NIGERIA, on the verge of major — some say decisive — transitional elections in 2011, is suddenly faced with growing security challenges that could spell doom unless there are appropriate measures to tackle them. These threats are both internal and foreign, considering situations within and the constant interception of imported arms.
Why is there a resurgence of rebellion in the Niger Delta while the post-amnesty programme is rounding up at the Obubra camp? Is there any connection with the October 1 bombing in Abuja? Kidnapping and violent robberies, facilitated by the availability of imported sophisticated weapons, are on the rise. These crimes are acquiring a national spread, away from their former locations in the South-South and South-East.
The Boko Haram sect has resumed its violent campaigns in the North-East after it spirited its detained members from Bauchi Prisons last September. Its prime target are security agents.
Is it possible this sect and the resurgent militant groups in the Niger Delta have foreign collaborators?
Answers to these curious situations are important as Nigeria presses towards one of its most trying internal security operations — elections.
They demand too many security people to spare any for the type of challenges at hand. Peace during and after the elections, is critical to sustaining the development of the country.
Nigeria is peaceful, in relation to other countries. She plays commanding roles in global peace-keeping operations. Her leadership in the liberation struggles around Africa is widely acknowledged. She is a prime target of international saboteurs for obvious reasons.
Her myriad of internal problems aside, Nigeria is paradoxically perceived to be on the threshold of economic ascendancy. She is currently ranked the 39th strongest and the third fastest growing economy in the world.
The world is beginning to see the unfolding greatness of this country. Not everyone will be happy about this.
Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in his recent visit with top managers of JP Morgan, renowned international bankers, said the world was excited about Nigeria’s economic prospects. It is not all talk; JP Morgan has decided to commence full operations in Nigeria.
Some medium powers, rivals to Nigeria, especially, in the Middle-East, with a tendency for rogue behaviour in the international community, may want to undermine Nigeria’s internally and sabotage the much-anticipated take-off to greatness. A successful transition next year will be one of the steps to the commencement of that journey.
In tackling the security challenges, Nigerians, particularly the security agencies, should rev up to new levels of vigilance and security consciousness. Security is the business of everyone, but enough efforts are never made to ensure security is the concern of all.
More needs to be done at the level of intelligence. Some past security breaches left Nigerians wondering about the roles of the various security agencies
A recent development is the consistent recourse to the armed forces for internal security. Ordinarily, this should be the job of the police, at the level of enforcement. The intelligence wings of the armed forces and other security agencies should operate without the exposure to the public that is becoming the order of the day.
The armed forces are mostly to protect the nation from external aggression. They should not be distracted from this by engaging excessively in internal operations.
In assigning some internal security roles to the armed forces, Section 217 (2) of the Constitution states, “The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of (c) suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President.”
These are meant to be light operations. It is important government decides what to do with the police. The other security agencies are taking over its duties and the ineffectiveness of the police in dealing with internal security stares us in the face daily.
Every new expenditure on the police seems a waste. States, local governments, organisations, businesses and individuals are donating equipment and money running into billions of Naira annually to the police. Its efficiency remains low. The solution cannot lie in farming out the duties of the police, which are constitutionally listed in Section 213 to other agencies.
However, no single arm of the security agencies can secure the nation. We suggest a more coordinated response by security outfits and the involvement of the citizens in tackling our growing security problems.
Where external threats are identified, we should emulate the decisiveness of The Gambia in expelling all Iranian diplomats when it learnt Iran was targeting it for destabilisation.
Security is critical for Nigeria to arrive at the greatness that is awaiting it. A profound understanding of the security challenges the country faces will be critical to her successful journey to greatness.