• Thursday, April 18, 2024
businessday logo


Has the military tech failed to tame Nigeria’s insecurity?

Nigeria’s security expenditure

The security landscape of Africa’s largest economy is deteriorating rapidly, with each region facing its unique challenges, from cybercrime in the South-West to the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.

“From 2012 to 2020, we have lost over 70,000 lives to various acts of insecurity, indicating the cost of this violence,” a security expert said.

With kidnappings for ransom becoming increasingly common, the country saw about $18.34 million paid in ransoms from 2011 to 2020.

The economic impact is equally alarming. A study by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) reveals that violence has cost Nigeria approximately N50 trillion, significantly impacting its GDP.

This amount is three times larger than Nigeria’s 2022 budget of N17.127 trillion. Despite spending at least N8trillion on security measures, the government has failed to curb the crisis.

Read also: Insecurity: Tinubu wants military to evolve new strategy

Buttressing this, Nigeria Customs Service reported that over N400 billion was lost due to insecurity in 2022.

The Nigerian military’s armoury

Despite possessing a diverse range of military equipment, there’s a critical gap in the Nigerian military’s approach.

The Nigerian military boasts a diverse and extensive array of military equipment. Its inventory includes a variety of infantry weapons such as handguns (Beretta 92, Browning Hi-Power, Walther P5), submachine guns (Heckler & Koch MP5, Beretta M12), and assault rifles (IWI Tavor, CAA AK-Alfa, M16A1). The army also utilises machine guns like the M2 Browning and sniper rifles including the Polish Alex .338.

In terms of armored vehicles, the Army possesses Chinese VT4 tanks, Soviet T-72s, British FV101 Scorpions, and various armored personnel carriers like the Austrian Saurer 4K 4FA. Their artillery includes self-propelled howitzers such as the Chinese SH-5 and multiple rocket launchers like the Soviet BM-21 Grad. The air defense system comprises anti-aircraft guns like the Soviet ZSU-23-4 and missiles like the British Blowpipe.

Additionally, the Nigerian Army’s air wing is enhancing its fleet with the acquisition of 12 MD500 Defender multirole helicopters from the US and a number of HAL Prachand attack helicopters from India.

The critical gap: How bureaucracy handicaps the military

Recent statements from Nigerian military leaders have cast a stark light on the challenges facing the country’s fight against kidnapping and insecurity. General Christopher Musa, Chief of Defence Staff, during a critical parliamentary session, revealed systemic issues, including collusion between prison warders and Boko Haram, and a judiciary releasing captured criminals back into society. “When basic needs are unmet, maintaining peace becomes a challenge, and criminality finds fertile ground,” Musa stated, highlighting the exacerbating effect of October’s 27.33percent inflation rate.

The Chief of Army Staff, Taoreed Lagbaja, expressed the military’s limitations: “We [soldiers] are not magicians.”

He pointed out the armed forces’ inability to prosecute, despite arresting numerous Boko Haram members. “We keep them for years, and yet there’s no prosecution,” Lagbaja added, emphasising the judiciary’s role in releasing these elements on bail.

Chief of Air Force, Hassan Abubakar, also highlighted the unsustainable costs of aviation fuel, impacting air operations. These revelations during President Bola Tinubu’s tenure, which has already seen about 5,000 people killed by various actors in its first nine months, question the government’s commitment to tackling these challenges effectively. The government’s failure to prosecute terrorism financiers, along with its contradictory actions like lavish spending on non-essential items, underscores a serious issue of misplaced priorities and ineffective governance.

The rise in kidnapping incidents, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, has added to the climate of fear, with families resorting to crowdfunding for ransom payments. This situation underscores the urgent need for more effective security measures in Nigeria.


Government’s role and international dynamics

Under President Bola Tinubu’s leadership, despite a significant allocation of N3.25 trillion to defense and security, questions linger about the efficacy of the government’s anti-crime strategies. “Our government’s failure to prosecute known terrorism financiers is a glaring oversight,” Eke John, a political analyst, told BDSunday.

The rise in kidnappings, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, underscores the government’s shortcomings. “The underused NIN-SIM linkage policy reflects a gap in our approach to leveraging technology against criminals,” noted Ali Isa Pantami, former minister of Communications and Digital Economy.

Read also: Here are the list of countries with the highest kidnapping incidents across the world

“On the lack of utilisation, I am more worried than anyone; as my life was threatened by criminals for reintroducing it, including on BBC Hausa and national dailies, I resisted and ensured its implementation. If it is not being utilised by the relevant institutions in charge of securing lives and property, then I am more frustrated than any person, as I sacrificed my life and ignored all the threats to life”, Pantami said on his X account.

Global context and comparison:

Global Peace index

Nigeria, the most populous black nation, ranks 144th on the 2023 Global Peace Index with a score of 2.73, indicating significant safety challenges. In contrast, China, a similarly vast nation, ranks 75th with a more favorable score of 2.01. The U.S. and Brazil, comparable in size and diversity, also show varied scores of 2.44 and 2.47 respectively. These comparisons highlight the unique security challenges Nigeria faces.

The Nigerian military, tasked with safeguarding over 222 million citizens, is surprisingly absent from the top ten of the world’s strongest militaries, despite significant funding. This discrepancy raises questions about resource allocation and effectiveness in combating crimes like banditry and kidnapping.

Military Strength: A comparative view

Countries with Highest military personnel

Globally, China leads with a formidable 2.2 million military personnel, reflecting its extensive defense capabilities. India follows with 1.5 million, while the technologically superior U.S. military comprises 1.4 million personnel. Other nations like Pakistan and smaller states like Luxembourg and Barbados show a wide range in military sizes, each tailored to their geopolitical realities.

Crime: A Global Perspective

Globally, Venezuela records the highest Crime Index at 83.76, with Nigeria ranking 16th at 64.06. This data points to the severity of Nigeria’s internal security issues. Notably, advanced nations like the U.S. also face high crime rates, illustrating the universal nature of this challenge.

Murder rates and gun violence: Indicators of insecurity

Nigeria also features in the top ten countries with the highest murder rates, standing at 34.52 murders per 100,000 people. In terms of gun violence, it ranks ninth globally, with 5,103 gun-related deaths.


These statistics underscore the urgent need for effective crime prevention strategies and military intervention.

Nigeria’s military spending in global context

Military spending-and global peace index

Despite a budget of $4.0 billion, according to global firepower, Nigeria’s spending pales in comparison to global leaders like the U.S., China, and even regional counterparts like Saudi Arabia and India. This raises critical questions about the allocation and efficiency of military expenditures in addressing national security issues, including the rampant kidnappings.

Technological solutions and the path forward

Nigeria’s battle against kidnapping and crime is at a critical juncture. “Community policing would create a better understanding of the specific security needs of each state, and local police are likelier to work better with communities to prevent crime than the national police force by gathering intelligence from different localities,” Cheta Nwanze, a partner at SBM Intelligence, said.

The Federal Government, under President Bola Tinubu’s administration, has recently taken a step forward. The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, announced the President’s approval for the emergency procurement of digital tracking devices to combat kidnapping in the nation’s capital. These GPS-enabled devices are critical in pinpointing the exact location of kidnappers, offering a more targeted approach to crime fighting.

However, the nation’s security apparatus still faces substantial challenges. Joseph Akinyede, a professor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, advocated a broader adoption of Remote Sensing Technology (RST) and other advanced technologies in combating insecurity. “The use of satellite images, GPS, drones, and GIS can provide our security agencies with a decisive edge,” he said at a recent lecture.

“Space technology can be a game-changer in our fight against crime, as demonstrated in the USA and Canada,” argued Ayo Fasanya, director general of the Africa Space Foundation during a recent event marking World Space Week in Abuja.

Representing the Navy at the event, Lt. Com. Yakubu Tegina highlighted the Navy’s adoption of space technology in securing Nigerian waters. “Space technology plays a pivotal role in naval operations, from navigation and positioning to extending UAV range,” he said.

Furthermore, President Tinubu’s Defence Industry Act, which includes collaboration with China for technology transfer and military training, aims to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities. “This Act is a step towards empowering our military with the necessary technological advancements,” said Defense Minister Muhammad Badaru Abubakar.

This collaboration, which includes discussions on technology transfer, military equipment production, and private sector involvement, is a part of President Tinubu’s Defence Industry Act. The Act aims to create a conducive environment for investment in areas critical to national security, such as steel, power, and defense technology.

Cui Jian Chun, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, also expressed China’s strategic interest in cooperating with Nigeria, particularly in military operations and economic cooperation, further emphasising the potential of international partnerships in addressing these security challenges.

The current security challenges in Nigeria, including kidnapping, cybercrimes, and corruption, demand a modern approach. Technology, from Information Technology to Artificial Intelligence, offers powerful tools in this struggle. As the world moves further into the digital age, Nigeria must embrace these innovations to ensure national security and public safety.

Learning from global practices, it’s evident that the integration of advanced technology in law enforcement, such as AI, big data, and IoT, has been transformative. In the U.S., police forces have partnered with tech companies like Ring to access smart device data, enhancing crime prevention capabilities. Similarly, the use of computer vision for license plate and facial recognition has become increasingly common.

In conclusion, Nigeria’s battle against kidnapping and other forms of crime can greatly benefit from embracing these technological advancements. By integrating modern technologies into its security strategy, the country can significantly enhance its ability to protect its citizens and combat criminal activities effectively.