Nigeria’s present security structure is faulty and needs overhauling, argues Kelechi Akubueze
The inherent internal contradictions within the Nigerian state set in almost as soon as the 4th Republic began in 1999. The post – colonial state started unraveling gradually with the emergence of ethnic champions followed by criminal elements who started challenging the authority and sovereignty of the state, and tasking its capacity to the limit.
In the aftermath of the elections that brought in Olusegun Obasanjo as President, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) emerged as a secessionist movement associated with Igbo nationalism which supports the recreation of the independent state of Biafra, led by Ralph Uwazuruike. In the same year, a breakaway faction of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), led by Ganiu Adams, also emerged, canvassing for the secession of the Yoruba people from Nigeria. In response, the Arewa Peoples Congress was formed in the North with a claimed mandate to preserve the indivisibility of Nigeria, also announcing its readiness to take on the OPC and other ethnic champions of secession.
By 2004, from the ashes of the hitherto Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) rose a new group – Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) led by Henry Okar and Dokubo Asari, who campaigned against the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta and the marginalization of the region despite the fact that it produced the wealth of the nation; and hence demanded resource control, and started using militant strikes on oil installations to press home their demands. This was immediately followed by a never before seen wave of kidnapping for ransom, initially limited to expatriate oil workers, but later extended to Nigerians and the Nigerian military. This wave of kidnapping was to later spread to most states of the South East and South South, and became the biggest security problem of those zones until it was substantially curtailed a few years later.
Just a few years earlier, what is today Nigeria’s biggest security threat, Boko Haram, was born when Mohammed Yusuf established in Maiduguri, Borno state, a religious complex and school that attracted poor Muslim families from across Nigeria and neighboring countries. This group metamorphosed into a radical religious extremist group demanding a caliphate state within Nigeria, and on 26 July 2007, launched the first violent attack on a police station in Bauchi State followed later by clashes between the sect and the Nigerian police in Kano, Yobe and Borno States. Thus by the time the Obasanjo administration was handing over to a new government in 2007, every region in Nigeria already had a militant or secessionist group.
The country was shocked into the reality of terrorism in Nigeria when Boko Haram claimed to have carried out the bombing of the Police Headquarters in Abuja in June 2011 in the first known suicide attack in Nigeria. The group had reportedly, after the attack, taunted the then IGP Hafiz Ringim, claiming that they possessed superior intelligence and weapons to the Nigerian police. Then followed the suicide bombing of the UN Headquarters in Abuja on 26 August 2011, and the suicide bombing of two churches in Suleija, Niger state on 25 December 2011. By 2014, the Nigeria State had accepted the reality of being host to a terrorist organization with the kidnap of over 270 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, and the two separate bombings in Nyanya and Abuja metropolis. Boko Haram was categorized as one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world and countries started issuing travel advisories to their citizens concerning Nigeria, and the North East in particular.
The Nigerian State responded to this menace through waves of joint military and security strikes and operations but which have not yielded the desired result till date. Unfortunately, the situation has rather taken a huge turn for the worse within the past few years. A wave of banditry and criminality has spread through more Northern states such as Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi and Adamawa, claiming thousands of lives and forcing many residents to flee to neighboring countries. The latest addition is the wide spread kidnapping for ransom on the Abuja – Kaduna road which has made traveling between the two cities a nightmare for road users. Governors of some of the Northern states like Borno and Zamfara have publicly declared that the problem has overwhelmed them as it continues to get worse by the day pushing the Nigerian state to the edge of precipice as a failed state.
The reason why the security problem in Nigeria has remained intractable is because successive regimes have not viewed it as an existential problem, but rather as societal evolutionary trend, and hence the responses have been symptomatic. The real truth is that the security problem today is a direct consequence of the foundational structure of the Nigerian security after the civil war. The Nigerian security architecture, since after the civil war, has been structured along two paradigms: The need to ensure that no section of the country successfully breaks away from the federation; and the need to prevent coup d’états.
While the earlier was achieved from the onset (no region of the country has been able to succeed despite the demands for secession and existence of secessionist groups), the later was actually achieved during Obasanjo’s administration (1999 – 2003). Till date there has not been a successful coup d’état in Nigeria. Subsequently, in 1979, a Constitution was introduced which reinforced the above, lumping more than 80 percent of control of the entire nation’s resources and command into the exclusive Presidential list. Those provisions are still maintained till date in the present 1999 Constitution and its amended versions.
However, the country is now paying dearly for this. In order to realize the above paradigms, the country’s security architecture placed emphasis on “Control” over and above “Protection”. To prevent regions from seceding required the concentration of all security resources and command at the center, and deliberately weakening the security apparatuses in the states and regions then (now geo-political zones), and subsequently making these regional and state apparatuses of security wholly dependent on the center, for mobilization, deployment and interventions. This however runs against the logic of protection and combating of crime – crime is local and hence effective policing of crime is local. What has happened in Nigeria over the past 50 years is that the State has been trying to use a nationalized (distant) security structure to police local crimes and criminal activities, and this has not worked! A situation in which the police command in a state is headed by a Police Commissioner from another state with more than 70 percent of the entire police force coming from outside that state completely makes the police an alien force, trying to police an unknown territory. It is simple logic that, for example, where it takes police officers from Sokoto working in Abia State three months to uncover a criminal hideout in a village, it will take police officers who are indigenes of Abia State less than three days to achieve the same feat, because as stated above, every crime is local and it takes local knowledge to beat it. The same goes for the DSS, Civil Defence and all other security structures, accept the military.
Dr Akubueze, email@example.com