By Chidi Omeje
Nigerian military’s current engagement in internal security operations (ISOs) does not only have robust precedence, it has become a national security imperative given the gravity and multiplicity of security challenges assailing the country from within.
However, deployment of military troops for sundry internal security purposes has also become so common place that it is now a reflex action for governments (Federal and States) and even citizens to summon and look up to soldiers to take care of any reported security infraction. Even more telling is the fact that owing to its vaunted readiness to be deployed to flashpoints, some other security agencies have conveniently abdicated their responsibilities and are currently cocooned in much more ‘comfort zones’.
In fact, going by the unimaginably huge expectations placed on the Nigerian military by the Nigerian Government and people, one could easily walk away with the supposition that the military possesses the magic wand with which it can wave and all security challenges will vanish! Yes, it is not incontestable that our Armed Forces have proved their mettle over and over again, internally and in the global stage, to elicit such grandiose expectations from the citizens but the reality check is that it does not possess any magic wand to solve all our internal security problems.
This compulsive reliance on the military to take care of any and every security challenge in the civil space is a clear evidence of faulty internal security operations structure. That all manner of security challenges that task our national security are popping up in various degrees, intensities and complexities across the country should not come to anyone as surprise. It is actually expected; and in fact, no nation in the world today is immune to the reality of its own internal contradictions or emerging security challenges.
What makes or marks the difference, however, is how the security system in place is fashioned or implemented to confront any given security crisis. This to a large extent determines the level to which such security violation can easily be detected, confronted and surmounted or how fast and far reaching such challenge can fester, deteriorate or conflagrate.
Nigeria’s model of internal security operation is such that the Nigerian Police Force is the lead agency in dealing with any security challenge. This means that the Nigeria Police is the first responders to any internal security violations; and not just responding first but taking charge and ensuring that the security challenge is nipped in the bud through intelligence undertakings. To boost this policing effort, the system created the secret police otherwise known as the State Security Services with statutory responsibility of detecting and preventing threats and crimes that could imperil the state. There’s also the Civil Defence established to compliment the efforts of the Police.
However, when the security challenge is such that is beyond the capacity of the police to contain, the civil authority, in exercise of its constitutional duties of providing security of lives and property to the citizens, is compelled to invite the military to act in aid of the police to deal with the situation. By this design and process, the Nigerian military is the last line of defence in our internal security operations design. In essence therefore, the military will only be called in when the security challenge is such that is beyond the capacity of the police to deal with. Such security challenges like insurgency or terrorism which threatens the sovereignty of the state or which its perpetrators deploy combat grade weapons that have the capacity to overwhelm the police are the kind of challenges that naturally demand military intervention. But what is the situation now?
The situation is that not only has the Armed Forces become the first responders to security infractions, they are involved in the battling of almost every crime in the books in Nigeria today. The military are deployed to wage war against terrorists and insurgents, they deal with bandits, they are primed to man elections; they are arrayed to chase armed robbers, stop cultists and confront kidnappers; they are deployed to quell protests and even to chase street hawkers around! Not even their remarkably low numerical strength for a country of over two hundred million diverse and restive people has compelled a second thought on the over-reliance on the military. As we write, troops of the Nigerian military are currently deployed to 36 out of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to do the work that are mostly their primary responsibility.
So, apart from the fact that this over-stretching of the military through over-reliance on them for every security challenge rubs off negatively on their professionalism, it actually disposes the civil space to gratuitous culture of militarism and militarization.
The indisputable truth really is that for Nigeria to decisively surmount the various internal challenges across the country, the whole nation and her citizens must own up to the challenges, face them squarely, each contributing his or her own quota until victory is assured, and law and order, peace and security become the order of the day. The idea of leaving everything to the military and turning around to vilify them when things go awry will not cut it. The ‘Whole of Nation’ approach will. This approach entails a more participatory process in the business of solving common existential problem like insecurity.
Another thing is the indispensability of synergy of action and purpose between and among military, security, intelligence and response agencies in Nigeria. Synergy and collaboration result to shared intelligence, joint operations, harmonized information and commonality of focus that are devoid of unhealthy competition or mutual suspicion.
Everybody should have a role to play in the quest to take back our country from the firm grip of our adversaries. We must integrate preventive education, involve civil society organisations, promote peace and moderation as a counter-narrative, ensure conflict-sensitive reporting in the mainstream media and more effective and patriotic use of social media in containing terrorists’ or violent separatists’ messages online. These things are not impossible. That is what other countries do. They don’t see their military as possessing the magic bullet that shoots down every internal security challenges.
*Chidi Omeje is Editor-in-Chief, Nigeria Security Digest (www.securitydigestng.com).