Interview

January 29, 2023

Our security operatives lack training to manage 2023 elections —  Aratokun-Ale

Our security operatives lack training to manage 2023 elections —  Aratokun-Ale

By Dickson Omobola

Mr. Femi Aratokun-Ale is the Chief Executive Officer of Target Search Global, Nigeria, a security outfit that offers solutions in the areas of general security consulting and training. In this interview, Aratokun-Ale speaks on, among other issues, banditry and kidnapping, state policing and insecurity ahead of the elections. Excerpts:

Currently, insecurity is a big issue in Nigeria. What is your view?

Insecurity is something that we have been battling for a long time. Before independence and after independence, we are still working to get it right. Currently in Nigeria, it is a very big issue and I think we need to really look into it and see how best we can tackle it from all ends. We don’t need to blame anybody, let us look at how best to manage it.

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Banditry and kidnapping are becoming widespread. How can it be stopped?

Banditry and kidnapping are different criminal activities. However, we need to understand that one is more violent and chaotic than the other. Banditry has to do with locus, trying to occupy land and trying to claim what is not really there.

The community leaders, clerics and the government must work together to understand why it’s happening. For kidnapping, we need to understand the body language of our politicians, the security officers, asking them sensitive questions. We need a bit of sanitisation in the banking industry in Nigeria, so that we can equally understand how transactions are being managed among these criminal gangs who collect ransom and move the cash around. They move a lot of the cash around without a trace of where it is being spent and the date it was spent.

To do this, a lot of technologies are out there. There is a whole lot to do to stop all these activities, but it appears some people are benefiting from it and that is why it has become a glorious business today, which is making investors run away from Nigeria.

Separatist agitation has resulted in insecurity in the South-East. What can be done to douse it?

A lot of communities have been marginalised, they are not getting the most of what they are meant to be getting. This has to do with the federal, state and local government.

When peculiar issues are not taken care of, it leads to agitation, which is why we have been begging the government to provide equal opportunities to every Nigerian irrespective of tribe or region. If we don’t do this, people from this region will continue to feel marginalised.

Western Nigeria Security Network, WNSN, codenamed Operation Amotekun appears to be a success. Should such be replicated across the other geopolitical zones?

We need to ask: Have they received enough welfare to support the police? No. Yes, they have recorded successes, but we need to ask if they are really equipped and properly trained. These are issues that need to be looked into.

If other regions have to replicate it, we need to make sure that, among others, they are fully equipped. For instance, in the United Kingdom, UK, they have community security officers. You will see them patrolling the streets and trains. Do we see that happen often in the South-West? No. So, even for Amotekun a lot still needs to be done.

Should the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, be decentralised?

At this very juncture, I don’t think the Nigeria Police should be decentralised. If they do, our governors will take laws into their hands and at the end of the day, the whole thing will get messed up.

For me, my understanding is that it should be left the way it is and it should be properly administered. However, the NPF has to be restructured.

Ahead of the elections, insecurity is one of election managers’ fears, how can this be allayed?

Nigeria can do better if it takes a cue from countries who have recorded successes in their democracies without fear of insecurity during elections. I am not saying that they have got it totally right in other places, but the violent attitude that we witness in our elections in Nigeria is not the best and it will stop a lot of people from participating in the voting system.

What Nigeria should be thinking about is adopting an Information Technology, IT, based system where if voters do not want to go to the polling booth, they can do it on their computers or on their mobile phones.

These are pilot schemes that should be looked into and pioneered. However, Nigerians should go out there and vote and not think about insecurity because these elections are going to be a defining phase in our history.

Will the security agencies be able to handle cases of insecurity if any arises during the elections?

Obviously, the security agencies will not be able to handle it the way they should. They don’t have the proper training for election processes and its management. What they will end up doing is arresting agitators and getting some people injured all in the name of election disturbance.

Yes, sensitisation is currently ongoing, but in how many places? It’s not so much. The NPF and other supporting security agencies may not really be able to do so much. They would rely on their own ideas and the directives they are given.

What is your advice to security operatives?

Do your best, be patriotic and try to stay safe, we do not want to record casualties. Protect yourself, be a good citizen and do the right thing to record your name in history that during the 2023 elections, you were able to support the future and honour the country.