It would definitely be an understatement to say that the national security system and the government have been overwhelmed by the security challenges in the last couple of years. The situation has reached a crisis proportion that demands declaration of state of emergency on insecurity in the country. People therefore would have every reason to complain, to put it mildly. As things are, the gains made in the counter terrorism operations in the North-east, efforts to contain the burgeoning state of banditry in the North-west, especially in Zamfara state, and failure to stop the spate of siege on highways and communities by kidnappers and armed marauders are evidently being lost.
Equally unacceptable is the wanton killings by armed men and failure to effectively nip in the bud intermittent flare ups of ethno-communal clashes in parts of the country that have consumed hundreds of lives. The Northern part of the country has come out worst in all these as it has been turned literally into a huge killing field.
To put the record straight, not only the people but Mr President has had cause to lament the state of insecurity in the country. Therefore, contrary to insinuations in some quarters that the president has been indifferent to the plight of the citizenry on the avoidable loss of lives and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their communities by armed criminals, the issue has been a major concern to the government. It is important to point out that some insinuations currently being made are without doubt mischievous and indeed a distraction. Anyone conversant with the workings of the security system knows that the president has done all that is required of a leader to deal with the challenges. So also the National Assembly.
What has failed the nation is the inability of the security system to translate these efforts into concrete actions. The impression also needs to be corrected that not even the security organisations can be totally blamed for the current state of things. The truth is they just don’t have what it takes to deal with the security threats. While the buck stops at the president’s table, he is not an apex operative who should be held responsible for the ineptitude of the system. Lest one is misunderstood, steps should have been taken to arrest the current state of insecurity much earlier.
Unfortunately, tendency not to act promptly to contain emerging security threats is one of the major weaknesses in current security practice in the country. The consolation however is that the deteriorating security situation is surmountable and can be arrested immediately. All that is required is decisive action on all fronts.
As suggested earlier, the current state of insecurity in the country deserves declaration of a state of emergency to tackle the problems of killings in communities, the armed banditry in the North-west and the kidnappings all over the country. Well thought out strategies to achieve the desired objectives must however be worked out.
Among critical policies and operational measures that immediately need to be deployed is massive shakeup in all the security organisations, considering the negative impact of the activities of insider saboteurs, indiscipline and decline in professionalism on security practice in the country. The current security challenges cannot be successfully eliminated by a security arrangement that is bedeviled with corruption, indiscipline and brazen professional misconduct.
The over running of some military bases and communities by insurgents in the North-east, the mismanagement of the banditry situation in the North-west and even the failure of the Police and the State Security Service to decisively deal with the kidnappings and attacks on communities across the country in the last couple of years could be attributed partly to corruption and insider compromise within the security forces. This is the reason that the current security challenges can only be helped by massive shakeup in the entire security system to purge it of elements and tendencies that undermine their performance.
Another important shortcoming that urgently needs to be remedied is addressing the demands of the security organisations. It is pertinent to note that almost all the security organisations in the country are under-staffed, ill-equipped and lack the capacity to decisively deal with any serious security threat. Without holistic enhancement of the capacity of the security forces, it will be fool-hardy to expect that the current security challenges will be addressed.
As previously advised, the current security challenges can only be degraded to a manageable level if the security forces are equipped with appropriate platforms, especially drones, helicopter gunships and surveillance capabilities. It will certainly be sheer deception to expect that the security forces as presently equipped and constituted can effectively defeat some of the current security threats. It will be futile to expect that any of the current security challenges could be eliminated by relying on outdated equipment and ideas. Fresh ideas and strategies are required.
In addition, addressing the fundamental conditions that predispose people to drift into criminality must be honestly embarked upon. The absence of good governance is the primary cause of most of the current security challenges. As previously noted, there is the direct link between the current security challenges and the absence of good governance and failure by government in delivering the dividends of democracy.
The challenge of ungoverned spaces in most parts of the country also needs to be addressed. What has happened in parts of the North-central, the North-west and the North-east geographical zones where there is huge security vacuum is that criminal groups have simply moved in to take possession of the ungoverned spaces. It is instructive that some of the security forces have realised this reality and are reconfiguring their deployments.
Closely associated with the failure of governance as a factor is the decline in security service delivery. It is a known fact that the effectiveness of security practice has in the last couple of years declined primarily due to lack of capacity, leadership ineptitude and investment in the security sector. Other impediments are lack of public support and disruptions and distortions in intelligence flow. The problem of lack of accountability is also evident. But the most critical corrective measure required is for security operatives and organisations to be held responsible for security failures. Simply put, it must be made clear that any security organisation under whose jurisdiction kidnappings, religious crisis and attacks on communities take place must be queried for dereliction of duty.
Not the least critical is community participation in fighting the current security situation. It must be reiterated that no security operation will succeed without active community involvement. The role of the Civilian Joint Task Force in Borno state at the peak of the insurgency is an example that should be emulated. Community involvement in the provision of intelligence is indispensable in dealing with all the security challenges. So also is investigating the socio-economic interests in the security challenges. The belief that there could be the complicity of some vested interests out there masterminding some the security challenges for subversive purposes deserves being looked into.
Finally, the intelligence community must keep an eye on developments within the sub-region and beyond. Of particular interest should be what really is the relationship and the nexus between what is happening in Mali, Niger, Burkino Faso, Chad and Cameroun with current developments in the country. Fortunately, President Muhammadu Buhari has done the ground work during the summit in Chad. The point again is reiterated that, the security forces have what it takes to put a stop to the current drift in the security sector if well equipped.
Gadzama OFR, mni, is former director-general, State Security Service.