a military man.

“I’m particularly thrilled about the appointment of Nuhu Ribadu because he must bring to bear his experience when he was EFCC chairman. I know a lot of people have questioned why not military,” Ejiofor said.

As the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President, Ribadu will essentially coordinate the various intelligence agencies, both internal and external, and brief and advise the President as necessary. Coordinating these various interests is a daunting task.

Even his predecessor had no doubt about his ability. The former NSA, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), said, “Ribadu is well-equipped, well-qualified, well-educated and has a very deep understanding of the complexity of the security challenges confronting Nigeria.”

Ribadu took over from Monguno, following his appointment by President Bola Tinubu on June 19, 2023.

Monguno, said Ribadu was well-heeled for the job said the new NSA had the capacity to tackle whatever challenges he might encounter, having served in various positions.

“I am also wishing in the same vein that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu will have a very successful tenure and depart in good health when the time comes for him to depart,” he said.

Monguno contended that the ever-changing 21st security environment demanded a complex approach.

“Today, we are dealing with a situation in which we have terrorists and insurrectionists. The way and manner you will deal with the situation is such that you will have to rely on the collection of competent staff,” he said.

A statement by the Special Assistant, of Strategic Communication, in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Zu Mijinyawa, said Monguno urged the staff to extend the same support and cooperation he enjoyed to his successor to achieve the desired national objective.

As the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President, Ribadu will essentially coordinate the various intelligence agencies, both internal and external, and brief and advise the President as necessary. Coordinating these various interests is a daunting task.

Ribadu would need all this support and much more.