Security structure in Nigeria needs to be overhauled, says Ikponmwen.

By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu

Security: Former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Idada Ikponmwen, retd, is a lawyer and elder statesman. In this interview, he spoke on the state of the nation and why we must tackle insecurity decisively.

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•Brigadier General Idada Ikponmwen

Expectations from President Muhammadu Buhari’s new cabinet

Well, I will say that we have a very difficult situation at hand right now. With the prayers of all well-meaning people we hope that the present trend does not continue. In fact, to find solution to the ailments  bedeviling this country there is  need to stop procrastinating. We must start to address the nation’s problems arising from whatever direction and a sitting government must be seen to be serious and resolute to ensure continued well-being of the country. We have gone past the time when rules were by rhetorics.

No government is worth its taste if it cannot provide for the well-being, safety, security, progress and development of its people.

President Buhari is one of the best things to happen in Nigeria. If it is Buhari that will take Nigeria forward let’s have it. If it is the other way round, let’s watch it.

Having said that, the delay so far, two months as it is now may appear as a very short period  but unfortunately this delay reminds Nigerians and the world at large of the six months delay that was witnessed in the first six months of the same President. This is all the more reason this administration would have done everything to hit the ground running.

One would have expected that as a way of correcting the mistakes made in its first tenure, the government would have, shortly after  inauguration  ensured that new ministers were brought in and approved by the Senate. Nigerians expect speedy and definitive action in terms of the choice of having proper cabinet ministers in place because there is really no government if there are no cabinet ministers  to help run the affairs of government.

On suspension of Ruga scheme

I think this is one area the President must be extremely careful. Even the devil does not know how to control a man’s mind. We cannot achieve a declared good intention through an illegal measure. Procedure is very important in anything. We are running a constitutional government in Nigeria and constitutional government means the constitution is the basic law.

Any law that is inconsistent with the constitution is bound to be null and void and of no consequence. Therefore, any policy of government derives its legitimacy from the constitution and all laws must be justifiable in the life of the constitution. The problem between the herdsmen and farmers should not be resolved by resort to sentiments. The civilized world today has come to realize that ranching is the answer to animal husbandry. Animal farming is as good a business as any other and government must not express either implied or express preference for one business over the other. The right thing to do in a modern world is to encourage those who want to deal with animals to put them in one place. We call them ranches and from there it prevents a lot of problems, to the animals, and to the environment. It saves people from hazards and diseases.

Whether you call it Ruga or cattle colony it is all the same. No civilized person wants to hear this type of uncivilized approach in solving problem in the nation. We have lost too many human lives and properties and too many more are still in danger until the government takes the desirable decision  of prescribing the proper way of rearing animals. I have been to many countries and I can tell you that at the time I visited Botswana, livestock was the country’s main source of income. I never saw any animal on any street. They have a scientific way of keeping the animals in ranches; they slaughter them, hides and skin are immediately exported.

The meat was also exported to Europe and other places and the country was very happy, a country at that time of about two to three million people. They were happy and you could see happiness and development everywhere compared to Nigeria.

How can you have herdsmen moving from Sokoto to Lagos? Animals suffer, human beings suffer, facilities suffer, danger is created for human beings. You know how many accidents that have happened on the roads because of cows trying to cross the roads?  Some of the plane crashes we had in this country in the past were occasioned by cattle being on the runway. Can we be a little more civilized, a little more forward looking and progressive?

On worsening insecurity

The insecurity situation in this country is disgusting and points to serious danger. I do not mean to say that nobody is working, I can tell you that some of the security heads mean well, they are hard working. The institutional decay is beyond them. I have been shouting and I mean it for over 15  years that there is no way the Nigerian government or the security apparatus in Nigeria can deliver on security unless there is a serious overhaul of the security apparatuses.

I have said consistently that there is so much overlap, so much duplication in the responsibilities and duties of various organs of security. I have said continuously that we have to move away from this broad talk about security and begin to identify what is defence work, what is intelligence organs’ work and what is law enforcement work. You cannot give law enforcement work to defence institution, or give defence responsibility to law enforcement agencies like immigration, prisons, and fire service.

We must over haul our security apparatus. What we are operating now is essentially what we inherited from the military. The Security Act that we are operating is a replica of what we inherited from the times of General Ibrahim Babangida time.

Now, we have a National Security Adviser, who has virtually no power. Can we compare that to the home secretary office in America which has very powerful structure and constitution and composition? Now, a slight reference is made  security adviser in Nigeria in the Security Act; nobody gives him the power of being in anyway equitable to a cabinet minister and yet we expect him to be able to coordinate the affairs and activities of very serious high ranking officials like Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, and Chief of Naval Staff.

We are yet also to draw a clear responsibility for the Chief of Defence Staff. Is he having powers over the services of the other service chiefs? In fact, have we not reached a level where even the service chiefs cannot be seen as the ones commanding? In some places now, service chiefs are mere advisers to the President. The men who command are men of staff organized forces. You have commanders in North Africa, West African commands. The Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff cannot be effective commanders of their various units.

We need to bring in these changes so that their jobs can properly be assessed. There will be less conflicts among the security services because by removing overlapping responsibilities and duplication, everybody will know where his role starts and stops. If you don’t we will continue to have unwarranted and dangerous rivalry among the security services in this country.

On crisis in Edo State House of Assembly

To me, this is something that ought not to have happened; it is a sad development for not only Edo State but indeed the nation as its ruling party appears not to be in charge of affairs in a front line state like Edo and indeed it shouldn’t be so  anywhere in this country. Nobody expects it to happen when there is party philosophy, party discipline and commitment to the well-being of the state.

The problem, to my mind, started when we have an emerging house of assembly that was entirely made up of one party, 24 over  24 APC members. I saw it as a danger to democracy. But it appears that in this country, especially, among our politicians it is an issue of survival of the fittest and it is also the issue of use all you can to preserve yourself and the system you think you come from. The main issue is that the development should not have happened.

The party ought to have conducted itself better in more credible way to prevent this type of ugly situation. I make bold to say that APC has a problem in Edo State as far as this matter is concerned and it is squarely and properly APC’s problem and the APC is the ruling party. They have been indicted in this matter and the government which is a product of this same party stands indicted.



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