Rebuilding intelligence capacity of the security forces

Dearth of timely and actionable intelligence constitutes a major reason why security challenges that have besieged the country in recent times have not been effectively tackled. In almost all cases of attacks by insurgents, bandits and kidnappers, the absence of intelligence that would have prompted pre-emptive or proactive actions by the security forces has been responsible.

Another deficiency is lack of professional handling of some sensitive intelligence. There are widespread reports of poor handling of sensitive information by some security forces resulting in colossal loss of men and material in the North East and North West.

Furthermore, security forces pay little or no attention to operational security. The near collapse of the intelligence gathering mechanisms and disruptions in the flow of information occasioned by the frosty relationship between the security forces and the citizenry is another serious shortcoming. So also is the lack of investment in intelligence gathering. There are claims that even the security votes that are supposed to be used to acquire intelligence have been abused in recent years.

The decline in professionalism is evidenced by security agencies not going out aggressively to acquire intelligence. The intelligence gathering structures and efforts of nearly all the security and law enforcement agencies have collapsed in recent years. Despite the critical role of intelligence in ongoing efforts to overcome security threats in the country, most security agencies merely pay lip service. The limitations are further compounded by lack of cordial inter-agency cooperation and lapses in the sharing of available intelligence as some security agencies reportedly work at cross purposes with each other, thereby defeating the very essence of inter-agency cooperation and intelligence sharing. The age-old rivalry between some of the security forces still persists thereby undermining the collective resolve to deal with the challenges at hand.

However, despite what seems to be a hopeless situation, the appointment of the new Director General, SSS, Alh. Yusuf Bichi and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu seems to have turned the tide. Their pursuit of collaborative efforts and sharing of intelligence are evidently yielding the desired results as could be seen in the successes in the ongoing retrieval of dangerous weapons, raiding of criminal hideouts and curbing siege on highways. The recourse to intelligence driven security operation is raising hopes that the current state of pervasive insecurity across the country will soon be redressed. We believe the leadership of the two organizations who are critical in the ongoing efforts to eliminate the current security threats should be commended– even the Commander-in- Chief has commended their performance recently. Performance needs to be encouraged and appreciated as constant vilification could dampen the morale of the security agencies and obscure competence and excellence.

Without mincing words, some of the current Service Chiefs have done their best and should bow out. They should leave the stage for younger officers with the strength, competence and fresh ideas that the situation at hand urgently requires. It is also important to note that the achievements of the security agencies could be lost unless complemented by the military’s renowned hard push and vigour. The most important measure at a time like this is to break away from the approaches, strategies and mindsets that have proved incapable and unhelpful. A strategy of all out push by all the security forces with a timeline is the most appropriate. A cue should be taken from the example of Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El Rufai who has introduced a Ministry of Security Affairs in his State. Other states especially those battling with insecurity should adopt such innovative ideas so that the huge disconnect between the public and ongoing efforts of the security forces could be bridged. A Ministry of Security Affairs could also serve as a veritable platform for intelligence gathering. As I explained to a Governor friend, galvanizing some of the under-utilized civil servants to get involved in intelligence gathering and processing could help in the ongoing efforts.

A change of strategies is now very necessary. Almost all the current security challenges are impelled or fueled by porous borders, proliferation of dangerous weapons and lack of having a well coordinated approach. The security challenges definitely cannot be eliminated without mopping up the unbelievably large quantum of dangerous weapons in circulation and tightening security at the borders. There must also be a deliberate shift from the current practice of defensive and reactive posture that make the troops sitting ducks, to a more offensive and pre-emptive strategy. It is painful to note that the nation has lost many gallant officers and men by relying on outdated strategies.

Beyond this is the importance of promoting peace building and reconciliation efforts. Considering the colossal loss of lives and the level of destruction as a result of attacks by armed individuals and groups, there should be no equivocation in dealing decisively with them. There definitely cannot be harmony in the nation when some lawless individuals and groups relish in attacking perceived enemies and accentuate latent fault lines in the country.

It is also necessary to boost the manpower of the security forces to address the challenges of policing ungoverned spaces and dearth of equipments and capabilities while training and retraining and giving them an orientation that will make them more responsive, accountable and truly people friendly.

The level of security consciousness of the citizenry also needs to be raised. It is not possible for the effectiveness of the security forces to be enhanced where there is dismally low level of sense of ownership and patriotism. However, all these can only be achieved in the context of a repositioned system where security is reasonably decentralized and the capacity of the security forces are sufficiently enhanced. Drones and modern fighting platforms and capabilities to fight current security challenges are also necessary.

The process of rebuilding the intelligence gathering capabilities of the security forces should commence with innovative and well-planned measures. Issues that undermine the morale of operatives and their various handicaps should be honestly addressed. Disenchantment in the fighting forces could result in the worst form of insider compromise and sabotage. The way forward is improved intelligence sourcing and sharing. The process should be deliberate and well structured. Intelligence gathering and application should not be a happenstance in an unpredictable situation. The rebuilding process should rest on the tripod of effective security sensitization, proper funding and innovation. Building intelligence network and cells at the lower level is most desirable at the moment.

Finally, it should be appreciated that the current security challenges are a huge distraction to the Government’s efforts to deliver the dividends of democracy and achieve national stability. Hopes are not lost as the security operatives have the will and determination to surmount the current security challenges especially with the type of support they are getting from the President, Commander in-Chief.

Gadzama OFR, mni is former DG,  SSS.

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