Again, Insecurity is the Issue

By Kayode Komolafe

The mood at the National Assembly yesterday was quite reflective of the rising anxiety about the worsening insecurity in the land.

Expectedly, federal legislators related the stories of anguish and helplessness being  told in many communities in the country. These are tragic stories of kidnappings, banditry, terrorism and wanton killings. The map of insecurity looks scarier by the day. No part of Nigeria is immune to this climate of danger. The vulnerability of the people is so obvious. The risks faced by   rural and urban communities alike are glaring.  The word in the  mouths of the old and the young around the country is insecurity.

This fact was evident in the yesterday contributions from senators and members of the House of Representatives.

Samples could be taken from  the tragic stories of  what happened in parts of the country just in the last one week. A member of the House broke down  as he moved a motion on the killings of two traditional rulers in Ekiti State. Another member reported  that about 50 people were killed in the latest round of bloodletting  in the extremely troubled Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau state. A senator told the story of  the Agatu area of Benue state being overrun by invaders.   

At the end of a sombre survey of the national security landscape, Senate President Godswill Akpabio announced   the resolution of the chamber that  security and defence chiefs should be invited to answer questions on the state of things in the security sector. Speaker of the House of Representatives Tajudeen Abass’ summation of the proceedings in the House was that President Bola Tinubu should  “take tough decisions.”

So, as Lenin puts in the title of  his famous political pamphlet in a markedly different context, the question of the moment is this: What is to be done?

The focus should be on this question as we commiserate with those who have lost their loved ones while wishing  the injured quick recovery and sustaining the call for the freedom of those still suffering  in captivity. This question has been asked as the various typologies of violent crimes were confronted in more than 20 years. Answers have also been generated as many as times as the question has been posed by the  manifestations of  insecurity all these years. These answers could be found in  the various reports of commissions and committees which looked into the various tragic events at different periods as well as government’s white papers. Pundits have also espoused perspectives on the insecurity. Books have been written from divergent standpoints on the problem.   Implicit in these various views  are  some answers to the question. Only yesterday a fellow columnist , Dr. Reuben Abati, in an extensive discussion of the problem on this page actually wrote pointedly : “Let the federal government declare a national emergency on insecurity.”

Besides, insecurity in Nigeria also has  an international dimension which could be compounded by the recent unsettling political developments in the Sahel region.

It may, therefore, be useful in the circumstance that as pressure mounts on security agencies  and defence forces to keep Nigeria secure the grim moment should be used for a  strategic review in the security sector.  This is often done by some countries facing challenges of insecurity in varied forms and degrees.  The gravity of the violent crimes plaguing the land demands such a systematic response. Members of the public who have inputs to make  usually participate in the process of such periodic reviews.  

A lot of lessons could be learnt from elsewhere despite Nigeria’s unique situation. For instance, over a decade ago, the United Kingdom had an important examination  of its defence, security and intelligence in a report entitled  “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review.” Embodied in the British report is an observation that could be interest to Nigeria: “All too often, we focus on military hardware. But we know from our many visits to Afghanistan and to military units around our country, that ultimately it is our people that really make the difference. As a country, we have failed to give them the support they deserve. We are putting that right, even in the

very difficult economic circumstances we face. We will renew the military covenant, that vital contract between the Armed Forces, their families, our veterans and the country they sacrifice so much to keep safe. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to do more to support the men and women of our Armed Forces. We must never send our soldiers, sailors and airmen into battle without the right

equipment, the right training or the right support. That objective has been a fundamental guiding principle of this Review, and it is one to which this Government will remain absolutely committed.”

A few things could be shared  from the British experience.

First, the sacrifices of soldiers, policemen, security agents and other  operatives on the field should be better appreciated. Security and defence personnel have also been killed and maimed in cases of kidnaps, banditry and  terror attacks. The talk about funding security often focuses on acquiring equipment and technology. A greater emphasis should also  be put on the welfare, training  and motivation of the men and women who actually carry out field  operations to keep the nation secure. Even drones have to be deployed by human beings to hit the right  targets. The compensation of the fallen heroes should be paid promptly while their survivors are humanely treated. Those who are in  retirement should be paid their pensions decently. The nation  should demonstrate empathy and respect for those who are put in harm’s way in order to keep the rest of the society secure. Their duty is  highly  honourable regardless of the acts of bad eggs in  their  organisations. In any case, is there any organisation without its own bad eggs? Soldiers, policemen and intelligence operatives should be applauded when victims of kidnapping are rescued or bandits are vanquished. The human factor still remains the pivot of any security strategy even in the era of Artificial Intelligence. So the security and defence authorities should make this a central component of any review.

Secondly, the intersection between physical security and social security as well as economic progress is an obvious one. This makes the involvement of  other sectors an imperative for a meaningful review. Beyond the usual official exhortation that security is a  “collective responsibility” the society at large should be rigorously mobilised to support the gallant efforts of  the professionals who are on the field to ward off  all risks to peaceful existence. In addition, the experience of a large community of retired officers of the various forces and agencies could also be useful.  This reservoir of knowledge and experience constitutes a national asset. Yet, it is hardly utilised.  Maybe,  if some  past leaders of the security sector confidentially share with the current ones their stories of  mistakes the system  would be spared of a repeat of such mistakes. The fora for such exchanges of views  do not have to be formalised with any bureaucracy. The products of the thinking that goes on  in the various think tanks should not be ignored by those who are currently  in command in the security sector.  

The corollary to the foregoing, of course, is that security agencies and defence institutions should not only be subordinated  to civil authorities as compelled by the constitution, they should also develop a culture of accountability. The accountability being suggested here  goes beyond naira and kobo. It is not enough to increase defence and security budgets. It is also important that the expectations of the public are met. This can be measured by the level of security.

It is in this light that the meeting of   the service chiefs and heads of security agencies with senators scheduled for next week should not be just another talking shop. The important dialogue between lawmakers and the leaders of the security sector  should be a turning point in the chilling story of insecurity.

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