By Chris Onuoha
- Retired Colonel Stan Labo speaks on the Army, police exchange over the killing of three policemen in Taraba State, saying the deployment of soldiers for internal security duties that ordinarily are the exclusive preserve of the police can sometimes be problematic.
The Taraba Army – police exchange was, to me, a clear failure in Operational Coordination and Cooperation without compromising Operation Security (OPSEC). Fine, it was a covert operation but that does not negate the need for some level of info sharing. This becomes highly necessary because both services share the same operational space. In sharing info, the police insist they notified the soldiers at the roadblocks. This is rather a wrong procedure. The police could have spoken to the Military Command and not some foot soldiers at roadblocks. If the Command had been duly informed, that Capt who is been alleged to be protecting his kidnaper-friend wouldn’t have exercised the latitude of initiative and discretion he displayed in ordering the third checkpoint to stop the vehicle.
As worrisome as it may sound, the reality on the ground today is that the military is fully involved in Internal Security duties which is outright a preserve of the police. Due to obvious reasons of manpower deficit in the police, the FG is left with no option than pulling out the military for police duties. This abnormal operational engagement sometimes comes with dire consequences as seen in the Taraba situation. The training concept of the Army differs from that of the police. While the soldiers’ training concept is ‘Shoot To Kill’, that of the police is ‘Shoot To Maim for Prosecution’. So when you now deploy a soldier in police role operations theatre, he becomes a misfit because his training is to engage all external aggression and eliminate them. He has no business with the prosecution. He is a good shooter or soldier only when the perceived enemy or threat is satisfactorily eliminated. Not when the threat is barely demobilized. That probably accounts for why the three policemen who were assumed to be kidnappers lost their lives. Obviously, the soldier’s operational orientation would require some re-calibrated if he must be deployed on Internal Security operations. However, on-going investigations would unravel the true position of things. Let me quickly add that the Terms of Reference for this investigation should be robust enough to give us answers to the many questions on the table.
The handling of the matter by both services could have been better managed. The serial release of bulletins upon bulletins to counter or refute allegations that we saw was rather uncalled for. I seriously feel that some background discussions leading to decisions by the top echelon of both services could have been the proper thing to do. Consequently, a joint press statement would then be issued on the way forward to the media/public.
Moving forward, I will advise that the FG takes deliberate steps in beefing up the strength of the police with a view to committing less of the military in Internal Security (IS) duties. The military is currently engaged in about 32 States on IS duties. This is against the backdrop of severe strength deficit in the North-East. Presently on the ground, our Force Generation effort in meeting this huge manpower deficit does not reflect the required urgency. Out of the box thinking in addressing the issue is required. What for instance stops us from recalling the able-bodied ones on our reserve list? With mouth-watering incentives, we could mop-up a reasonable strength, avail them 6 weeks training and get them to commit to a brief 3-5 years contract. This is a short term approach to the problem. In the long run, we could expand on our facilities on the ground to accommodate a large number of recruits.