By Evelyn Usman
The prevailing security situation in Nigeria has gradually taken an ugly toll on the six geo-political zones, with citizens plagued with one misfortune or the other. From attacks by the Militant Islamic Group in the North-East to the prolonged violent farmers-herders clashes in the Middle Belt region and pockets of kidnapping and killings of victims across other regions, the consequences of all these are the same – deaths, wanton destruction of properties as well as the displacement of families.
The situation is however not peculiar to Nigeria alone as the entire African continent is plagued by myriads of security challenges ranging from cross border crimes, proliferation of weapons, human trafficking, terrorism, religious intolerance, banditry, and ethnic clashes
The perpetual circle of conflicts and insecurity have saddled security agencies with overwhelming responsibilities. Though there have been efforts by respective countries’ security agencies to tackle the challenges but these agents of misery have refused to stop their dastardly acts.
In a bid to proffer a major solution to insecurity in the continent, there has been clamour for African countries to come together to build a common front for this purpose. Taking the lead in this direction, Security Watch Initiatives, SWI last month, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tshwane University of Technology, in South Africa, for localized training of Police officers and those in the correctional services. The training which is also geared towards addressing the peculiarities of each country, is expected to, among other benefits, create a peaceful continent for growth and development. The Chief Executive Officer, Security Watch Africa Initiatives, Mr Patrick Agbambu, led the SWAI team to Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), South Africa to sign the MoU.
Agbambu explained that the implementation of the MoU would not only help promote security in Nigeria but the African continent at large. As a first step, he said that security agencies in West African countries such as Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, Ghana, and Gambia would kick start the process.
He said, “Right now, we have got several approvals. We are only waiting for this MoU so that we can activate all that has been set up for the start-up. I want to promise that it’s not just going to end at the document that will be signed today. We are going to kick-off immediately, to ensure that it’s a reality. I have also said that no meaningful development can take place in Africa or any part of the world if security is not taken care of. The biggest challenge we have in Africa is the issue of security and I believe that once it’s taken care of, every other development will start. We are happy because we identified this department in this university. I want to say that this is the only university we can boast of that offers security and research programs and traffic management and there are millions of personnel who want to advance their future if only they can get it.
“That’s why we are happy with this department particularly, with the various programs, such as the online program and the certification programs coming up. The end result is to have a better Africa and I also key into the slogan of the university which is ‘to empower people’. We want to empower our people to ensure security becomes better in our continent,” he added.
Explaining the aims and objectives of the partnership, Agbambu, said, “I believe that for people to actually call themselves professionals, they need to study the field very effectively. In Nigeria, and other parts of West Africa and largely most African countries, we have police officers who practically did not study policing.
And you can’t say you are a professional if you don’t understand what you are doing. So, we identified a university in South Africa that offers not just degree program but up to Masters and doctorate in policing, correctional services and traffic management. We believe that there is a need to offer the personnel, particularly in the police force, correctional services, and traffic management the opportunity to study policing and their various fields. Again it’s to offer them a better perspective of policing in other environments and be able to see policing in a global view. In line with our vision of Africa being able to solve its own problem; many times you see African countries invite police experts from Europe or America to come and conduct one training or the other for police personnel in Africa, without them understanding the internal mechanism of the society. There is no way you can successfully operate as a policeman if you don’t understand the locality where you are operating. Hence, there is need to understand the sentiments of the people that you are to police and that’s why we believe that an African university that can help to coach and educate our people in practical policing and proper policing would be of an advantage.”
Correctional Services, Traffic Agencies
“The Nigeria Police, which is the lead agency in the entire security, has a traffic unit. But some states in Nigeria have also set up some traffic management agencies. We have spoken to some of those states that have traffic management agencies and they have expressed willingness for their officers who are interested, to take up the opportunity. For correctional services, we are to approach them to see because in actual fact, South Africa has one of the best models in terms of correctional services. We believe that it’s not enough for people to go and study and get a degree, but there is a need to emulate the pattern of South Africa correctional services which is today close to what is practiced globally. In Nigeria, we don’t have much yet because of some obvious reasons. We believe that the opportunities that this MoU offers would help to expose the personnel of Nigerian Correctional Service to the modern ways of handling their jobs”, he clarified.
The Journey so far
The signing of the MoU according to Agbambu, underwent due diligence and underground work to ensure it met the standard and expectations. He said, “The signing ceremony which we just witnessed took almost a whole year before coming into being. This is because so many areas had to be considered.
First and foremost, the university offered the idea which we accepted, but there are other areas bothering on due diligence they needed to check like the genuineness and authenticity of our organisation and capabilities.
Then it went through the test, from the mechanism of the university and then the standard, before it was finally approved that a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) should be prepared, to incorporate various forms of training. This is because we believe that we have a large number of policemen who do not have the opportunity of going to the university, they do not have a degree; and in this age and time where it’s important to advance your studies, we believe that the arrangements which are embedded in the MoU, part of which is to carry out online courses for personnel who would be interested in studying policing, are very important. It’s one of the ways we want to educate them. Another is a quarterly certification course on specific security challenges that confront Africa. Our idea is to localise and have a common ideology in the whole of Africa, irrespective of the peculiarities associated with individual countries.
There are general issues that have to be looked into, such as human rights abuse and the likes. And all these have been captured in the MoU, which was why we came to sign so that the proper implementation of the spirit of the MoU can be carried out.”
Agbambu, however, hinted that one major area of concern was funding the officers for the training. To ensure full participation in order to meet the desired goal, he informed that discussions had been held with three police agencies in Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia.
He said, “In Ghana, the system is slightly different from what we have in Nigeria. In Nigeria, any police officer who wants to advance himself or herself have to personally fund it. In Ghana, a policeman who wants to advance himself can request for funding from the system and once it’s approved, he should be provided. It is same in the Gambia. Incidentally, the largest number of policemen are in Nigeria. For instance, Lagos Police Command has over 28,000 police officers. Whereas in Ghana, their policemen are not up to 25,000. Perhaps, that’s why it’s easy for other countries to fund the training for their police. However, in Nigeria, for those who want to personally develop themselves, the current Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, being someone who has also undergone several of these courses through self-sponsorship, has expressed his support of sponsorship for officers who are willing to take the training for personal self-improvement.
“It’s in the area of the courses and seminars that the police as a body would be sponsoring them. But for those who want to go for three courses or a quarterly certification, trainees would have to cater for themselves.” He however added that efforts had been put in place to make it affordable for those on self-sponsorship. He said, “Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa, is one of the universities that believe in free education. In fact, currently, 90 percent of the resident students of the school are on free education. They believe that people must not pay through their noses to acquire free education. Hence, with the partnership, we have had an understanding that since these individuals are paying by themselves, the fees would not be so much. And the beauty in it is that it is also spread over time.
“There is a partner known as the Higher Education Partners Africa, which is also partnering the university and has designed a model to help the funding and delivery of these courses to the people much easier and cheaper.”
“We have identified technology as a challenge and in two weeks’ time, we would be returning to South Africa to see how we can get support for every student who indicates interest to study, so as to make the technology easier for them. And when we talk about these technologies, we mean the tools and the energy to power the tools. The environment is also another issue and many more. We have therefore set a goal of four weeks period, to solve the issue of funding, making it much easier for the people, and also the issue of technology to handle it. But I assure you that it’s something that would be very affordable and the process of payment would be much easier for them,” he said.
Earlier, while declaring support for the initiative, Acting Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities, TUT, Prof. Mashupye Maserumule, said: “If you look at what we are doing in the department and you look at what Africa Security Watch Initiative is doing, there is a high degree of coherence. We have decided to partner with them because what we are doing will subsequently help the continent. Also, I was looking at some very important questions that AU Agenda 63 is asking, particularly as it relates to safety and security. And the important point that they are making is that there is no way that we can talk about the development of Africa if we don’t address issues that relate to safety and security.
“Specific questions that are asked and requesting us to answer relate to key safety and security challenges facing Africa and they request us to conduct research and when I look at all these things they are talking about, I can clearly see that indeed the African leaders are communicating and sharing ideas on safety and security in Africa. I’m saying this because I’m happy they constitute the basics of our MoU. Perhaps, an important task that we need to start to look into as part of the MoU is how we can get into the African Union research agenda and make sure that we contribute extensively”.
On his part, the DVC, Teaching, Learning and Technology, TUT, Prof. Stanley Mukhola, applauded SWAI for taking such a bold step.
He stated that: “Africans want to be safe all the time. We are working very hard as a faculty and as a university to establish research which is very critical. This is one department that strives in the research agenda. Ours is to do the best we can, so we are there for you. And the purpose of this is also to be in partnership with our colleagues who are here because we can’t do this alone. We need other partners to drive the agenda of research, and community engagement.
“I am very happy that I will be signing this MoU on behalf of the university and to remind us that it’s not just an MoU for the sake of MoU, it must be an MoU that is alive so that by the end of the year we will be able to give tangible output to say this is the MoU that has been signed to ascertain safety and security. This will enable us to make a serious effect. We need to make sure that whatever we commit to, we adhere.”
Head of Department, Prof. Jacob Mofokeng, called for the need to have a unified security structure in the Africa continent, emphasizing also, on the need for the countries in the continent to come together, take a critical look at the issues bedeviling the continent and come up with measures to tackle them”.
Security agents and officials of the correctional services as well as Traffic policemen, who intent to undergo the training course, are expected to be present in South Africa during the duration of the study.
This procedure as explained by Agbambu, is to enable them have a feel of the environment.
“It does a lot for the students themselves. That’s the difference between doing it in far European countries and doing it within Africa, where they would have to meet most of their lecturers whom they have been listening to or watching, meet them one on one, and also meet other students themselves and be able to have that impact of friendship. Hence we have designed it in the sense that, periodically as they do their course, they would have to come to South Africa”, he noted.
The school offers a Diploma in either Correctional and Rehabilitation Studies, Policing or Traffic Safety and Municipal Police Management, as well as a National Diploma in either Correctional Services Management, Policing or Road Traffic and Municipal Police Management: Municipal and Traffic Policing. It also offers an Advanced Diploma in either Correctional and Rehabilitation Studies, Advanced Diploma Policing or Traffic Safety and Municipal Police Management.
If the war against crime and criminality must be totally won in Nigeria, given her economic, cultural and demographic might in the Africa continent, there is a need for the Federal Government to key into training and retraining of its security agencies.