• Friday, April 19, 2024
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Why security expert Kabir Adamu advocates for more participatory security management

Why security expert Kabir Adamu advocates for more participatory security management

Kabir Adamu is the CEO of Beacon Security and Intelligence Limited, an enterprise security risk management, national security policy analysis, and intelligence company with expertise in the security sector spanning decades. He supported security sector policy analysis for the immediate past government and is doing the same for this current government as well as several international governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The man who wanted to be like James Bond recalls the inspiration he got watching his idol: “I told myself that one day I would be an intelligence operative, probably working within the Presidential Villa as the Head of the Intelligence Team. Then, by a stroke of fate, I found myself within the security sector, and then I found out that there was so much that I could do that where I was working did not allow me. So, I left and set up this organisation, and I’ve been able to, as it were, offer services to a clientele that supersedes Nigeria.”

In addition to Nigeria, his organisation is operating in about nine other countries at the moment.

Kabir has a PhD in Strategic Security Risk Management and Master’s degrees in International Affairs, Diplomacy, and Security Risk Management.

In this exclusive interview with the BusinessDay team led by Bashir Ibrahim Hassan, GM, Northern Operations, Kabir exposes the reasons why insecurity has worsened throughout the country, highlighting the avoidable gaps that have been exploited by terrorists and criminals over the years.

He also suggests reasons why these criminal groups perpetrate crimes and warns of some imminent consequences that could befall the country, including a collapse of the state leading to even a coup d’etat, if some solutions he mentioned are not urgently implemented.

What is the nature of support you give the government?

That support principally comes from identifying threats. Security is a paradigm. There are threats, and it’s those threats that translate into risks. So, once you can identify those threats and determine the risk, it will be very easy to put in place mitigation measures. That’s where I come in through Beacon Security and Intelligence Limited. We identify these threats and determine the risks. Because what may be a risk to you may not be a risk to another person. That is where our expertise comes in.

What is Beacon Security and Intelligence Limited all about?

Formerly known as Beacon Consulting, we now bearthe name Beacon Security and Intelligence Limited. In simple terms, we provide security services to individuals, corporate organisations, and communities. By communities, I mean both at the national, state, and local government levels, to understand and manage their risks.

Is Nigeria making progress in security management?

In 2023, more than 9000 Nigerians were killed. This year alone, in the first month of the year, over 1,000 Nigerians were killed. In February, about 700 Nigerians were killed. So, in just two months, about 2,000 Nigerians were killed. If we look at abduction, in the month of January, about 700 people were adopted, and in February, about 600 people were abducted.

The global terrorism index in 2023 placed Nigeria in seventh place, which was progress because we used to be at three. The lower you are in the index, the higher the occurrences. Again, the last report that they released recently showed we are in the same position. And if we agree that the 9,000 Nigerians dying is not acceptable, then that position is not good for us. We should have decreased and probably occupied positions 20 or 30, or even 100.

What factors were responsible for the position we had in terms of insecurity in the country?

There are structural deficiencies within the Nigerian state that have allowed the emergence of what we’ve called non-state armed groups. These non-state armed groups, in simple terms, are challenging the supremacy of the use of force by the state. In other words, they have become renegades; they are dissatisfied with the state of things in the country and have decided to use force to express themselves. How are they doing that? They have acquired weaponry, in some instances, military-grade weaponry, and they are using them to target civilian and non-civil targets, with devastating consequences for the country. And there is no part of the country where these non-state armed groups don’t exist. In the northeast, you have the Al-Jama’atul Ahlis Sunna lil Dawatil wal-Jihad, the Islamic State of West Africa Province, and the patrons of several other smaller groups. If you come to North Central, you have the bandit groups, and some of these ideological groups in the Northeast also exist in North Central. The same thing with the North-West: you have the bandit groups and the others. If you go to the South East, you have secessionist groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra, the Eastern Security Network, the Biafran League, and others. In the southwest, you have organised criminal groups that are also active, and it’s the same thing with the south-south. So, there is no part of the country where you don’t have these groups.

The second issue is that of climate change. We haven’t been able to come up with adaptation measures to manage the consequences of climate change. Farmer-herder violence, which used to be a big issue, is now being increased because of the effects of climate change, desertification, and flooding that occur, which have increased the intensity of the farmer-herder crisis.

Then there is the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. We have an existential challenge in our hands in terms of the number of small arms and light weapons that are in circulation within Nigeria. There is this misconception that the only source of these weapons is from foreign countries; no, a significant portion of those weapons are accessed locally, and I’ll quickly tell you where they access them. They access them from the military and other security armouries. The integrity of the armoury, both in the military and in other security agencies, is in doubt. Not too long ago, the Bureau of Statistics released a report that clearly showed that weapons that were supposed to be in the armoury of the police had been released to criminals.

How does this happen?

People can access those weapons and make use of them without any consequences. If you are an armourer, for example, and you’re corrupt, you can loan the weapons to a criminal, who will go and use them, and then share the proceeds.

And other times, they forcefully take over this armoury. You will recall what happened in the North East between 2017 and 2022 or thereabout. Even in the North West and North Central, and as far as Ondo State, you had the armouries of the police and some of the other security departments broken into.

The other one is when they attack security personnel on a patrol, kill them, and then, of course, take over their weapons and use them for the same purposes.

We also have a local fabrication factory for the production of these weapons. And that is why, when we concentrate on just the external sources, we forget these internal sources. We have to look at them.

The fourth element is drug addiction. There is a huge drug intake and drug addiction. You have a lot of people who consume drugs and are emboldened to attack security facilities and other targeted locations.

Then our criminal justice system is failing to arrest and punish the offenders, which has steadily removed the deterrence element within the criminal justice system. People can now commit offences if they are not arrested and tried.

What factors have landed us in this situation?

I think it’s due to bad governance. We can’t run away from it. If governance had been good and representative, to the extent that every part of the country feels it’s been represented and every segment of society feels represented, then the current level of grievances that we have in the country would be reduced. And once those grievances were reduced, then these agitations that we are seeing that are now being capitalised upon would have been reduced. The reliance on the federal level is also a little bit too much for all segments. We focus too much on the federal level. We completely forget the state and, of course, the non-existent local government level.

What are the responsibilities of the Federal government and the states in managing the problems?

Section 14, subsection 2, of our constitution is very clear: the primary responsibility of the government is the protection of lives and properties. So when you ask me what their responsibility is, it’s simple. And some of us have advocated that perhaps we should even make security justiciable so that when people’s lives are lost or they are abducted, they can sue the government. Perhaps if we do that, it will make our government sit up.

In the 101 of criminology, when you’re solving a crime, you look at three issues: who are those that are committing the crime, how they are committing that crime, and then the third one is the benefit they get from the crime, and how you prevent them from benefiting from that? Now, if you look at all of these three, we’re not doing well in Nigeria. So, some of us have advocated that we make security justiciable. I mentioned that 9000 Nigerians died last year, and sadly, not one person within the security sector has been held accountable for those deaths. This is what worries a lot of us.

How do these criminals do this? Only you can maybe get into the brains of these people and talk to us.

When I used the word that they were challenging the supremacy of the use of force, I was very conscious of my use of words. These people are outlaws; you can call them social derelicts or deviants. These are people who, for one reason or another, have abandoned what we understand as the norms of our society. And as I said, they are challenging the supremacy of the use of force by the state. So, they do not recognise the law that you and I recognise, and they are using what they know, which is the weapon that they’ve been able to acquire, to achieve their objectives.

We are dealing with a sociological problem, and unfortunately, over time, we’ve used military force in an attempt to address a sociological problem, and it would never work. We can use military force to contain it and address the root causes, but we need other solutions. Take, as an example, the herder communities, which were almost completely neglected in Nigeria for a long time. You have people who are uneducated and feel aggrieved. The point is that we need to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Use a combination of force and what some politicians call non-kinetic measures to approach them and then rehabilitate them while arresting and prosecuting the criminals among them. The approach must be one that is inclusive and gets the buy-in of law-abiding members of that community. And then hopefully, we’ll see a reduction in all of these.

But there must also be a strengthening of the criminal justice system. Offenders have to be arrested and punished. Their commanders, who are the ones behind all of these, will have to be arrested so that a message is sent to anyone who wants to follow suit that this is not tolerable in Nigeria.

What do you think we’re doing right as a government and as people, in managing the situation? Can you think of anything that we are doing right? So, what are we supposed to do short-term and long-term to deal with these problems?

For the short term, introduce accountability within the security sector. Make sure all the leadership within the security sector is managed using performance measurement systems. Let me use internal security as an example. We have a challenge of abduction; let’s use metrics to measure the rate of abduction, and then we give the Inspector General of Police a period of, let’s say, three months.

Abductions on average every month are 700; we can give the IGP police a target to bring it down to 100 within a period. We give him what he requires to bring it down to 100, and if he is not able to bring it down, we show him the door. We know what these challenges are. I’m tired of even mentioning the challenges; we know them. Where we’re lacking is holding them accountable to manage it. In the parliament in March 2024, we saw parliamentarians mostly from the northern part of the country venting out their anger. But then what pains me is that they have the weapon in terms of the checks and balances that we have in the system. Beyond the oversight function, they have the weapon to actually make sure the executive arm of government is on its toes, but what we hear them do is actually complain like every other Nigerian. So, this is what we need to change: operational accountability and then financial accountability.

The second thing is also to shore up the resilience of Nigerians so that they become participants in the security process and not necessarily just onlookers. Right now, a lot of us are on-lookers, and in some instances, we even sabotage the security process. So I think we need to, through strategic communication, awareness, and sensitization campaign activities, shore up that participation that Nigerians can do within the security sector so that crime is discouraged, and then even where it occurs, you have somebody who will pick up the phone and call a particular number and say something like this is ongoing right now.

What are the likely consequences if we don’t do what we ought to do?

We are in a fragile state, and every Nigerian needs to be worried. The fragility of the Nigerian state is increasing. There are indices for measuring that fragility, and luckily, there are organisations that are measuring that fragility for us. Every year, some of us look at that fragility, and we see how it’s declining. Of course, during elections, you even see a spike, and then after the election, you see a drop. That worries me.

If we continue at that rate and that fragility increases, then we will enter a collapse state. That is one worry. The second worry that has emerged recently is the possibility of a coup d’etat. We’ve seen it happen in other West African countries. Mali has seen its fair share of Guinea, Burkina Faso, and more recently, Niger. And what were the reasons given by the junta that took over power in those places? They cited security, economic hardship, corruption, and, of course, the legacy of their colonial masters as some of the reasons.

The third consequence is the collapse of social order. Again, just like I mentioned about the fragility of the state, we have institutions that measure social cohesion in Nigeria. The African Polling Institute releases a report every year on social cohesion in Nigeria, and it shows how we are below global standards. I think the global standard is about 45. If I’m right and we are below that, we’re about 40, consistently.

The beauty of that report is that it identifies the reasons why social cohesion is weak and suggests what to do, but we’ve not taken that seriously.

The fourth one is the trust deficit that continues to wane between the government and the people. And the longer that trust deficit continues to wane, the more difficult it will be for the government to govern. When policies come out, you see people rejecting them. A good example is what is happening at the moment. The intention of the government may have been good when it removed subsidies on oil and when it attempted to float the naira, but you’ve seen how it’s sabotaging mainly because of distrust.

All of these areas have consequences. If we do not take action, then, sadly, this is what will happen to us.

Do you agree that security should be treated as such?

The irony is this, and I say it with a sense of responsibility: we are prioritising security. First of all, look at the supplementary budget that this president came up with after he was sworn in. The single sector that had the highest allocation was security. In the 2024 budget, the single sector that had the highest allocation, with about 12 percent, was also security, and that’s at the federal level. As you go down the ladder at the state level, they also make provisions. So, when you add all of that, we’re looking at probably 20 to 25 percent, or even 30 percent, of the budget going to security. But because we’ve not blocked the leakages and because we’ve not addressed some of the structural deficiencies, including corruption that breeds insecurity, no matter how much money we put into security, it will never be enough. So, the point I am trying to make is that, yes, we have prioritised security, but it’s only in our words and in our policies. But in terms of actions, especially actions that would show commitment to solving the security challenges, I haven’t seen that. And I think it’s because security has perhaps become a little bit more technical than it used to be. We now have people in security who don’t understand security, sadly. And that in itself is a challenge.

Any examples?

I will give you indicators. I mentioned that more than 9,000 people died last year. Who are those responsible for preventing those 9000 people from dying? If those who were responsible failed to act, who were those who were supposed to caution them? Why haven’t they acted?

A minister was found culpable of mismanagement or misappropriation, as the case may be, and she has been suspended. Can you value human life to the point where you will take action on money but not on human life? So I think it’s very clear that we need to do more in terms of holding responsible and accountable people who are managing our security sector accountable.

So, it is not just about budgetary allocations and policies?

We have beautiful policies. If you look at the National Security Strategy released in 2019, it talks about food security, health security, and many others. But where are we? We had a strategy that showed clearly that we needed to protect our food production channels and cycles, yet we failed to do so. And then health security. The other day, we were talking about the prices of antibiotics that have gone up. How many people can afford that? So clearly, our health security is nowhere to be found. And that’s the human security that we promised Nigerians in 2019.

Going back to that statement that we need to introduce accountability and performance measurement, the good thing is that this current president has done that. He institutionalised Executive Order 13. President Buhari passed Executive Order 13, and this president has institutionalised it. You recall that he named Hadiza Bala Usman as the coordinator of the Central Delivery Coordination Unit.

We are talking about oil theft. Tony Elumelu has insisted that 95 percent of our oil is stolen, but nobody has been arrested to date. I think if we can strengthen the rule of law, we will probably make some progress.

What hope do you have for this country?

A lot. I sit down with the youths; a lot of them are frustrated, no doubt, but a lot of them are resourceful. Once we can tap into that resource and invest in human capital, especially the youth, redirect them, and provide the infrastructure, you will be amazed at what will happen in this country. That’s my hope.

Recently, I talked a lot about intergenerational dialogue. I’m hoping that going forward, we’ll see more of that. I see too many great people of advanced ages occupying political positions. They should hand it over to the youth. I was at a forum recently where an elderly person, a contemporary of someone like former President Obasanjo, said in public that the entire generation that was seated there has failed Nigerians and that we should seek the apology of the young ones.

I think we should do that. Let’s hand it over to the youth. Let’s guide them. They will make mistakes, no doubt, but, hopefully, there will be a change. But as long as the current status quo is maintained, I’m sorry; I don’t have any hope.

What is the contribution of Beacon Security and Intelligence limited to national development generally?

In simple terms, we are closing the gap that exists in public security provision. Corporate clients, and sometimes government clients, who are constantly confronted with the myriad of security threats that exist in Nigeria and the vulnerability they are in, come to us, and we close that vulnerability. Earlier on, I spoke about our risk management capabilities, and that’s what we do. Right now, we’re in a situation where the future economic challenges have led to a lot of people being affected by security challenges, and most people don’t know what to do. I’ll give you an example: people who are transporting items from point A to point B are being attacked. People are worried about that, but they don’t know what to do. Who do they come to? They come to people like us, and then we advise them, and then we also go ahead and implement measures.

Now, from a foreign direct investment point of view, a lot of companies that want to come to Nigeria are afraid of exposure to the risks that exist in Nigeria, not just the security risk but the entire risk spectrum, such as policy issues.

Now that we step in, we identify those risks for them and tell them what to do to manage those risks. And it’s a range of things; it can be, first off, just accepting the risk and then looking for an insurance cover for it; or, in certain instances, telling them to do X, Y, or Z.

That is the value of our existence. We are invited across the world to speak about what we do, physically and virtually, and people take interest. People acknowledge that the market in Nigeria is big but are worried about XYZ risks. I tell them what they can do beyond being worried to address that risk, and in simple terms, that’s our value.

The next one, which I think is important, is also protecting lives. When they come here, they travel. We have teams that are out in different communities. We monitor their movement, and we advise them. If incidents are occurring in those locations, we monitor those developments. We tell them what to do. They go and come back safely, and we’re happy. Everybody’s happy. The country benefits from their presence.

The correlation between second economic development, what do you think would have happened to this country positively in terms of economic development, if we had good security?

A lot. We have a huge market; we have a very dynamic market, as it were. And so if security had been good, I think that market would have attracted a greater number of investors both locally and internationally. Not too long ago, one of the construction companies, one of the biggest in Nigeria, requested about 1.3 trillion for the completion of a particular route. Now, how many people sat down to think about the component of that money that is going to security? If you’ve travelled on that particular route and seen the number of watch towers and other security deployments on that road, If you go to the camp of that company, you will see the number of military and paramilitary deployments, and you know, they have to pay for them. The least a security operative is paid when he or she is deployed every month is between N70,000 and N250,000. Now multiply that by the number deployed plus other associated costs. They go on patrol. They buy vehicles for them; they have to fuel the vehicles. So, all of that is a cost component that, at the end of the day, is added to whatever investment that particular company is making.

Imagine if that cost component was not there. First of all, projects will be done cheaper, the quality of the products will probably be higher, and all of that. So apart from denying us, it’s also probably affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of our projects and operations in Nigeria. They are more costly, and of course, once they are costly, the quality could also be affected. So, there are many positives that could be obtained if security was better than it is at the moment.

What do you advise the government and every Nigerian to do urgently?

For the government, it’s simple: take security more seriously. Former President Buhari told us of his three cardinal principles, and security was one of them. Security is on this administration’s agenda. However, while we have prioritised security, we have not championed security. I think we need to start championing security by introducing accountability. Let’s manage security in the same way we manage projects. I have talked about introducing monitoring and evaluation, performance measurement measures, and consequent management in security. Nigerian public security practitioners have a morbid fear of data. I repeat, they have a morbid fear of the data, especially the public security ministries, departments, and agencies. The government needs to ensure it embraces data. So that through the use of data, we can measure performance.

The other one is consequence management. We cannot approach security without consequences. If the person appointed does well, let’s reward him. If he or she does not do well, let’s also penalise him; it’s as simple as that. We cannot continue to have situations where 9000 people die in a year and nobody is held accountable. Major security breaches occur, and nothing happens.

Last weekend in Katsina or Zamfara, an APC (Armoured Personnel Carriers) was taken over, and the viral videos of that APC were all over social media. To date, there has not been a single statement from any of our government MDAs. We can’t approach security like that.

For us Nigerians, we need to be more interested in security and become active participants. We need a call for action. An article by Professor Jibrin Ibrahim titled “Nigerians, where is your rage?” is very interesting. The level of nonchalance and the acceptance level in Nigeria need to be studied. I am not advocating for any lawlessness; all I am saying is to do the right thing and ask the right questions from the level of local government to the state and the federal level. If security is not being provided, ask questions through your representatives. Put pressure on them so that they can also put pressure on the executive arm of government, which is directly responsible for the security MDAs. Let’s become more participative, ask relevant questions, and put pressure in the right places without being lawless. Let’s become active citizens, and hopefully, once we do that, those who manage our security will also become more accountable.