By Adewale Kupoluyi
MANY Nigerians have come to see the appointment of new service chiefs as a boost in response to the parlous and fragile security situation in the land. Rampant cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, sectarian crisis, farmers-herders clashes, rape and insurgencies, among others, have become regular features in the country.
The truth is that there is so much insecurity in the land that many people live in perpetual fear of the unknown. Despite several efforts at curtailing crimes and criminality, not much success can be said to have been achieved, hence the persistent call for a change of service chiefs to rejig the security architecture.
President Muhammadu Buhari finally yielded to the mounting calls and appointed Lucky Irabor as Chief of Defence Staff; Ibrahim Attahiru as Chief of Army Staff; Isiaka Amao, Chief of Air Staff and Awwal Zubairu as Chief of Naval Staff. He replaced Gabriel Olonisakin, Tukur Buratai, Sadique Abubakar and Ibok Ibas after more than five years of service and nominated them as non-career ambassadors amid controversies.
The new service chiefs should hit the ground running by redesigning the existing weak structure through the deployment of the right officers to man strategic segments of the security forces in a manner that competence, experience and ability to deliver would not be sacrificed on the altar of nepotism, favouritism and parochial considerations that have become the major problem facing public service in Nigeria.
To make the desired impact, such sentiments should be jettisoned. The usual tradition is that sensitive appointments are based on political allegiances rather than experience or capabilities. Naturally, such appointees often shift loyalty to their political patrons rather than to democratic institutions.
Military officers should shun partisan politics when dealing with security matters as the provision of adequate security is a basic constitutional responsibility and is not tied to a particular party in power, while military presence should not be based on links to the Federal Government.
In the past, states that are not controlled by the same political party as the central government have cried out against neglect and inadequate federal presence in their domains. This should not be as national security should transcend political shenanigans.
The service chiefs should be allowed to carry out their duties professionally without undue interference. This intrusion may come in the course of procuring military equipment, allocation/release of funds, and performance of tasks. This is not to say that the armed forces should be left alone without being supervised and given oversight monitoring, but they should not be prevented from doing their work within their rules of engagement.
The welfare of men and officers of the military should be given appropriate attention. It is difficult to get the best from a workforce that is ill-motivated and disgruntled. There have been reported cases of personnel being owed salaries and allowances, inadequate arms and ammunition, inability to pay the retirement benefits of officers, and the neglect of family members of deceased officers.
Restoring morale that had been battered over the years should be addressed and victimising perceived personnel within the armed forces avoided. The new service chiefs should right the wrongs and ensure that the welfare of all officers is accorded priority to elicit loyalty and get the best from them.
Lack of inter-agency collaboration has been a setback for security operations in the country. An unnecessary rivalry that characterised the flow of communication and sharing of intelligence in the past should no longer be permitted. There should be proper coordination of efforts without distrust and the overlapping of functions. What should be paramount is the security of lives and property without giving cheap glory or apportioning of blame to any particular agency.
The re-orientation should be that nobody is more important and none is less useful as a system. The promotion of synergy among the security forces should be the primary concern of the military chiefs and ensuring that due respect is accorded civilians. This time around, security agents should be proactive by using more of intelligence to burst crime. There have been cases where Boko Haram and other terror groups give advance notices of their attacks without being foiled. This is nothing, but sheer security lapse and dereliction of duty.
The modern-day approach to tackling insecurity requires the gathering of intelligence and deployment of technology. Terrorist plots are better foiled based on undercover work, technological, financial surveillance and counter-terrorism. It should be realised that those engaging in security warfare with the people and state do so with careful planning and sophistication that should be matched with superior intelligence and weaponry. The service chiefs should relay correct and timely information to Nigerians and not be shy to consider the possibility of external assistance, if imperative. Corruption has been a recurring decimal that has stagnated the development of many emerging countries.
The armed forces are not insulated from this problem of graft. The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre/Transparency International in Nigeria reported that there is a prevalence of bribery and extortion among the security agencies, including the Nigeria Police Force, NPF.
To this extent, the security chiefs should uphold transparency and accountability in their dealings. Hence, allocated resources should be judiciously used such that the fight against crime and terrorism would get the needed tonic. Another key component that we should take seriously is policing. Ordinarily, most of the crime beats being handled by the military should be done by the police since they border on internal security.
However, over the years, the police have been poorly-funded and inadequately empowered to carry out their statutory functions. The military should be withdrawn from law enforcement to allow them to concentrate on their core mandate. It is imperative to reform and decentralise the police amid the glaring inadequacies in their operations.
Apart from military action, there is an urgent need to apply the criminal justice system to apprehend and prosecute culprits. The granting of amnesty to terrorists should no longer be done as the so-called ‘repentant’ terrorists often go back into crimes. Our leaders at all levels should be promoting mutual coexistence and security through their actions and statements.
The condenmation of open grazing by the northern governors would go a long way is reducing herders-farmers clashes. The government should do more in the areas of providing social services and employment opportunities for able-bodied men and women because there is so much tension and restivessness across the country. On a final note, security is a collective responsibility of all citizens. No matter how good our armed forces and police can be, the critical role played by the citizenry cannot be over-emphasised towards a safe, secured, and peaceful nation.