Worried by increasing cases of extortion, harassment and intimidation of citizens by unauthorised security outfits, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) has ordered the immediate dismantling of all illegal security outfits across the country. The ONSA has also observed with concern the proliferation of these organisations, their inimical activities and the need to halt the ugly trend.
The agency accused the illegal security outfits of masquerading and acting as part of the Nigerian security architecture while extorting, harassing and intimidating Nigerians. It, therefore, ordered immediate dismantling of such outfits and warned against using them to extort, harass and intimidate Nigerians.
According to ONSA spokesman, Z.M. Usman, “one of such groups is NATFORCE which seeks to combat illegal importation of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons and Pipeline Vandalism and has been involved in mounting of illegal roadblocks, conducting illegal searches, seizures and recruitment.” Usman also stated that “the general public and all stakeholders are to note that NATFORCE is an illegal outfit without any mandate or authority to carry out these functions.”
Considering the rising insecurity and other violent crimes in the country, we consider the order timely. With terrorists and insurgents causing havoc in the North East, bandits and criminal herdsmen killing and maiming people in the Middle Belt and North West, as well as kidnappers and other criminal elements making life unbearable for Nigerians in the South, there is need to check the activities of the illegal security organisations.
Apart from extortion and harassment of innocent citizens, some of the outfits engage in sundry criminal activities that can compromise the security and corporate existence of the country. Allowing them to operate unchecked and unregulated is dangerous to national security. It is likely that some of the unauthorised security outfits may be serving as conduits for criminal elements involved in smuggling and proliferation of arms and other weapons into the country.
Since the primary function of the government is the security of life and property of the citizens, the untoward activities of illegal security outfits remain a serious threat to this constitutional responsibility of the government.
We enjoin the government to urgently scrutinise all security organisations in the country to ascertain the illegal ones and close their operations without further delay. It is good that ONSA has identified the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW), domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser, as the only body entrusted with the task of coordinating efforts for the monitoring and control of small arms and light weapons in the country. Therefore, the NCCSALW must be encouraged to do its work effectively.
The overwhelming insecurity in the country makes the order by the ONSA imperative. Since criminal elements can hide under the canopy of security outfits to undermine national security, the government’s directive is quite appropriate.
However, it is one thing to issue a directive and another to carry it out. We urge that the order should be fully implemented. It is sad that many Nigerians have been molested, robbed or even killed by criminal elements that masquerade as security operatives but were later discovered to be fake. Singling out NATFORCE in the exercise is not enough because there are other security organisations without clear identity in many parts of the country. The proliferation of these security outfits, especially on the highways, has called for a comprehensive inventory of all security outfits in the country.
There should be sanity in the number and activities of these security organisations. The issue of security should not be left in the hands of shadowy characters and organisations. Government should be the only one with the monopoly of instruments of violence. Therefore, non-state actors involved in the exercise should be those with proven integrity. The circulation of arms should be adequately monitored and controlled. All security organisations without licences should be dismantled and those behind them prosecuted.
The ONSA should go beyond the order and ensure that the directive is strictly complied with. A monitoring team must be put in place to ensure the implementation of the directive. No effort should be spared to halt the proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country.