Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that for 12 long years, Security Watch Africa, has continued to be the forefront runner in drawing global attention to emerging security issues and threats in Africa
Call him a resilient dreamer and you will be right. His dreams are so valid in the sense that he goes beyond dreaming to actualise them and turn them to practical realities despite the strong odds against him. Welcome to the world of Mr. Patrick Agbambu, the International Coordinator/ Chief Executive Officer of Security Watch Africa. His speciality lies in drawing global attention to emerging security issues and threats in Nigeria and indeed the continent, on issues like terrorism, kidnapping, insurgency, piracy and extremism.
What better vehicle to export this than an award ceremony that not just showcases Africa’s best, but also highlights the challenges faced by each African country, while bringing in experts to posit the way forward? Thus, since the inception of the Africa Security Watch Award, Conference and Exhibition in 2004, with Abuja, Nigeria, as its first host, Agbambu has not looked back in taking the Security Watch Awards and Lecture and spreading the news of security in Africa worldwide. In line with his quest to conquer the world, one city at a time, the award ceremony went continental in 2008 and was renamed Security Watch Africa Awards and Lecture. The event has grown over the years to incorporate other African, Middle East and American countries.
In 2013, the event marked the 10th edition with an intercontinental outlook and at that particular occasion in Johannesburg, South Africa, participants were drawn from various African countries, USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, India and Phillipines with Conference and Exhibition and it was there the name was then changed to Africa Security Watch Awards, Conference and Exhibition (ASWACE).
From inception, this event has held successfully in Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia , South Africa and United Arab Emirates and then the United States.
Winning the American Way
Again, not one to be restricted by boundaries, Agbambu again took on the burden of exporting the excellence to the world. This time, he created a first by taking the award to America. Held at the prestigious Hilton Houston North Hotel, Houston, Texas, United States of America, the 12th ASWACE was a success by all standards owing to the number of guests that graced the occasion.
Partnered by Arik Airlines Limited, which was the official airline of the occasion, the three-day programme culminated in an awards night, which signaled the end of the 12th SWA awards amidst accolades.
Themed ‘The Spread and Challenges of Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa: Any Way Out?, the event was chaired by Ghana’s Human Security Adviser to the President, Brigadier-General Joseph Nunno-Mensah (rtd). According to Agbambu, the theme was chosen due to the dangerous increase and extremely disturbing incidences of terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping and sea piracy in notable African countries.
He said, “This has made us to seek security expertise and equipment from knowledgeable countries and manufacturers on how to effectively combat the menace of Boko Haram, Al-Shabbab and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Affiliation of some of these groups with ISIS poses greater danger to not only Africa but the entire world. This is the main reason of bringing the event to United States of America.
“The conference and exhibition sought a more strategic and pragmatically coordinated approach to keep our communities safe and nip conventional and non-conventional security threats in the bud.
The 12 ASWACE connected manufacturers and vendors with industry and users across Africa and globally. It brought together top African Heads of Governments, heads of governments’ security agencies, stakeholders, professionals, local and international experts, manufacturers, resellers, representatives, government contractors and end users to brainstorm; share experiences, ideas and expertise on a plethora of security issues.
“The conference also examined ways to mitigate and tackle current and future terror threats and proffer best practices for immediate response with focus on counter terrorism and insurgency, critical national infrastructure protection, maritime security, intelligence, border and cyber security and kidnapping.”
He also noted that ASWACE is the continent’s premier networking and knowledge based platform for Homeland security and National Defense discourse, technologies, products and services, adding that last editions have successfully linked several manufacturers/vendors with buyers.
In his speech, Agbambu said this edition represents a milestone in their journey because this was the first edition of the Awards to be held on the American soil with previous editions having held in Africa and the Middle East.
He said, “Bringing this awards ceremony to the United States of America was an easy decision for us to make especially at this time; this is in spite of the huge logistical challenges we have had to make to get here. Our concern goes beyond rewarding excellence in security, we hope to draw world attention to emerging security issues and threats on the global scene.
“The last decade has witnessed very fundamental and structural changes in the security threats facing all nations of the world. Attention is gradually shifting from individual criminal activities within communities to cross border crimes such as terrorism, insurgency, cyber-attacks and nuclear proliferations. The threat is further heightened by the unfortunate fact that these crimes are conceived, nurtured and propagated by non-state identities with nebulous features, nomenclatures and modus operandi.
“Additionally, the moral demarcation separating good and bad, right and wrong is ever fading, leaving society divided on the panacea to this problem. Security chiefs now fear that fighting a criminal group could generate varied reactions from society such that some criminal attacks have falsely found ridiculous backing in some unexpected quarters.
“While the world leader’s debates go on, the killings have simply skyrocketed. According to a new study by the Global Terrorism index, the number of killing by acts of terrorism increased by 80 per cent in 2014 alone. Of this figure, Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram were between them responsible for 51 per cent of all claimed global killings and 78 per cent of all deaths occurred in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Kenya, Somalia and Syria.
“Recent events are however indicating that the theatre of violence is spreading across Africa, Europe, Asia and other unaffected countries recognise that threats to their safety and peace are no longer hypothetical but real. Extremism has become the main causes of all the violent killings and clashes the world is facing now. We must as individuals and groups endeavour to shun extreme beliefs.
“As security personnel, we owe our families, communities and countries the onerous responsibility of re-strategising and re-energising our security apparatus with a view to forestalling further threats to our societies. This is the time to recognise that intelligence gathering is central to our safety and that we must urgently become friends with our communities in order to be able to protect them better. As advisers, we must encourage our political leaders to seek alternative solutions outside increased funding of our defence and security budgets.”
The Gambian Testimony
Without a doubt, parading the highest dignitaries at the occasion, the Vice President of Gambia, Madam Isatou Njie-Saidy, was also easily the most accessible as she graced the occasion with no airs. Garbed in a simple flowing gown and escorted by a few aides, she came to the awards carrying the staff of office of The Gambia. Whilst representing the President, Sheikh Professor Yahya Jammeh, she came also in her own right and she wowed the guests.
Reading the presidents’ speech she said, “It is our honour and priviledge to be delegated by His Excellency the President of the Republic of the Gambia, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J Jammeh, Babili Mansa, to receive on his behalf this prestigious award by the Security Watch Africa in recognition of his leadership qualities and achievements. It is pleasing to note that this has been deservedly due to his selfless, patriotic and untiring efforts in bringing sanity, safety and security for people and business in the Gambia as well as his personal commitment to security, peace and good governance in Africa and the world at large.
“The President commends Security Watch Africa for its concern with the security situation in Africa. Security guarantees peace and stability which are essential pre-conditions for the socio-economic development of the continent. Thus your efforts to raise awareness on the importance of security and expose Africa governments, Africa Private Sector Operators and civil society institutions to state of the art security equipment and technology through the conference and exhibition of this year’s awards are quite plausible.
“We support without reservations the decision of the Africa Security Watch to hold the awards outside Africa in order to draw attention to the achievements of African government in socio-economic development in general and in the maintenance and creation of peace, stability and security not only in Africa but at the global level. Indeed, if we Africans do not sing our own praises and showcase the stellar qualities of our national leaders, our vibrant cultures and rich traditions and heritage no one will do so for us.
“The president has always placed a high premium on security as demonstrated by his success in maintaining peace and stability in The Gambia for the past 21 years and his untiring efforts to mediate settlement of conflicts and broker peace between adversaries in the sub-region. The President’s penchant for security and prowess in formulating and overseeing the execution of security policies is informed by his rich military career and the qualities of statesmanship he has cultivated throughout his presidential career. His perception of security transcends the definition of security as the absence of conflict and a situation of anarchy.
“For His Excellency, security entails the quest for food security through vision 2016 as well as educational enlightenment. This is why The Gambia government’s achievement of surpassing the MDG 1C target by reducing the prevalence of malnutrition and under nourishment to less than five per cent in 2015 was recognised by the UN and FAO through a similar award. It is also the quest for nationwide educational enlightenment as an instrument of security that prompted His Excellency to revamp the entire educational system of the Gambia by making educational opportunities accessible to all Gambians up to the University level by not only creating the University of the Gambia but by being firmly committed to developing the University of the Gambia to a cluster of institutions of excellence endowed with state of the art technology in all fields, highly qualified professional staff and well motivated students.
“Because of these achievements and leadership qualities of the president, he has had worldwide recognition and has been honoured and decorated with numerous prestigious awards. And since this is the second time Africa Security Watch is honouring him, the award is an eloquent validation of His Excellency’s meritorious and deserving qualities, therefore wish to once again reiterate the President’s gratitude and sincere appreciation of this award and his firm commitment to collaborate with Africa Security Watch in support of its laudable efforts to build, maintain and create security throughout the continent. There cannot be a cause worthier than keeping the African people safe and secure in their environment in order to facilitate their sustained progress and prosperity.”
Also advocating for tackling insurgency through proactive national security using the Gambian experience, the Gambian Minister of Interior, Honourable Ousman Sonko, said terrorism and insurgency are growing phenomena of our times which poses daunting challenges to the way of lives of people in rich and poor countries, small or big and in essence the very foundation of our international peace and relations.
He said, “In the Africa context, groups including Boko Haram, Al-Sabbab, and AQIM directly comes to mind in discussion on terrorism given the threat they pose not only to countries they operate in but to the entire sub-region. Whilst theoreticians go to great lengths in differentiating between terrorism and insurgency, I think to us here, what is important is that they all employ terror and the use of force or guerrilla tactics to achieve an end which is often political.
“Moreover, the media and modern telecommunications and communication technologies have further blurred the difference between these two as it has enabled insurgent and terrorist groups to corporate her, even if only in the virtual world, to provide support, exchange ideas and methods, and spread their violence.
“Terrorists and insurgents now cross borders with relative ease while the threat of weapons of mass destruction provide small groups with powers once preserved exclusively for nations. These technologies have similarly aided insurgents who once fought from remote bases using captured, locally manufactured or externally supplied weapons, to now operate from urban hideouts and fight as loosely organised networks with the latest technologies gained from the open market and strike at regional and international targets.
“Mushrooming urbanisation, poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, religious fundamentalism and weak governance structures are often some of the reasons touted as root causes of terrorism and insurgency.
“In the Gambia, thanks largely to an astute political leadership under the President, and the merciful blessings of the Almighty, we have so far succeeded in curtailing and containing activities of terrorists and insurgents on our land. This has largely been achieved by putting in place security as well as other administrative measures that ensure that the threats of these are nipped in the bud.
“To start with, the security services consisting the army, police, national security and other state security units have in place intelligence gathering units with responsibilities to monitor and gather intelligence on any subversive/terrorist activities.
“Such information are communicated to the Joint Security Council made up representatives of the aforementioned services which meet weekly where it is promptly acted upon. In addition, the various security services both in the Greater Banjul Area and across jointly conduct routine patrols of their areas of operations with a view to monitoring suspected flash points of crime or other subversive activities.
“Community policing is also another important security measure put in place by the Gambia government. As crimes and other vices are carried out in communities, it is essential that the Police work closely with all facets of the community to identify concerns and to find the most effective solutions. In this vein, community institutions committee are drafted as the first line of defense against disorder and crime. At their level, they hold regular community meetings and forums which provide an opportunity to air concerns and find ways to address them.
“Religious fundamentalists as mentioned earlier may initially manifest itself in less violent ways but overtime metamorphose into violent groups. In the Gambia a secular state, the responsibilities of religious affairs is placed on the Supreme Islamic Council and the Christian Council representing the two religions practiced in the country. Whilst both oversee the interest and conduct of its adherents, the two occasionally come together and support each other publicly where needed. Inter faith dialogue on periodical basis have also provided the forum for thorny issues or minor misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims to be thrashed out and resolved.
“As a result of these measures, religious tolerance and respect has remained a great feature of the intercourse between Christians and Muslims in the Gambia. This is evidenced by intermarriages between Christians and Muslims and joint celebration of religious festivities. I must point out that no state or nation is immune from the threats of terrorism and insurgencies. We in the Gambia are well aware of this and in addition to the above mentioned measures in place, we continue to work closely with regional and international partners in the fight against these scourges of our times.”
Rewards for Excellence
After the rounds of talks by dignitaries and diplomats, the guests all settled down for the main reason of the convergence, which was to honour excellence, of which this THISDAY reporter was first honoured for the night and she carted away the enviable award of ‘Excellence in Investigative Print Reporter in Nigeria’, amidst a loud ovation from the gathering.
Others who were recognised for their outstanding performance in service, which was the biggest award for the night; was His Excellency, Sheikh Prof. Dr. Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, President, the Republic of The Gambia, and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State governor, who both carted away the Golden Star Award for the Most Innovative African Leader in Governance and for Exemplary National Service in Africa, respectively.
Also in the category for Golden Star Awards were the Premier of Gauteng Province, South Africa, Mr. David Malemolla1 Makhura as the Best Security and Safety Conscious State/Provincial/Regional Premier in Africa, while Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi was recognised as the Best Security and Safety Conscious State/Regional Governor in West Africa. Others in the same category were Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha as Best Governor on Security Matters in West Africa. He was represented by Mr. Victor Nwachukwu, a consultant to the state government, who also doubles as the Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Security Shields.
Another Golden Star Award was given to Chief Willie Obiano, the Governor of Anambra State and his Kwara counterpart, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed, in recognition for their outstanding performance, in being the Best Security and Safety Conscious State Government In Nigeria, respectively.
Also recognised was the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, who bagged the award for Most Innovative Security Chief in Africa, as well as Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, who bagged the award for Most Innovative Security and Safety Conscious Governor/Premier in West Africa. They were joined in that category by Mr. Mohammed Ahmed Alhassan, the Inspector General of Police, Ghana Police Service, who won Most Innovative Security Chief in West Africa.
Another Golden Star award was given to the trio of Lieutenant General Lesetja Joel Mothiba, the Provincial Commissioner, Gauteng Province, South Africa; Alhaji Umaru Tanko Almakura, the Governor of Nasarawa State and Mr. Chris Ndulue, the Managing Director, Arik Airlines Limited, for Urban Crime Control in Southern Africa, as Best Governor on Security Matters in Nigeria and Most Outstanding Aviation Personality in West and Central Africa, respectively. Ndulue was represented by one of the Vice Presidents, Mr. Francis Okafor.
Senator Domingo Obende received an award for the Most Outstanding Security and Safety Conscious Legislator in Nigeria, while Best Security and Safety Conscious Legislator in Nigeria went to Honourable Toby Okechukwu, member representing Awgu/Aninri/Oji River Federal Constituency and the Golden Star Award for Exemplary Service in National in Defense West Africa was carted away by Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, Nigerian Army. Although he represented the IG, crime buster, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Ayotunde Ogunsakin, the AIG in charge of Bauchi Zone, also carted home the Golden Star Award for Crime Fighting in West Africa. Also AIG Mbu Joseph Mbu went home with the award for Best Zonal Command in West Africa. He was represented by his Aide SP Hussaini Abdullahi.
Also recognised was AIG Umar Manko, an Assistant Inspector General of Police, Nigeria Police Force, who collected the Golden Star Award for Exemplary Security Service in West and Central Africa, while the Best Anti-Crime Police Chief in West and Central Africa went to CP Chris Ezike, Commissioner of Police, Edo State Police Command and the Most Outstanding Anti-Crime Police Chief in West Africa went to CP Frederick Taiwo Lakanu, Commissioner of Police, Imo State Police Command.
Commissioner of Police, FCT Police Command, Wilson Inalegwu went home with the award of Most Outstanding Anti-Crime Security Chief in West Africa and Most Outstanding Crime Bursting Police Chief in West Africa went to Commissioner of Police, Abia State Police, Habila Joshak, while Best Anti-Crime Police Chief in West Africa, Best Crime Bursting Police Chief in Nigeria and Best Anti-Crime Police Chief in Nigeria went to CP Hassan Hosea Karma, CP Samuel Damilola Adegbuyi and CP Isaac Eke; Commissioner of Police, Anambra State Police Command, two IC Nigeria Police Maritime Department and the CP Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Nigeria Police Force, respectively.
Recognised also for Crime Bursting in Nigeria was the Commissioner of Police, Delta State Police Command, CP Usman Baba Alkali, while the Commissioner of Police, Kogi State Police Command, CP Emmanuel Ojukwu, was awarded the Most Vibrant Police information Manager in West Africa, just as the Most Outstanding Pro-Active Police Chief in Nigeria, went to CP Sani Mohammed, the Commissioner of Police, Nasarawa State Police Command and another Golden Star Award for Exemplary Community Service was given to Alhaji Leke Shittu.
Best Security Information Manager in West Africa went to Director, Army Public Relations Department, Nigerian Army, Colonel Shehu Usman and Best Crime Bursting Police Squad in West Africa went to CSP James Nwafor, the OC, Special Anti–Robbery Squad, Anambra State Police Command, while SP Aisha Haruna, OC, Oil Producers Guard, was recognised for being the Best Divisional Police Officer in West Africa.
This is just as the Best Divisional Police Officer in Nigeria went to CSP Olusegun Ajamolaya the Divisional Police Officer of Victoria Island Police division, Lagos State Police Division, while the Best Community Public Relations Police Officer in West Africa went to DSP Ebere Amaraizu, the Police Public Relations Officer, Enugu State Police Command and SP Mohammed Tijani, the OC, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Ogun State Police Command got the Best Crime Bursting Police Squad in Nigeria, even as the Best Command Police Public Relations Officer in Nigeria went to DSP Ahmad Kadiya Muhammed, the Police Public Relations Officer, River State Police Command.m
Best Community Public Relations Police Officer in Nigeria went to ASP Magaji Majia, the Police Public Relations Officer, Kano State Police, while an outstanding performance award for Best Investigative Crime Reporter in Nigeria (Print) was given to THISDAY Chiemelie Ezeobi and that for electronic was given to Ada Ononye of AIT, even as the Best Community Friendly Police Officer In Nigeria was given to DSP Daniel Itse Amah, the DPO, Bompai Police Division, Kano State Police Command.
Plaques were also given to Enugu, Ogun and Delta State Police Commands for being the Most Outstanding Community Policing Command in West Africa, Most Outstanding Community Policing Command in Nigeria and Most Outstanding Crime Bursting Police Command in Nigeria, respectively. Also recognised for a Distinguished Service Award was given to the Nigerian Police Peacekeeping Operations Department for Police Peacekeeping Operations in West Africa.
The award night was brought to a close by Emmanuella Owobu, SWA Country Coordinator for the United States of America, followed by several photo ops. Although the 12th SWA awards ceremony has come and gone, Agbambu is not relenting in his stance to sell Nigeria to the world, even as plans are underway for the 2016 version of the laudable awards.