By Yusuph Olaniyonu

Of fight against insecurity, chances already missed

Concern about the spate of insecurity in our country will be one of the major issues that will dominate discussions in 2022.

This is expected following the rate at which insurgency has spread from being a problem limited only to a few states in the North East in 2015 to a common feature in many states in the three northern zones.

Also, the rise of banditry in many states in the North and how kidnapping has become a nationwide threat has made the country largely unsafe.

The country is also battling with ritual killing, cultism, and armed robbery. All these problems have overwhelmed the Police which is the security agency primarily charged with the duty of maintaining internal security. The armed forces have now been stretched thin as they deployed the officers and men to the various theatre of internal crises.

The security crisis has created more multi-dimensional problems for the country. It has affected the economy as foreign direct investment has slowed down considerably. Many companies owned by Nigerians have closed shops or been rendered inoperable by the security crisis. Many Nigerians living abroad who planned to set up one business or the other have had a rethink.

The worst-hit area of the economy is the agriculture and food production business. Many Nigerians who invested in large-scale farming in the rural areas have had to abandon their investments after experiencing kidnapping and having to pay a huge sum as ransom or hearing about the experience of other victims.

Today, in many parts of the North and even the Southwest, farmers are afraid to go to their farms for fear of attack. This has led to an unusual rise in the cost of food items. It is for this reason that I believe that security will still dominate national discourse not only in the new year but perhaps the year after.

However, I believe one of the reasons that the security problem has taken a worse turn is because since 2015 there has not been a synergy of complementary efforts among the three arms of government to tackle this menace. Like every issue, the leaders of the country have not created a platform for all to discuss and agree on a plan that will become a national agenda for all to pursue in eliminating or reducing the various threats to national security.

For example, when the previous National Assembly, otherwise called the 8th Assembly was making all efforts to review the laws, engage with heads of the security agencies and come up with suggestions on how to improve efficiency, funding, and strategy on the fight against insecurity, the executive only treated the efforts with the same attitude of partisan rivalry. The legislative got no serious support from the executive and since nobody can clap with one hand, the initiatives came to naught. Also, there was no attempt to co-opt the judiciary into the fight against terrorism.

If leaders of the three arms of government had created avenues for exchange of ideas, even if it is on this singular issue, perhaps they would have come out with a common position or brilliant ideas on how to thoroughly reset the security architecture, provide necessary funds, amend the relevant laws and get the judiciary to treat all cases that border on national security with despatch and more seriousness. In that case, all arms of government would have a common agenda with which they work to achieve a set goal of eliminating the threats that have reversed the nation’s fortune.

For instance, I know that one of the aims and objectives the 8th Senate led by Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki set for itself in its Legislative Agenda was to “embark on legislative endeavours aimed at providing institutional, regulatory and review of laws that have a direct bearing on the security of lives and properties of Nigerians”. To achieve this, the Senate ensured that the first delegations it sent out of Abuja after its inauguration were the ones to Maiduguri and Yola to have an on-the-spot assessment of the security situation in the areas and the humanitarian needs in the Internally Displayed Persons’ camps.

The delegation to Maiduguri was led by then-Senate President, Saraki, and conducted around by then-Governor Kashim Shettima. It visited the IDP camps located inside the Usman Shehu College of Education and Government College, Maiduguri. It was that visit that led to the enactment of the North East Development Commission Act. The commission was charged with the responsibility to lead the efforts towards the recovery, restoration, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of the region that has been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency. The board of the commission led by Major Gen. Paul Tarfa (rtd.) was eventually inaugurated at the twilight period of the 8th Senate on May 8, 2019

The Eighth Senate also held several interface sessions with the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno and other top security chiefs to understand what was required to put the security agencies in a position that they can quickly defeat terrorism and other security problems plaguing the country. These briefing and consultative sessions led to “appreciable improvement in budgetary provisions and acquisition of modern equipment for our security forces, thus enhancing efficiency and performance”.

After passing several resolutions in response to various security breaches which led to the loss of lives and properties, the 8th Senate on November 30, 2017, inaugurated an ad-hoc Committee on Review of Security Infrastructure led by incumbent Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan who was then the Senate Leader. The ad-hoc committee was saddled with the broad mandate to study the problem of farmers-herders crisis and prepare a report outlining approaches for dealing with the issue.

On January 13, 2018, the committee members had to cut short their end-of-year holiday to visit Benue State where 73 persons were killed in one of the frequent clashes that have continued to claim lives across the country. The Lawan- ad-hoc Committee submitted a report on January 16, 2018. One of the fall-outs of the report was the two-day National Security Summit organised inside the Airforce Officers Mess and Suites in Kado, Abuja on February 8 and 11, 2018.

The summit allowed the heralds of security agencies to freely exchange ideas with the legislators, and some experts, map out strategies on how to combat security and what type of support or intervention the security agencies need to function at maximum efficiency. The summit was declared open by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

From the summit came a 20-point recommendation which was passed on to the Presidency after it was debated and adopted by the Senate at a plenary. Part of the recommendations includes: addressing the gaps in coordination, collaboration, and synergy among security agencies; adoption and incorporation of technology into the core of Nigeria’s security architecture and management; and reduction of dependence on imports for basic security equipment.

Also, the 8th Senate initiated many legislations aimed at putting the security agencies in a position to successfully tackle the problems. Prominent among such laws are the Nigeria Police Reforms Act and the Police Trust Fund. The former was directed at amending the outdated Nigeria Police Force Act of 1943 and making the Police “more community/people-oriented, professional, accountable and fine-tuned to comply with international standards in policing with an emphasis on respect for human rights”. The objective of the Police Trust Fund Act is to improve the equipment, training, and welfare of the police by compelling companies operating in the country to contribute 0.05 percent of their annual profit into a special fund. The money would help the government to fund the police effectively.

The Police Trust Fund Bill was passed into law before the expiration of the tenure of the Eighth Senate in 2019 while the Police Reforms Act has also become a law under the present National Assembly. There are other Bills passed by the Saraki-led 8th Senate to tackle the security crisis. These include Defence Space Agency (Establishment etc) Bill 2015, Air Force Institute of Technology (Establishment, etc) Bill 2015, Fire Arms Act Cap F.28 LFN 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Alteration of the Constitution to delete the National Securities Agency Act from the constitution, National Security Agencies Protection of Officers Identity Bill, 2018, and Maritime Security Operation Coordinating Board Act (Amendment) Bill 2018.

Other security-related bills passed by the National Assembly between 2015 and 2019 are Immigration Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, National Institute for Security Studies (NISS) (Establishment, etc) Bill, 2019, Police Procurement Fund Bill, 2016, National Intelligence Agency Pension Bill 2017, Vigilante Group of Nigeria (Establishment, etc) Bill 2017, Abduction, Wrongful Restraint and Wrongful Confinement for Ransom Bill 2017 and Prohibition and Protection of Persons from Lynching, Mob Action and Extra-Judicial Execution Bill, 2017.

The Ninth Assembly should take a cue from its successors. It should seize the initiative and aggressively lead the discussion on how to quickly end the spate of security crises. It is good to note that the House of Representatives recently held another security summit and presented its report to President Muhammadu Buhari. What is however important is for Dr. Lawan and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to hold meetings with the President and his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to impress on them the need to review all the suggestions contained in the reports of the 2018 and 2021 security summits as well as every other such report that have been produced at various levels and come out with an action plan which set out timelines and deliverables. All these should be done in conjunction with heads of security agencies and theatre commanders.

A meticulous adherence to and efficient monitoring of the timelines/deliverables, as well as constant review of the plans, will help to ensure that there is constant improvement in the way the current security situation is tackled. A situation where the country is being alerted to the possibility of the 2023 general elections not holding due to security threats may be an exaggeration but it is sure a pointer that the crisis has continued to fester.

As I said in the earlier part of this piece, the succeeding government should not inherit this security crisis from the Buhari administration. That should be the target and prayer of the major players in the administration. It should be the New Year wish of all Nigerians and May almighty God grant it.

At this point, while appreciating all our security agents at the various fronts fighting to keep our country safe and united, may the protection of God be on them and May they achieve a decisive victory over insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, cultists, ritual killers, armed robbers and all other agents of terror and violence. I say Happy New Year to the gallant security agents on the battlefronts and wish them a safe return to their respective families.

Olaniyonu writes from Abuja

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