Many Nigerians will readily agree that there shouldn’t be a more appropriate time to take a comprehensive look at Nigeria’s security architecture, especially the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Virtually the entire country has been engulfed in protests where the youths are calling for an end to police brutality, intimidation and extrajudicial killings. In the past days, the protests have been hijacked by hoodlums, killing, maiming and burning down public and private buildings and other property.
Pundits have pointed out that the renewed protest was as a result of years of continued oppression and impunity displayed by different security agents against an unarmed civilians.
A recent one-day summit in Lagos, organised by Civil Society Legislative, Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), in collaboration with Transparency International (TI), with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, examined the security situation in Nigeria and proffered some solutions.
The summit identified that the more a system cannot protect its people, the more violent they become. Hence, ensuring leadership elevation was recognised as the panacea to the security of both the rich and the poor.
Participants at the event were drawn from the NPF, the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), the Legislative arm, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the media, civil society, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and other stakeholders.
Looking at the security sector as to comprise all institutions and entities with a role in ensuring the security of the state and its people, the experts argued that a lot have gone wrong in achieving this common goal.
EFCC’s head of Public Affairs, Lagos Zonal Office, Oyewole Ayo stated that continuous engagements of stimulated discourse with relevant bodies would go a long way in addressing most of the lapses in Nigeria’s security sector.
“A lot of people could pretend not to be aware of these problems, but they are there staring us in the face. The corruption and lack of accountability we are talking about is obvious.
“We at EFCC appreciate every such move that is geared towards correcting identified ills in the system,” he said.
Ayo’s counterpart at the ICPC, Japhet Izu Udeani, said that the agency was not looking back in ensuring that Nigeria was free of corruption. He explained that there was a direct link between insecurity and corruption.
“Some of this money stolen is used to procure arms and sponsor terrorism. It is like a cartel. The relevance of this summit cannot be overemphasised.
“We have seized 65 houses from a government worker. Go to Abuja, a lot of duplexes are not occupied. They are built by money meant for the masses.
“If we can hold people accountable, and if there are consequences for every action, this country will be a better place for us,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of LSSTF, Abdulrazaq Balogun, said that no state could develop where people’s lives and investment were not safe.
He said that security requires huge capital investment to run it effectively. To do this, he said that all Nigerians must play their parts in sanitising the entire system.
“If a public servant does the right thing, he or she doesn’t need any or many armed security men to guard them,” he said.
The programme manager on Peace and Security, CISLAC, Mr. Salaudeen Hashim, called for the urgent need to deal with corruption so that insecurity could be effectively tackled in all ramifications. He canvassed change in the behaviour and conduct of security operatives, particularly how they relate with other members of the society.
He decried how armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry and other crimes have continued across the country over the years with little or nothing being done to reform the security sector.
One of the solutions to Nigeria’s security challenges, according to Hashim, is for the government to think towards building economic prosperity so that most youths would be meaningfully engaged.
Said he: “We must build a strong security institution, and not the one around one individual. Accountability, integrity, transparency and effectiveness should be promoted.
“Some of these SARS men could put on bathroom slippers and T-shirts while holding a gun. You can easily confuse them for armed robbers. These are some of the issues that need to be dealt with so that the people can once again have confidence in the security sector.
“The transformation should go beyond cosmetic approach. It must be deliberate and holistic. Democracy grumbles meaninglessly in an empty stomach. This is why our leaders must act responsibly.”
He pointed out that the security officers could not be blamed for every lapse in their sector, adding that the hazard allowances of some of the men were laughable.
In his contribution, Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa stated that it was expedient to gather key players within the security space to look critically at issues that were undermining human security in Nigeria. He said that such concerns have largely become a threat to socio-economic and political culture of Nigerians’ co-existence.
He believed that different efforts to curtail the excesses of some security officers failed because of weak sanctioning and deterrence mechanisms.
“What is the meaning of accountability and justice in the context of the Nigerian security sector? This obviously calls for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current regular non-compliance of security agencies to the rule of law.
“This is what led to the #EndSARS campaign. It is a classic example of a dire situation that requires immediate approach to make the sector more effective.
“Democracy of a nation is measured essentially by the degree of accountability, professionalism; respect for human rights, the rule of law and its efficiency and effectiveness.
“The shortfall in these measures are symbolized by corruption in the sector, abuse of fundamental human rights, curtailment of civil liberty and the inability to deliver peace as a public good. The internal mechanisms even within the services do not accord with best practices. To this extent, to secure loyalty and professionalism from the rank and file has been challenging and this has been admitted by the Chief of Army Staff in a public outcry,” he said.
In his words, the invocation of a “prayer warrior conference” by the Chief of Army Staff was an example of thinking outside the box. He added that winning the minds of the populace was a key determinant in conflict management.
He, therefore, noted that any security architecture that ignores the input of non-state actors confronts legitimacy and possible failures.
At the end of the summit, it was highlighted that a major recurrent problem in Nigeria was insecurity as manifested in the low scale war against insurgents in the North East, North West and strings of violent criminal activities in the Southern part of the country.
The communiqué from the meeting read in parts: “The challenges of insecurity are fuelled by corruption, poverty, lack of access to the essentials of life, human right violations, weak institutions and lack of a well-coordinated and effective regional legal framework.
“We must also address the inter-connectivity of socio-political development and regional security framework in West Africa. Most West African states have weak institutions making it difficult for states to respond to the challenges of regional security and livelihood of the over 300 million people in the sub-region.
“There have been various efforts conceptualized in frameworks like the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF), adopted by the Mediation and Security Council (MSC) in January 2008. The ECPF is intended as a comprehensive operational conflict prevention and peace-building strategy.
“It was agreed that without security, prosperity and the sustenance of democracy will be difficult. And that security is not just a local affair, but also regional and global issue, raising the importance of regional and international cooperation.
“The participants observed that security in Nigeria is often seen as the protection of political actors. For instance, 40 per cent of police workforce is deployed to service the personal needs of state officials while the majority of vulnerable communities are left unprotected.
“Violence in Nigeria is not unconnected with injustice, corruption which are linked to expensive governance system, class distinction, loss of hope, and upheavals arising from the loss of confidence in the country’s leadership and other democratic institutions.
“Participants recognise the urgent need to fully employ Information Technology by digitalising policing and other financial transactions which will enrich data gathering and storage apart from drastically reducing corruption within the system.
“The security deficit is further compounded by duplications of operational institutions and the conflict of functions that often arise from such, for instance at present in Nigeria, the military is overstretched having to deal with civil conflict instead of focusing mainly on external aggression.
“Participants appreciate the outstanding performance of some individuals within the anti-corruption institutions and the security operatives, including but not restricted to the police.”
All the speakers agreed that corruption should be holistically confronted within the policing system through sanctions for offenders and provision of better economic incentives for security personnel like insurance, social security and institutional capacity building.
It was also recommended that Nigeria should domesticate all relevant regional and international laws and conventions that would help promote security, peace and prosperity in the country, particularly working out a framework towards a national action plan on the ECPF.
The participants commended CISLAC for its contributions over the years in partnership with local and international organisations towards an effective and robust security framework in Nigeria and West African sub region towards global peace.
Other resource persons at the summit included Bertha Ogbimi, Onyeisi Chiemeke and Chiemelie Ezeobi.