Contribution to ongoing conversations on national security

Other related problems are associated with recruitment and professionalism in most security agencies. Narrow interests seem to have eroded requirements in many security agencies. This in turn has affected performance. The need to insulate the security agencies from politics is therefore imperative.
The other major area of interest in the ongoing conversations is the suggestion that the creation of state Police is a solution to the security challenges facing the country. This point of view deserves critical interrogation. As informed practitioners, we believe this view is not progressive. I don’t believe states that are already contending with challenges of paying workers’ salaries and demands of development can sustain added burden of state Police. Experience has shown that, a Police system that is controlled by a dominant party at the state level is likely to abuse the privilege. Already, there are indications that states are likely to misuse some quasi Police outfits created ostensibly for tax collection, traffic control and security support. Much more serious is the fact that such outfits could be used to manipulate elections. Concerns are also being expressed that, state Police could be used to aggravate the already fractious socio-economic, religious and partisan divides in states. In effect, there is nothing that will stop a hostile state authority from being belligerent towards the centre if it controls the state Police. The other reason not supportive of state police is having armed men not properly trained, paid and controlled. There is also no guarantee that a state Police system will not be heavily politicised. The suggestions for the creation of state Police therefore needs to be examined further. Also, the fact that a state Police could be used as an instrument of oppression against perceived political or religious opponents portends serious threats to national security. An equally serious reason why the country should not go for state Police at the moment is the likelihood of its being used for subversive purposes. It must be appreciated that, one of the most potent threats to national security facing the country at the moment is the activities of separatist groups, economic saboteurs and ethnic militia. Creating state Police will therefore simply mean arming such groups and unwittingly emboldening groups whose activities are inimical to national security. Therefore, the option that could be explored is strengthening community policing competence at the state level within the existing framework.
Discussions on the whole gamut of security processes and practices with a view of identifying factors that impede the effectiveness of the system in the wake of several security failures is also very important. The problems of intelligence gathering or collection, processing and timely dissemination should be looked into. From experience, the lack of adequate security coverage, challenges of processing, sharing and timely dissemination of intelligence are huge challenges in security management in the country. Appreciation of intelligence by some consumers is also a problem. These challenges are collectively counter-productive. Any security arrangement being envisaged or solutions being proffered must therefore address the inadequacies in intelligence management in the security architecture.
Other shortcomings of the existing practice that should be looked into are lack of inter-agency cooperation and poor coordination. It is disheartening to note that, some agencies have been accused of not taking the issue of inter agencies cooperation seriously. Many agencies incidentally have not imbedded the culture of intelligence sharing and cooperation. This is despite the huge successes usually recorded when agencies cooperate and share available intelligence. There is the belief that, the coming on board of the Fusion Centre in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) will hopefully address this shortcoming. Regardless, the innovation cannot be an alternative to the time tested practice where actionable intelligence is shared and passed to action agencies. It also should be noted that, cooperation is the hallmark of effective security management.
The other major aspect of the national security conversations that needs further discussion and strengthening is border security and aliens’ control. To say that the nation’s borders are porous is an understatement. The country incidentally has very long and poorly manned borders due to lack of adequate manpower, and the absence of technical border monitoring and surveillance capacities. This is not surprising as the country’s borders and immigration control responsibilities attracted little attention until now. It needs to be noted that, the problem is further compounded by poor aliens’ control in terms of visa issuance, aliens registration and residency authorization. It is therefore not surprising that, the country is among those listed with poorest aliens control regimes especially as some categories of foreigners known to be suspected sponsors and supporters of terrorism and financial crime stay in the country undetected. As things are, the country must strengthen its borders and closely monitor foreigners by introducing biometric capabilities and possibly electronic monitoring at the borders. Also, the Nigeria Immigration Service and other agencies with border security responsibilities should be provided adequate vehicles for patrols and other capabilities. The challenges of the land borders sadly face the country’s maritime sector.
Closely linked to the problems of porous borders and aliens’ control are the challenges posed by arms proliferation. The dangers of proliferation of dangerous weapons is better appreciated when viewed as one factor that fuels violent crime, attacks by herdsmen, sabotage and violent separatist agitations in the country. Any security design and architecture that does not proffer workable solutions to deal with the dangers of proliferations of dangerous weapons is definitely incomplete hence the suggestion that it should be accorded desired seriousness in the ongoing conversations. This is particularly important as, the country is believed to be awash with dangerous weapons and security projections are, the threats of dangerous weapon will be more grave in the coming years.
In the light of the grave consequences of the gaps, flaws and deficiencies featured in this write up, the most sensible option for the country at the moment is, working to improve the current Police system. There is no need to contemplate setting up a new Police arrangement as it would amount to transferring the burden of the current challenges impeding the effectiveness of the Police to the States. Also, to achieve the desired result, it is important the Nigeria Police Force is given a new orientation to make it more responsive and accountable to the people. On a general note, the distribution of security posts across the country to ensure optimum security coverage should also be pursued with all seriousness. The manpower shortage currently faced by the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service therefore need to be addressed immediately possibly before the 2019 elections. Increased funding to the nation’s security agencies is also a critical requirement at this stage of our national development. The training and retraining of all cadre of security personnel to expose them to trends in contemporary security management should be made mandatory. Also, for the security agencies to meet the expectations of the Nigerian people, concrete steps should be taken to provide them with required vehicular and communication capabilities and also the drone system which at the moment is a critical requirement for surveillance and realtime imagery production. Not the least important is the setting up of a national crime data bank and forensic laboratories. There is the need to finally stress that, a responsive and robust Police system for the country is only achievable under a well exposed and focused leadership. The problems of the security sector at the moment cannot therefore be achieved with mere cosmetic make up. The observations contained therein should be considered as contribution to the on-going conversation on national security.

Gadzama, mni, is former director general, SSS

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