Viewpoint

May 24, 2024

National security in one year of the Tinubu administration

Tinubu

Tinubu

By MUKHTAR YA’U MADOBI

JUST last month, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, shared a significant update at a High-Level African Counter-Terrorism Meeting in Abuja. He revealed that the number of terrorism-related deaths in Nigeria has plummeted, from a staggering 2,600 per month to less than 200 at that moment, marking a substantial decrease.

Immediately upon assuming office as Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu demonstrated his administration’s unwavering commitment to defence and security. He took a proactive step by conducting a thorough assessment of the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, led to ensure an independent and accurate understanding of the security landscape. Also, he outrightly read the riot act to service and intelligence chiefs on the need to join forces to defeat all adversaries confronting the nation. That was necessary, timely, and very apt because Nigeria was grappling with so many challenges from different angles, with insecurity taking the major role and seeming to defy all forms of solution.

Reports have confirmed the tangible results of counter-terrorism efforts under the Tinubu administration. In the North-East, Boko Haram and ISWAP activities have significantly decreased, with incidents dropping to a mere 8.0% in the last six months from April. In 2023, out of a total of 394 attacks on Nigeria by non-state actors, only 64, representing a mere 16.24%, occurred under the Tinubu administration, underscoring the administration’s success in combating terrorism. This success can be attributed to the novel strategic plans currently being implemented by the Federal Government with the support of the military, intelligence communities and other security outfits. Part of the efforts include a sizeable budget allocated to the defence and security sector to procure military hardware and other equipment necessary for fighting criminals.

Not long ago, in order to boost troops’ operational capacity and enhance national security, the Defence Headquarters has taken delivery of at least 20 newly acquired armoured personnel carriers, APCs, donated by the FG through the Ministry of Defence. “These armoured personnel carriers will provide our troops with enhanced protection and mobility, enabling them to carry out their duties more effectively in safeguarding our nation’s sovereignty,” Ibrahim Kana, permanent secretary of the ministry, said.

Also in February, President Tinubu inducted two new T-129 ATAK helicopters and a King Air 360ER Beechcraft into the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, Order of Battle, ORBAT. According to him, the acquisition and induction of the platforms symbolise his administration’s investment in national security and commitment to safeguard Nigeria against all forms of criminalities.

According to reports, insurgents now rely more on softer attacks and IEDs against troops, indicating a shift in their tactics due to military pressure. Government’s analysis indicates a strategic shift in ISWAP’s tactics throughout 2023, with 78% of their attacks being defensive, while only 22% were offensive. This suggests that the group is primarily engaging in actions to protect its positions or respond to military pressure rather than initiating attacks. This points out that Tinubu’s administration reflects potentially effective security measures or strategic changes in response to terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria; as such, it alters the insurgents’ operational capabilities and forces them into a more defensive posture.

On the other hand, Nigeria has also made substantial progress in curtailing attacks by IPOB and other separatist agitators wreaking havoc on law-abiding citizens across the South-East. Through a combination of kinetic(forceful) and non-kinetic (non-violent) measures, attacks in the South-East have been reduced by almost 75% within the last six months (as far back as April). Ribadu confirmed this to Senators during a conversation on the country’s security situation where they passed a vote of confidence on the presidential security advisor.

Notwithstanding, addressing separatist agitations requires a multifaceted approach, incorporating both immediate security measures and long-term strategies to tackle the root causes of such movements. Enhanced regional cooperation and international support are essential in curbing the spread and impact of these destabilising forces across Nigeria.

Security has also significantly improved in the North-West and North-Central areas, where bandits used to have their field day unchallenged previously. Government authorities reported that banditry decreased by 45% in the second part of 2023, coinciding with when Tinubu began his watch on Nigeria. As a result, many displaced residents, including farmers have returned to their base and continued their farming activities. Many kidnap victims were also rescued from their captors in these regions. The NSA revealed that the FG has so far rescued over 1,000 kidnap victims without paying a ransom. He stated this while receiving 22 rescued students and the Federal University of Gusau, Zamfara State staff.

Ribadu emphasised that the present administration’s counterterrorism efforts have been yielding tremendous results by blocking access to small arms and light weapons, thereby making it difficult for non-state actors to acquire them. According to the Small Arms Survey, a Switzerland-based non-profit, in 2020, Nigeria had an estimated 6.2 million arms in the hands of civilians, excluding those of the military and law enforcement agencies. “For example, the AK-47 rifle, which used to be sold for less than N500,000 last year now goes for N5 million,” Ribadu said. The NSA said security agencies recovered and destroyed over 5,000 military-grade rifles and intercepted over 20 gun-running networks in the last months.

It is also good to note that the Nigerian Navy work relentlessly to secure our marine environment against all sorts of criminalities, such as piracy, oil bunkering, and kidnapping. Similarly, the Nigerian Security Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, is vigilant in safeguarding critical national assets and infrastructure against vandalism. The Nigeria Police Force, NPF, deserves collective recognition for ensuring peace and internal security.

Fair to say, for all these successes being recorded within the security sector, credit must be given to the national coordinator of security agencies who oversee security matters on behalf of the President. I am referring to Malam Nuhu Ribadu, the current NSA.

A retired police chief and decorated anti-corruption czar, Malam Ribadu has acquired all the requisite skills needed to anchor security matters and achieve and enhance formidable security at national, state, and local levels. He has been demonstrating this expertise ever since his appointment. The ONSA is currently making efforts to actualise the establishment of state police as another way to enhance internal security. 

The NSA reveals that his office’s goal is to ensure that the  NPF takes full control of internal security without any need to invite the military unless necessary. This sounds good because achieving the goal will help the army focus better on external security and terrorism.

The NSA has advocated for closer interagency collaboration and capacity building among state actors to ensure success in the fight against insecurity.

He lately hosted members of the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies, FOSSRA, where he emphasised their pivotal role in adopting a proactive and strategic approach to engaging with the public and countering disinformation.

The meeting with the image makers of the Military, law enforcement and other security services was convened under the umbrella of the Strategic Communication Interagency Policy Committee, SCIPC.

With this kind of stakeholders engagement, it is clear that the FG, through the ONSA, is sparing no effort to ensure synergy among all security agencies. However, the legislative framework needs to be strengthened, and security strategies and policies need to be reviewed to enhance efficiency.

•Ya’u Madobi, an NDA research student and author, wrote via: [email protected]