AISSON and the Redefinition of Nigeria’s Threat Environment: Beyond the Domestic Challenges

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Muhammadu Buhari

By Bola A. Akinterinwa

AISSON, acronym for the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, held its 2019 security conference on ‘Re-defining Nigeria’s Threat Environment.’ It was a two-day conference held on Tuesday, 3rd and Wednesday, 4th December, 2019 at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. The conference was the tenth in the series and not only served as a platform for exchange of ideas on various challenges with which Nigeria is faced, but also came on the heels of an international environment that is increasingly becoming insecure as a result of increase in the terror of error in the conduct and management of international affairs.

Without any jot of doubt, the quest for redefinition of Nigeria’s threat environment cannot but be a welcome development at this particular time of Nigeria’s political history. National unity is under increasing threats. Professional politicians have mercilessly become selfish and reckless in the governance of Nigeria. Human life does not appear to have any value anymore. Societal indiscipline has also become the hallmark in political governance. In fact, the mania of electioneering in Nigeria has raised concerns on the extent to which it can be rightly argued that there is democracy in Nigeria. Election is now a battle field in which a politician can be easily locked up in his or her house and set ablaze. It is against this type of background that the quest for redefinition of Nigeria’s threat environment has become a desideratum.

Eight lectures were programmed to be delivered by high-level policy makers and to articulate the determinants or elements of the redefinition: “Combating Armed Banditry and Cattle Rustling in Nigeria’s North-West Region,” by Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd), Honourable Minister of Defence; “Analysis of 2019 General Election: Security Issues and Roadmap to Future Election” by Dr. Cecil Esekhaigbe, Major General (Rtd) of the Nigerian Army and the Chief Executive of the ANCEC Global Services Limited; “Strategies for Combating Pathogenic Threats: From Policy to Action,” by Senator (Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, Honourable Minister of State for Health; and “Increasing the Resilience of Critical Infrastructure in a High Threat Environment,” by High Chief (Dr.) Ona Ekhomu, President of AISSON. These four lectures were scheduled for the first day of the conference.

On the second day, there were the “Establishing an Intelligence-led Strategy for Combating National Security Threats,” by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Honourable Minister of Interior; “Implications of Federal Government’s Reform Strategies,” by Mr. Mohammed Adamu, Inspector General of Police; “Migrant E-Registration Program: Improving the Effectiveness of NIS in Border Security Management,” by Mr. Mohammed Babandede, Comptroller General of Immigration; and “Balancing the Imperatives of Freedom and Order in Nigeria’s War on Terror,” by Barrister Wahab Shittu of the WK Shittu & Co. In addition to these four papers, a special panel to discuss “Ransom Kidnap: A Grave Threat to Travellers and Rural Communities in Nigeria,” was also provided for.

All the lectures were meant to be the pillars from which the dynamics of the redefinition of Nigeria’s threat environment are to be derived. The more pertinent of them are explicated hereafter. First, talking about a ‘redefinition’ necessarily implies that there is an existing definition of a threat environment in Nigeria. In the absence of an existing definition, there will be nothing to redefine. Consequently, what is the nature of the current threat environment before the discussion of its redefinition?

Second, there is another operational word, ‘environment.’ What makes an environment a threat? In which way is a threat environment different from a political, economic, cultural, etc, environment? Explained differently, how does a given environment impact on enhancement of national security or in deepening national insecurity? What are the dynamics in both cases?

Domestic Threats and Challenges

From Major General Esekhaigbe’s paper, three main threats were identified and noteworthy. He submitted that ‘violence has continuously trailed the elections from the Western Nigeria crisis of the early 60s to the last general elections. Violence does not only impede… the progress of an election, but it has unfortunately become the deciding factor in the outcome of elections.’ This observation raises some important intellectual challenges: why have all elections since the 1960s been characterised by violence? How do we explain the inability of the various governments to nip violence in the bud? Is it as a result of incapacity or lack of political will?
He also argued that ‘evidence abound that in most cases, the security agencies have become a problem, rather than an instrument of solution to societal problems, it means that they are also now part of the threats to national security. Security agencies are part of the threat environment. And perhaps more disturbingly, Major General Esekhaigbe raised the issue of election violence and the role of the security agents.

As he noted, ‘it beats the imagination of sane minds why, in spite of the deployment of security agencies, thugs and criminals still operate freely in electoral violence.’ He observed that there were 106 election-violence related deaths in the 2015 general elections, while the March 2019 general elections witnessed 626 deaths across Nigeria ‘between the start of the elections campaign and the commencement of the elections.’

This figure does not include the casualties in the last Kogi and Bayelsa elections, which have sharply increased the casualty rate. In the words of Esekhaigbe, ‘the elections in Nigeria have become a war and no longer an electoral process. Most instructive in the Bayelsa and Kogi elections was the killing of Mrs Abuh, a political woman leader in Kogi State,’ in a very brutish manner.

Above all, he observed that ‘the most heinous was a by-election for the governor of Osun State, in August 2018, which was marked by a heavy militarisation of the State and intimidated the electorate. In that by-election, held in two Local Government Areas of Osun State, the number of soldiers and police officers out-numbered the citizens that were to vote in the election. Besides, the security outfits deployed were equipped with armoured tanks and other heavy weapons. The security personnel was sporadically shooting into the air to intimidate political opposition, who were not informed of the presence of heavy security.’ Without any shadow of doubt, the foregoing observations explain in part why there is an urgent need to seek a re-definition of Nigeria’s threat environment.

In the paper of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed A. Adamu, entitled, “Implications of Federal Government’s Reform Strategies on Police Performance and Effective Crime Control,” Assistant Inspector General of Police, Iliyasu Ahmed, who stood in for the IGP, noted that the nature, style and pace of crimes have changed globally in the past decade. The traditional and localised crimes have become international, multijurisdictional and asymmetric criminal activities and conducts.

As the IGP put it, ‘with the speed of technological development, crimes have also taken on digital forms from more sophisticated traditional domestic crimes, the Boko Haram terrorist activities, communal clashes, kidnappings, online crimes and cross-border criminal activities, just to mention a few. All these pose unique and increasing challenges for the Nigeria Police Force. So the Federal Government, in recognition of these comprehensive challenges, has taken several steps to improve the capacity and performance of the police for the Force…’

More important, he drew attention to three main challenges and to which, he said, the Federal Government had taken necessary steps to address them. The first is that ‘the Police Force, which was the pride of Africa and, indeed, the Nigeria people, before and after the independence, had witnessed a lot of challenges as a result of involvement of military in the internal security architecture and seen in every space of policing. The robust and dreaded “E” Branch of the police was the first to be excised from the force and later the creation of their outfits.’

The second main challenge is the partial implementation of the recommendations of the Mohammed Danmadami Presidential Committee on Police Reform of 2006, and the M.D. Yusuf Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force. The two committees had the same terms of reference, which included the review of the organisation, administration, operation and control of the force; re-appraisal of the existing strategies in crime prevention and combat; examination of the force recruitment policy, equipment scope and human capacity development; examination of the question of community policing; ascertaining the general and specific cause of low public confidence in the force; examination of ways of providing adequate logistics support for the Force; and examination of ways and means of enhancing the remuneration, good welfare package for the personnel of the Force.

Three points are baffling from the foregoing terms of reference. It is quite disturbing that the issue of the need for community policing dates back to 2006. In other words, for more than a decade, the matter is only now being addressed, while, over the years, preventable criminal activities have been allowed to be on the increase.
Another perturbing observation is the recognition of a low public confidence in the Nigeria Police Force. Why was it so and why is it still so? Why is it that the causal factors have not been meaningfully addressed, as public confidence in the Police Force appears to be, at best, in its lowest ebb? And perhaps most disappointedly, how do we explain the inadequacy of logistic support as at 2019 and the non-enhancement of remuneration and welfare of the policemen?

IGP’s explanation was that ‘the report of the two Committees was very apt and intended to improve the service delivery of the force but many of its recommendations have not been implemented.’ And true enough, there is also the challenge of adequate funding but the IGP admits that President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) is taking significant steps to deal with the aforementioned challenges. For instance, at the beginning of his second term in office, PMB re-established the Ministry of Police Affairs. He approved a fresh recruitment of 400,000 police officers in anticipation of a full community policing Implementation through the Police Affairs Ministry. A Police Security Trust Fund has also been set up.

Another interesting paper, ‘Redefining Nigeria’s Threat Environment: balancing the Imperatives of Freedom and Order in Nigeria’s War on Terror,’ was presented by Wahab Shittu, a Barrister at law. The paper is quite interesting from the perspective of the elements to be considered in the redefinition of Nigeria’s threat environment. His case study was the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011. In this regard, he examined the inadequacies of some concepts in the Act, all of which can be detrimental to the maintenance of national peace and security.
For instance, he drew attention to some conceptual ambiguities: what constitutes an ‘act of terrorism,’ which limits same to an act ‘deliberately done with malice, aforethought’? Shittu argued that ‘it is difficult to identify in precise terms what would constitute an act of terrorism, because it is not only these categories of offences that are influenced with malice or aforethought, especially as terrorism is sometimes a reflection or perception. Arguably, one man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

Other conceptual ambiguities he identified include ‘proscribed organisation,’ which is not ‘defined expressly in the Act,’ and the implication of which ‘organisations may also be proscribed for reasons arising from opposition to unpopular government policies, which could be unfairly regarded as acts of terrorism. The ambiguity of ‘terrorist meetings,’ ‘support for terrorism,’ and ‘terrorism investigation,’ ‘terrorist cash,’ ‘dealing in terrorist property’ and ‘property tracking,’ was also raised. The textual analysis of the Terrorism Act clearly points to the need for re-definition of terms, if not a review to enable implementation that can serve as a deterrent. Without first addressing the challenges created by the foregoing conceptual ambiguities in the Act, it cannot but be difficult to execute the obligations of the UN Security Council 1373, which Barrister Shittu admitted remain the effective way of containing terrorism.
And perhaps more concernedly, Barrister Shittu posited that ‘the provision of Section 9 of the Act empowering the President upon the recommendation of the National Security Adviser or the IGP to declare a person suspected international terrorist may be open to abuse. This provision seems to be too wide as the powers is not subjected to court supervision and can therefore be used by a pushy President to label political opponents as terrorists.’
One other important paper is that of Dr. Ona Ekhomu, who analysed the “Increasing Resilience of Critical Infrastructure in a High Threat Environment.’ At the epicentre of the thrusts of his paper is the argument that, without first addressing the challenge of critical infrastructure in the country, the hope of an environment completely free from toga of all manner of threats can as well be thrown into the garbage of history. In this regard, critical infrastructure, generally considered as basic assets and requirements for a functional society and good governance, include good shelter, potable water supply, good public health system, reliable security system, functional transportation system, reliable electricity supply in terms of generation, transmission and distribution, good telecommunication system, etc. The non-provision of effective critical infrastructure cannot but, therefore, be a major source of threats to a peaceable national environment.

International Threat Environment

In seeking to re-define Nigeria’s threat environment, there is also the need to consider the impact of the international threat environment, without which foreign and defence policy making may be to no avail in terms of threat containment capacity. In addition, there is also the need to explicate the implications of giving primacy to national security interest over the rule of law.

As regards the international environment-driven threats, a New World Order (NWO) is gradually in the making, at the international political level. The NWO is being defined by the United States of President Donald Trump. Three main pillars of the NWO are the promotion of ‘primacy of national interest,’ which was referred to as ‘America First,’ by Donald Trump, before his election, ‘Make America Great,’ following his election, and ‘Keep America Great,’ during his current campaigns for re-election. The immediate implication of this is that no interest of the United States shall be subjected to any supranational authority.

Another political pillar is the increasing promotion of unilateralism to the detriment of multilateralism of which the United Nations has been a major apostle since its creation in 1945. In this regard, for instance, the United States is interpreting international law in the mania of pax americana, which is not only threatening global peace and security in general, but Nigeria’s foreign policy stand, in particular. It should be recalled here that Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides that the respect of international law, particularly treaties is one of the objectives of Nigeria’s foreign policy. This same international law is what has interpretatively been subjected to the political whims and caprices of the US under Donald Trump.

At the militaro-industrial level, efforts at non-proliferation of nuclear arms do not appear to be yielding the desired results. The current international strategy of managing the nuclear saga is to sign agreements, which are very good in disrespect; differentiate between the Nuclear Weapons States and the rogue states, that is, countries aspiring to acquire the nuclear weapon status but which are believed can be reckless in its use or incapable of managing its consequences in the event of any nuclear incident; and provision of international aid to countries that accept to cooperate or sanctionary measures against recalcitrant States.

Grosso modo, the current strategy is legitimising the status of the Nuclear Weapons States, which are basically the Five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, on the one hand, and preventing all other countries aspiring to acquire the nuclear status from doing so, on the other. The strategy is failing in design and implementation. This cannot but be a major source of threat to Nigeria’s nuclear energy policy, be it for peace or war purposes.

At the level of threats arising from natural disasters, there is the particular question of global warming, especially ocean warming. It is on record that oceans are currently warming faster than earlier predicted, and by implication, increasing the sea level and creating problems of unexpected over-flooding and economic damages. Various research findings have shown that, at least, 90 per cent of the excess heat in the atmosphere is taken up by the oceans. The oceans have been warming since the late 1800s. In fact, according to the United Nations, the global ocean temperatures have warmed yearly since 1970 at a rate that has doubled since 1993. Besides, the biggest victims are the coastal communities, fishing economies and those in the polar and high mountain areas.

Perhaps more fearfully, with the gradual rise in the sea level due to global warming, and with some diagnostic revelations that Lagos environment is below sea level, and yet efforts are still being made to push back the high seas along Ahmadu Bello Way on Victoria Island, Lagos, there is nothing to suggest that political governance and economic development policies are ever informed by logical reasons. Nigerian leaders do not learn from lessons.

Above all, it should be said that Nigeria’s threat environment was unnecessarily further made insecure with Government’s disregard for rule of law, which has deepened public hostility for the Government of Nigeria. Government has relegated the rule of law to an ill-defined national security interest, thanks to the Department of State Services, which attempted a terroristic method of kidnapping in the premises of a court to neutralise the bail granted Mr. Sowore, who had been charged for the offence of treasonable felony. Indeed, his re-arrest has the potential to attract international hostility, as well as create doubts about government’s readiness to respect the rule of law in Nigeria. Or, could it be that the DSS wants to exploit Sowore’s case to garner public hostility vis-a-vis the Buhari’s administration, bearing in mind that the people of Nigeria and the international community will be angered by its act. The DSS act, without doubt, is a reflection of an emerging dictatorship in Nigeria’s democracy and also that of the threat environment that needs a re-definition.