Repositioning the Defence and Security Sector to Strengthen Democracy in Nigeria
As part of measures to reposition the defence and security sector to strengthen democracy in Nigeria, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre in collaboration with Transparency International Nigeria, recently engaged civil society organisations, media and academia. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that it was designed to expand understanding of the ongoing systematic corrupt practices in the aforementioned sectors in relation to politics and how it affects democracy in Nigeria
For democracy to thrive in Nigeria, its defence and security sector must always be seen as carrying out its mandate in an objective manner. Essentially, they must not be politicised or used for targeted, biased, and selfish goals.
These and many more were the thrust of the recently held one-day dialogue organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International in Nigeria (TI-Nigeria), in collaboration with Transparency International – Defence and Security Program with support from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, for
civil society organisations (CSOs), the media and academia in repositioning the defence and security sector to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
Themed “Repositioning the Defence and Security Sector to be more Responsible and Accountable in Nigeria’s Democracy”, the dialogue was aimed at strengthening the capacity of CSOs and the media to advocate and conduct state and national engagements towards an accountable, responsive and efficient management of the Nigeria defence and security sector.
Also, it was designed to expand the understanding of participants on past and ongoing systematic corrupt practices in the defence and security sector, in relation to politics and how it affects democracy in Nigeria.
It also scrutinised existing defence and security laws on civilian oversight of the sector in other to identify gaps and recommend ways by which to review those gaps to improve civilian oversight of the sector.
Particularly with the ongoing general elections, the dialogue set an agenda for incoming political office holders, towards repositioning the defence and security sector for a more responsible and accountable service that will further entrench democracy in Nigeria.
The dialogue had two technical sessions with the first being from a lecturer from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN), Prof. Freedom Onuoha. He tackled “A Case Study of Past and Current Defence and Security Corruption in Connection with Politics – The Gaps and Effect on Human Security”.
The second technical session was by a resource person from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Sunday Adejoh, who addressed Strengthening Civilian Oversight of the Defence and Security Sector – A Gap Analysis of Existing Defence and Security Laws.
Need for Objectivity in Defence, Security Sector
In his welcome address, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), canvassed the need for objectivity in the defence and security sector.
According to him, Nigeria’s defence and security sector must always be seen as carrying out its mandate in an objective manner.
“They must not be politicised and used for targeted, biased, and selfish goals. In times past, we saw how corrupt cases such as that of the Dasuki Gate fizzled away. We also saw how the case with the former chairman of the EFCC was handled. In recent times, there has also been many other corrupt cases that made the media headlines but somehow, they just disappeared, and nothing was heard of them again.
“Although these corrupt activities happened, their perpetrators still go about their daily activities freely with so much impunity because certain political interest must be protected.
“As we prepare to go to the polls again, we must be mindful of the fact that corruption cannot thrive in the defence and security sector only if we get it right in our choice of a democratic leadership.
” This is because it takes political will to entrench effective civilian oversight of the sector. Over the years, election exercises have been characterised with militarisation, this is because politicians, as usual, would want to insist on enforcing themselves on the people.
” They influence the roles of the defence and security agents through heavy funding and with this, compromise their professional credibility. This is the right time to demand commitments, objective and unbiased representation both from the defence and security sector and from politicians seeking various political offices.
“The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya has directed his men to be apolitical in their conduct during the exercise. In the same vein, the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Usman, has tasked his men likewise. We are watching, we hope to see their words come to play during the exercise.
” No defence or security personnel should be compromised or seen exhibiting unprofessionalism during the elections just because of what they feel they stand to gain after these politicians assume office. If they are caught, they must be seen to be punished commensurately. Democracy is centred around the people, anything short of this is a NO!”
Pledging that CISLAC and its partners will continue to push for greater accountability and integrity “in our defence and security sector through multi-stakeholder engagements of this sought, in line with the principles of democratic and participatory governance, to achieve the level of reform we desire. We will not relent”.
In the communique agreed on by participants and signed by the trio of Auwa Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani);
Dr. Dayo Kusa, Independent Consultant/Security Strategist; and Dr. Prince Charles Dickson,
Tattaaunawa Roundtable Initiative, they noted that continued militarisation and securitisation of elections have paved way for corruption and undemocratic tendencies and practices by security officials in Nigeria.
According to them, with the ongoing general elections, it has become imperative to set agenda for incoming politicians while repositioning the nation’s Defence and security sector for accountable services that advance democratic governance.
They said: “Recurring political interference in the Nigerian Defence and security sector has been reported as part of the potential effort by unscrupulous politicians in upturning outcome of the elections.
“The illegal small arms and light weapons in the hands of militias necessitated by porous borders and insecurity have become a growing concern in Nigeria with resultant counter-productive investment in Defence and security sector.
“Delayed review of laws and processes in defence procurement process has contributed to the lapses that encourage corruption in Nigerian Defence and security sector.”
In the second session, the observations made was that the criticality of defence and security sector has positioned it as the centre of sustainable democracy and governance process in Nigeria.
They noted that the “Manipulation of payroll, abused selections in career progression, and other unaccountable payment systems across non-military engagements and commercial ventures constitute unattended but serious threats to Defence and Security integrity and accountability.
“As human security is key in complementing effort and resources geared towards sustainable national security, security vote has been institutionalised to enable uninterrupted and prolonged diversion of funds.
“While Nigeria suffers a high-risk incidence of corruption in defence and security sector, susceptible areas in the sector are procurement, personnel administration, operational, finance and political engagement.
“Uninterrupted and unchecked diversion of defence and security funds into private pockets have continued to exacerbate precarious effects passed from one administration to another.
“Discouraging and unsupported whistleblowing mechanisms in defence and security sector hamper defence spending and procurement accountability in Nigeria.
“Despite the growing allocations hitherto to the defence sector, unchecked corruption in the sector has contributed to funds mismanagement, prolonged violence threats, high casualty rate, personnel mental/health disorder, grave security risk, weak response to crisis, and repeated weapons diversion.
“Huge annual budgetary appropriation to the defence and security sector has not translated into sustainable security of lives and security due to pervasive corruption in the society which is a major factor undermining the military’s ability to curb security challenges confronting the country.
“Defence corruption are enabled by opacity and secrecy, procurement complexity, vested interests, weak oversight and inadequate knowledge among Civil Society.”
In the third session, they observed
“Defence and security sector cannot be understood without adequate attention to civilian oversight, which constitutes a key component of Defence and Security accountability.
“While Nigeria grapples with different forms of insecurity, Defence and security budget has continued to rise astronomically with little impact on national security.
“In various civilian oversight of Defence and security sector, other corruption-susceptible services like Nigeria Police, paramilitary institutions, non-statutory organisations are not given adequate and prioritised attention.
“Civilian oversight of Defence and security sector remains critical to sanction misconduct, misappropriation and mismanagement within the sector.
“The fear of military coup, corruption, poor technical competence, capacity gaps, mainstreamed secrecy and lack of trust, excessive control are among the limitations backpedaling efficient civilian oversight of the Defence and security sector.
“Ambiguity, outdated and needless complexity of key provisions in the existing laws like Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011 hamper deeper engagement and successful civilian oversight.”
In its recommendations, from the first session, participants demanded for adequate oversight of the defence sector to ensure total accountability, proper checks and balances in defence budget; and immediate priority for committed and unbiased representations from upcoming administration by the citizens to ensure objectivity and quality public service delivery to the country.
They also called for adequate reform of Defence and Security sector for more accountable, efficient, responsive service delivery in Nigeria; denormalising the unprofessional use of security personnel for personal engagements to uphold objectivity, transparency and accountability in securing lives and property of the citizens, adding that
adequate sanctions against electoral offenders to demonstrate support for electoral credibility and sincerity in electoral reform.
In the second session, they opined that human security provision in Nigeria is paramount to complement and enhance the overall national security, thus there is need to uphold total integrity in Defence sector through transparent and accountable procurement process, payroll systems, and credible selections in career progression.
They also called for centralised procurement systems across Defence spectrum to enhance oversight activities for more accountability in funds allocation and spending; and also
institutionalising whistleblowing mechanisms in the Defence sector for anonymous reporting of suspected mismanagement leveraging the latest technology and other independent reporting systems.
Others include revisiting the defence welfare and deployment systems to mitigate reported high incidence of personnel mental and health disorder; having an independent review of various military operations and missions to ascertain their relevance to the current needs and reality.
They also recommended the application of adequate sanction for mismanagement of security and operational votes through appropriate legal framework to enable declassification and strict adherence to accountability in procurement and spending.
Also mentioned was support for investigative journalism into Defence sector to enhance qualitative and quantitative reportage that raise citizens’ consciousness on security and funding accountability.
The communique also tasked on Institutionalising adequate mechanisms to supervise the oversight bodies across Defence spectrum to ensure uncompromised accountability in procurement and spending.
In the third session, they posited that adequate civilian oversight of Defence and security sector is paramount to uphold professionalism, operational efficiency and efficient management of funds.
Thus, there is need to strengthen capacity of the executive, legislature, judiciary, civil society for enhanced curiosity and collective oversight on defence and security sector.
They further noted that proactive identification of systemic limitations to oversight activities to effectively engage and prevent positioned complications associated with the process is needed while amendment to the existing lawsuit to address gaps and resolve ambiguous provisions disrupting civilian oversight thrives.
They also called for adequate attention to technical capacity in appointment of the members of various Committees/Agencies through comprehensive Constitutional provisions to ensure competence in oversight activities, as well as appointment to the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) should be opened to all Nigerian with the requisite qualification expertise to deliver, while adding that periodic audit of arms procurement is essential for greater accountability.
Over the years, election exercises have been characterised with militarisation, this is because politicians, as usual, would want to insist on enforcing themselves on the people… This is the right time to demand commitments, objective and unbiased representation both from the defence and security sector and from politicians seeking various political offices
Huge annual budgetary appropriation to the defence and security sector has not translated into sustainable security of lives and security due to pervasive corruption in the society which is a major factor undermining the military’s ability to curb security challenges confronting the country