The postulation by the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (rtd), that a total reform of Nigeria’s security sector was inevitable in addressing the current security challenges confronting the country, is quite timely. Dambazau’s panacea for security should be taken with every sense of responsibility, especially as the nation approaches another election circle in 2023.
Dambazau also said a drastic review of the existing counter-terrorism strategy was necessary, particularly in the face of increasing activities of non-state actors making life unbearable to Nigerians.
The former minister of interior spoke Tuesday in Abuja at the 2021 Blueprint Annual Public Lecturers and Impact Series Awards on ‘2003 Politics: National Security and Nigeria’s Stability.’
The reforms, he said, would not only address the seemingly lack of synergy and coordination among security agencies considered as major handicap to a successful confrontation of the increasing activities of non-state actors, but also assist in no small way to restore confidence in the polity.
He lamented that less than 200,000 military personnel (Army, Navy and Air Force) to secure over 200 million Nigerians, was grossly inadequate. Dambazau said with over 400,000 personnel, the Nigeria Police was underutilised and misused, adding that most of the policing duties were carried out by the military.
The keynote speaker said apart from the drastic reforms, a deliberate improvement in the welfare packages for the police and building of trust with the civil populace were essential tools that can be deployed to tackle insecurity and restore waning public confidence in security agencies.
He recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had attempted reforms in the military, but he did not go beyond retiring politically-exposed military officers (PEMOs), and subsequently contracting a US-based private military company, the Military Professional Resource Inc. (MPRI), to carry out audits of the armed forces.
Dambazau said the Nigerian Army, then under General Martin Luther Agwai, came up with attitudinal change project aimed at re-professionalising the army, a policy he (the guest speaker) inherited and continued with by emphasising on civil-military relations, “particularly of subordinating the military to political authorities, realising that the institution’s long exposure to military rule had done a lot of damage to it.”
He said: “The reforms of the security sector in line with the current and future security challenges are inevitable, and there are no options other than to carry them out. And the sooner we commence the process, the better. I believe that this should be the very first item on the agenda of the government coming in May 2023.
“Aside the issues or factors earlier mentioned, the reasons why these reforms are necessary are that firstly, there appears to be no synergy among the security agencies in terms of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration while carrying out their activities, rather they operate in silos with no role convergence; they hoard information; and are reluctant to share intelligence, as if they are in competition.
“Secondly, there is poor security governance, making accountability and transparency almost impossible; and thirdly, there are duplications of efforts, leading to wastage of resources. Unsuccessful attempts at reforms have been made in the past, but using a stove-pipe approach, rather than looking at the sector holistically. There have been several committees of police reforms that ended with reports that were left on the shelves.
“Today, it is the military that performs most routine policing duties, and in fact this is another cogent reason why security sector reforms are necessary. The police are only one of the three legs of the criminal justice system, and the other two legs, the courts, and prisons, are also weak institutions, a situation that leads to poor delivery of justice, being one of the major reasons for the insecurity in Nigeria, especially in situations where victims suffer neglect.
“A significant part of security sector reforms is security governance, centered on strengthening the effectiveness of security institutions. One of the areas we need to focus our attention on is emergency response planning and coordination. National response to emergencies must be robust and people-centric, taking advantage of the unique competencies and resources of each entity at all levels.
“Winning the ‘hearts and minds’ is a necessary factor in winning counter-terrorism and counter insurgency operations. With the total strength of less than 200,000 all ranks, the armed forces have serious deficiency in the required strength necessary to deal with the kind of security challenges we are confronting in Nigeria.
We welcome Zambazau’s adumbration on the insecurity ravaging Nigeria, which has so far proved intractable. His articulate pontification on the underlying factors while proffering pragmatic and result-oriented solutions to insecurity with a nationalistic fervour makes the former army chief a patriot par excellence.
While recommending Dambazau’s blueprint to the federal government in its effort to bring to an end the rising insecurity across the country, it is expedient to underscore the fact that no one could have exposed the issues more succinctly, more professionally and more patriotically than the guest speaker at the 2021 Blueprint Newspapers Annual Public Lecture/Impact Series Awards.