… Average of two clashes yearly
By Esther Onyegbula
Whereas investigations may have established links between criminal intent and the killing of three policemen by army personnel, an underlying factor exists. It is so crucial to be dismissed.
Not considering it in dealing with the issue makes further bloodshed between the two security inevitable. The important element is the absence of inter-agency harmony, which has made the security agencies the paradox of a house divided against itself. There is virtually no security agency that hadn’t violently clashed with another, especially since 1999 when Nigeria retired from military dictatorship to democracy.
The situation, which is a total negation of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution Section (25), is the least expected at a time Nigeria is gravely threatened by insecurity.
That Section of the Constitution created the National Security Council which comprises heads of security agencies among others. One of the major casualties of the perennial clashes is esprit de corps, a principle that promotes team spirit among security operatives.
Another one is internal security in the country, which only deteriorates more with the persistent rivalry among the agencies.
This report presents the views of some retired top security operatives on how to promote the inter-agency relationship.
A former Executive Director, Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria, NOPRIN, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, blames the Federal Government for the recurrence of conflict among security agencies, saying many were created to perform the duties of the police. Among other issues, he says that no security agency is superior to another.
This is not the first time the police and soldiers are clashing. What is responsible?
The main causes of rivalry and conflicts between security agencies in Nigeria are the needless proliferation of security agencies, the duplication of security and law enforcement duties, powers and functions and overlapping of functions with no clear demarcation of operating boundaries. Although all the security agencies are involved, rivalry and conflicts have been more pronounced between the military- particularly the Army- and the police. There is an arrogant but deluded perception by the Army of its superiority.
Denials blame and counter-blames
Between 2005 and 2019, there were recurrent cases of reprisal attacks by the Army and, on a few occasions, the navy attacked the police with an average of two cases recorded each year between 2005 and 2019 with the recent happening Ogun State. This is usually followed by denials, blames and counter-blames with each side pushing different narratives.
In October 2005, soldiers from Abalti Barracks in Ojuelegba unleashed a reprisal attack on police officers, burning down buildings while over 50 vehicles were damaged. At least, there were three fatalities at the Area ‘C’ Police Command Headquarters, Ojuelegba. This was triggered by an alleged assault on a senior army officer by police officers protesting ‘interference’ earlier by two army officers who resisted their attempt to extort money from a driver of a commercial bus in which they were passengers.
Shot dead in cold blood
In May 2011, soldiers from 242 Recce Battalion, Ibereko Barracks, Badagry launched reprisal attacks on police officers attached to Badagry Police Division killing the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Divisional DCO, and about eight other officers in retaliation to the shooting of an army officer by some police officers at a checkpoint. The DPO, leading the DCO and other officers, was on his way on a peace mission to the Army headquarters on the invitation of the Army Commander when they were ambushed by some Army officers and shot dead in cold blood. There was no consequence.
Also read: Police: IGP asked to ‘urgently’ implement SARS reforms over incessant killings of Nigerians
The list is endless. In February 2016, Army officers stormed the Railway Police Station, Umuahia in a reprisal attack following the arrest of an Army Captain for an alleged traffic offence.
Police and soldiers clashed in Ebonyi State in October 2016 following a request by police officers on road check to Army officers from Nkwagu Military Cantonment in a bus to present their identity cards and vehicle particulars.
In March 2017, there was a report of a clash that was averted after soldiers invaded a Lagos police station. Some soldiers were reported to have invaded Alakara Police Station in a bid to release the mother of one of their colleagues detained at the station.
In April 2017, there was a bloody clash between the Army and the police in Yobe State leaving one soldier and three policemen dead. An Army officer was said to have run into the convoy of the head of the police mobile unit in Damaturu and got beaten up. Army officers went to the station on reprisal mission and seized the Mopol Commander.
In June 2018, there was yet another clash between soldiers and police in Aba, Abia State resulting in the killing of three persons.
In Calabar, on May 29, 2017, several police officers were reportedly killed after a night attack by suspected officials of the Nigerian Navy. The police station was burnt. This, according to reports, followed a skirmish between a police traffic officer and a naval officer near Calabar stadium.
In March 2019, there was tension as police and soldiers clashed in Rivers State following an alleged attack on Army officers by policemen accompanying Governor Nyesom Wike.
In the past one week alone, we have read disturbing news of attacks on police officers by Army officers with the one that just happened in Taraba State is the latest and will certainly not be the last unless something urgent is done to address the underlining factors feeding the rivalry and conflicts.
During training, how were the officers trained on how to relate with other agencies?
I believe that each agency has its training curriculum and manual which emphasise professional duties and conduct including human relations. Although training and retaining security and law enforcement agencies are key to professional conduct and effectiveness, I doubt if the problem of rivalry can be located in training.
I rather think it is the confusion created by the government when it created multiple agencies to perform the same functions with some crossing their operational boundaries and some feel that they are superior. The police are the primary agency created by law to deal with internal security problems. Their training prepares them for this role. The Army is not trained to deal with internal security issues although they can be called in to assist in exceptional situations. And their intervention is usually temporary and limited. It is the failure by government to adequately fund and equip the police to effectively discharge their constitutional functions but instead choosing to deploy the military to permanently assume the functions of the police, thereby marginalizing and neglecting the police. Besides the military, the government creates agencies which play the role that the police are charged with.
Are you saying that duplication of agencies is also responsible?
They dissipate scarce resources which could have been given to the police. There is the need to harmonise the functions and operations of all the agencies performing policing and internal security functions in Nigeria with a view to determining those that should be merged with the police, delineating functions where merger is not a feasible option and working out, from leadership to operational levels, rearrangements to coordinate activities that will ensure that resources are properly shared. There is a need for inter-agency cooperation in planning and executing safety and security functions.
Is there an order of seniority among the army, police and paramilitary agencies?
There is no such order of seniority. Every agency has its functions and powers clearly defined in its establishment law. They ought to work in synergy towards achieving the ultimate goal of national security, stability and development.