By Nnamdi Ojiego
Sam Otoboeze, a Certified Protection Professional, CPP, has over three decades’ experience in security operations. Otoboeze was General Manager, Group Security Department at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and Senior Security Specialist at ExxonMobil. He also served at the Department of State Service, DSS. In this interview, Otoboeze, who is currently the MD/CEO of Abokus Integrated Security Ltd and Lead Counsel, Mgboigwe Chambers, speaks on the worsening security challenges in the country, the factors fueling insecurity and possible solutions. He also reveals how his security outfit and NGO, Barrister Sam Otoboeze Foundation, BSOF, are using non-conventional approaches to fight insecurity. Excerpts:
How did you find yourself in the security industry? Is it by chance or by choice?
I wouldn’t say it’s by chance. I started security work when I was about finishing secondary school. I started with the Nigerian Security Organization, NSO, then the DSS, Mobil and NNPC.
So, I have been in the security corridor all of my life and later transitioned from security to legal just to back up what I do because security and legal are both complementary.
I started security practice before getting professionalized. Of course, I drew a whole lot of experiences from the areas I have touched in life as a security agent. However, I had to go into training for professionalism. Before I got certified as a security protection professional, I thought that to be a security agent was enough to be a security professional, but I was wrong.
Being a security agent is about law enforcement but professionalism is over and above law enforcement. If you are not professionalized, you can only look at security from the prism of the security agency you have a background in. But when you become professionalised, then, you’ll be able to create, to see the nexus and how you can combine the different knowledge and backgrounds, and then make what in modern time is called security professionalism.
Securing without weapons
So, security is not about guarding the gate or carrying weapons but about solving a security problem without even a gun. That’s what the modern security is all about – securing without weapon. And that’s my dream. How do we secure without weapon? A professional security person will want to see less weapon in the environment because the presence of weapons is a statement about insecurity.
So the presence of gun in an environment doesn’t show security but insecurity. And what we’re working on is to get to a level where you come to a place and you won’t find any gun but when jungle matures, guns will show to deal with the situation.
As somebody who has enormous experiences in security operations, what do you think is fuelling insecurity in Nigeria?
So many factors are responsible. One is unemployment, hunger, and deprivation. These are things that normally will give rise to some form of insecurity. Why? A hungry man is an angry man. So many people you see that are behind the bars were not born to be criminals. They circumstantially became criminals. So, it is about survival. The youths are at the epicenter of insecurity because they are the multi force of the society. If you don’t engage the youths, then their minds can easily derail to something that you can’t even imagine.
Two, the way the country is being managed is like more in division than in unity and when you treat equals unequally, you are laying foundation for insecurity. Nigeria is a very great country and we look forward to a situation, a time when Nigerians will be treated as equals. So what is fuelling insecurity is the way that the country is being managed. We are managed with the tendency of separatedness than being unified. Then, the poor combination of the different security agents. There’s this thinking that because you are a Major General or Inspector General of Police, you know it all in security. This is not true because you can’t give what you don’t have. Give it to Major General, he is going to approach a security problem from the military perspective and the military is professionalised in wading off external aggression, ditto police.
So the authorities are not making use of the security professionals in the country. So there’s lack of coordination, inability to use professional security experts to coordinate and make things work. However, for terrorism to be coming up from all nook and cranny of the country, and with the number of security intelligence agencies, then, it boils down to lack of political will. Yes, political will is obviously lacking.
Like I said, there are so many factors responsible. One, coordination is not properly done. Two, political will needs to be increased because if there are sufficient political will, the system should be made to work, and having wrong people in wrong places or positions. Put a security professional as an National Security Adviser, NSA, in this country, he will know how to galvanise security, deploys framework that works. When you have the right person in the right position, he’s going to create a nexus where all the different arms will come together and make the country a very beautiful place to stay.
Integrated security system
Therefore, to handle the security problems in the country, we must take away this issue of you must be a retired major general to be appointed an NSA. We should give people who are professionalised, who have seen security from outside the prism of police or military and use them to coordinate the security and build what is called the Integrated Security System, ISS. The ISS is a combination of technology, people and the law.
But until you combine these effectively, you can’t get it right. There must be proper integration of the security systems we have. So, the proper integration will be technology integrating with the people and people integrating the law. The three arms must work together and it can only be done by those who have been taught on how to deploy this integration.
Incorporating private security
I want to make it loud and clear that the government can’t do it without the private security engagement and that’s what makes America a strong nation. They use people who are trained for general security without arms. Why do we spend a whole lot of money acquiring arms? Fighting who? There are things you don’t need arms; all that is required is to engage the private security organizations to provide the enablement, the information, the analysis that the government requires to work.
And to engage the NGOs to create enabling opportunities for young men and women get involved in meaningful activities. If you use the different security measures, including the NGOs who are already well grounded to reach out to the people, the challenges would be tackled. I’ve done it and if you go to my community, Ochima, you will be able to understand what I am saying. We use the NGO approach to encourage people to go to school, build skill acquisition centres, and create positive competition.
We have trained many people including medical doctors through this approach. These are people who would otherwise have become criminals too. So the government should use NGOs and private security professionals. Those should be the anchor, not acquisition of firearms because the country is getting over saturated with firearms.
Talking about security without arms, what is the place of technology in securing a nation?
Very enormous and indispensable. Technology is an integral part of an ISS because when it comes to intelligence gathering, when it comes to validation of incident, when it comes to determining the strength of deployment of counterforce, intervention or response force, technology will give you that. When it comes to analytics, technology will give you that. It helps to save funds, makes response more precise, and counterattack more decisive.
So technology is an epicenter of securing any nation and with it, you cannot be groping in the dark. But if you have it and you don’t have the man power resource to back it up, it’s like detection without response, so, it’s no detection. And if you have it but you don’t have the legal arm to deal with culprits, then, it’s just like two step forward and three steps backward. So the integrated security network needs to be done and it can only be done by the professionals who know how to combine it.
Election is around the corner. Do you think INEC will be able to conduct the exercise in the face of continuous attacks on its facilities?
Yes, INEC should be able to conduct the election if it has the support of those in leadership. This is because, INEC cannot secure itself. The offices, facilities and personnel of the commission have to be secured. However, you don’t want me to tell you that the commission should not conduct the election because one or two offices were attacked. Don’t forget that some people have died while eating and that has not stopped people from eating. However, the bulk stops in the President’s table, and I know that President Muhammadu Buhari has the capacity to deploy technologies, man powers, military and paramilitary personnel and other resources to give the country a credible election.
Tell us about your security outfit, Abokus. What kind of services do you offer?
We are grounded in security matters. We do risk assessment. It may interest you to know that why most businesses fail is mostly because they didn’t do security risk assessment. So we render risk assessment, provide joint management, and design and redesign facility security architecture. We also build an appropriate walling system using technology, and demonstrate what we talk when we say integrated security. We also do security survey, and train people to be Certified Protection Professional, CPP.
That’s the highest security certificate you can get in the world today. The certification can only be issued by the American Society for Industrial Security, ASIS. Again, we train on how to avoid being kidnapped, and how to manage it if kidnapped.
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