November 16, 2022

How security agencies sabotage the fight against crime

Rotimi Fasan

By Rotimi Fasan

IT has become customary for Nigerian security agents and agencies to pass off what should ordinarily be classified information as routine news release. Each time some of these security units and their operatives engage in this unwholesome breach one is reminded of how far many of them have fallen in their knowledge of what is appropriate information to be shared with the public and what is best kept secret.

Many of them don’t appear to have been trained. And if trained, they do not come off as having learned the right lesson. They look grossly raw and inexperienced but sometimes we are talking about some of the most senior persons in the military and paramilitary agencies.

If one could overlook the thirst of a freshly employed agent of one of our secret police going on Facebook to announce their presence or glibly letting the information about their professional background drop in a crowded environment- if one could try to understand the craving for attention that leads to such careless disclosure, what should one make of apparently very senior and highly-placed officers committing the same error? 

Since optics have taken the place of substance, security agents who before now would be content to remain in the shadows as they go about their work; detectives and undercover agents who would be willing and eager for anything except doing that which could potentially blow their cover, these now compete for photo-ops in a manner that would give any politician campaigning for public office a run for their money.

People who at a time took pride in the silence that attended the execution of their job today angle for attention and strain both to be heard and seen by all. They pay no heed even if they ruin what they should be protecting by the very fact of the unnecessary publicity they bring to it.

Since spokespersons of some of our security units now posture as celebrities, dressing and commenting loudly on every passing event, should we be surprised that we are making only backward progress in our so-called fight against crime? Professionalism just doesn’t seem to count anymore. It is now the era of social media influencers garbed in immaculate police and military gear and, sometimes, display the looks to go with it. Nothing more!

There are, perhaps, not many Nigerians or other followers of Nigerian news elsewhere that are not aware of the fact that the Nigeria Police have recently acquired three unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones. They were, according to the Force, acquired to help in the fight against crime.

The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali, was himself in the vanguard of those sharing this information. Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the Police public relations officer, was quick to let the public know how the task of fighting crime has been enhanced by the acquisition of the drones.

And like a child enjoying the thrill of trying out a new toy, officers of the police force have been gleefully putting on test flights their newly-acquired object. It would seem like they want the world to believe that these drones are the be-all and end-all of fighting crime. They are the final nail in the coffin of criminals of whatever shade and in whatever location.

This is nothing if not foolishness. The question to ask is, for whose benefit is all the noise about the acquisition of new drones? Is it the harassed public or the seasoned bandits or insurgents in Sambisa Forest? Where does the confident joy come from that three drones could do what hundreds of thousands of trained personnel have not done for many years?

Even the bit that the drones can do is already being eroded and compromised by these reports of their acquisition. Where lies the element of surprise in all of this? What is left for the criminals out there, be they insurgents, known and unknown gun men and women; bandits and kidnappers or just plain Boko Haram operatives- what more is there for them to worry about when they can already see and know specific details of the latest equipment that are to be deployed to take them out of business? Which professional military or paramilitary organisation does this? 

Increasingly, one is almost persuaded that some of our security agencies are led by saboteurs and not committed officers. Or how else can one explain a pattern of behaviour that seems to aide crime and criminals at the expense of the people and properties to be protected? It is a known fact that a lot of the equipment being used by our overstretched military are obsolete.

The so-called insurgents, bandits and unknown gunmen our personnel are ranged against in battle are better equipped. When these officers and men go onto the battle fronts, they are virtually on suicide missions. It is for this reason that some of them end up with self-inflicted injuries, just to stay off the war front. We are not talking here of very obvious cases of sabotage when military commanders and the top hierarchy of other paramilitary agencies turn funds appropriated for official use to private ends. 

After years of griping over the need for modern equipment and we finally got the Super Tucano Jets, what happened next? We went about bragging about their capability, announcing to the bandits and insurgents all over the north that there are new equipment in town. We were only short of telling them when, where and how the fighter crafts would be deployed.

I guess that must have been taken care of by the fifth columnists we are told work from inside these organisations. During the last Independence celebration in Abuja, there was an announcement by one of the presenters that suggested that the Super Tucano jets were to be displayed. I remember the concern I felt knowing the fiasco that was the performance of some paratroopers training as part of the display for the independence celebration days before. 

What is leading our security agencies down this slope of self-destructive unprofessionalism where they make so much song and dance of matters that ought to be kept confidential? What madness leads to this? Just about two weeks ago, the EFCC boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa, announced to Nigerians that three governors planning to pay state workers in cash following the planned redesigning of the naira were on their watch list.

What crime-fighting skills justified this announcement? Was it to warn the governors to cover their track? Abdulrasheed Bawa it was who deployed operatives dressed in reflective jackets that had the EFCC logo embossed on them to the venue of the presidential convention grounds of political parties. Which party official would be stupid enough to bribe voters in such circumstances? What’s the cure for this type of foolery?