President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) came to power in 2015 at the time when the Boko Haram sect was at the peak of its terror campaign, holding the nation by the jugular and letting off bombs at will in major cities, including the nation’s capital, Abuja, unchallenged. With their murderous campaign, they were able to seize control of not less than 17 local government areas in the North East and sparked off a major refugee crises of internally displaced persons (IDPs), which led to sundry humanitarian catastrophes associated with this type of conflict. To further compound the challenge of insecurity, other violent crimes (as if in conspiracy with Boko Haram) such as farmers/herders’ clashes, ethnic militia violence, kidnapping, ritual killings, cultism, militancy, ethnic and religious conflicts, armed robbery, etc, assumed frightening dimensions and stoked the orgy of violence in the land.
Though remarkable progress has been recorded in containing Boko Haram, insecurity is still the greatest threat to our nation today, as the spate of violent crimes has continued unabated. I expect the administration to address this rampaging hydra-headed monster by mobilising all the national resources, both human and material, to vanquish every vestige of Boko Haram insurgency and flush out all manner of violent criminalities under whatever guise.
No effort should be spared to achieve this singular objective, even if it means putting other projects in abeyance, since security is the bases upon which the nation can exist in the first place. President Buhari himself has said repeatedly that you have to secure the country before you can manage it efficiently.
The protection of life and property is the number one duty of any government, and government has been given enormous resources and powers by the Constitution to ensure that this sacred duty of providing security is paramount and guaranteed at all times. The present national security structure is grossly inadequate to cope with the pervasive violent crimes racking the nation and calls for a radical reform of the entire national security architecture to achieve a more decentralised structure, down to the grassroots. Government should revisit the issue of state police and see how it will assist in the present security challenge. State police is the real community policing, whereby the police comprise people from the locality with vast knowledge of the community. The advantages of the system far outweigh the fear of abuse by the state governors and they will complement the effort of the federal police just as it is practiced in the United States and other advanced countries.
According to the United Nations, Nigeria needs 155,000 additional police officers to meet the UN ratio of one police officer to 400 citizens of a country. The time to address this shortfall is now, with massive recruitment into the force.
The country needs a special border patrol force dedicated entirely to the protection of our extensive and porous borders to check the constant influx of marauding bands of killers and extremist groups coming across from the Maghreb and Sahel region of North Africa into sub-Saharan Africa to attack countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria. The area is a vast haven for all manner of terrorist groups, including Al Queda in the Maghreb, remnants of ISIS, ISWAP and Al Shabab splinter groups giving assistance to sister groups like Boko Haram at the slightest opportunity.
We also need a National Guard, a special elite force dedicated to fighting asymmetrical warfare. We must adapt to the evolving security threats of the present era. Our military force remains a conventional fighting force and should continue to modernise along that line but the Nigerian Army needs to expand from the present 8 divisions to at least 12 divisions to cover our vast territory of almost one million square kilometers. One of the major problems the military is facing in the fight against Boko Haram is the challenge of holding on to the territories left by the fleeing insurgents due to vastness of area. Sambisa forest, which was the notorious base of Boko Haram insurgents is about 686 square kilometers. It is one thing to drive the insurgents away from a territory and another thing to have the required personnel to garrison the area so that the insurgents do not come back to reclaim the territory.
National security should take precedence over any other agenda of the administration, as a matter of urgency. Government should expand and deepen collaborative efforts with countries that have experience in security management like Israel, the US, Russia, Britain, China, etc, to assist us to re-arm and modernise our security outfits. No country has defeated terrorism without the help of other countries. Sri Lanka was able to defeat the dreaded Tamil Tigers after nearly 30 years of bloody war when the Chinese helped to reform and modernised their military. Even the US had to rely on coalition forces to defeat ISIS. The use of South African mercenaries by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration produced some positive results in the fight against Boko Haram and should be revisited by government. France has about 3,000 military personnel in Mali, which has been responsible for containing the threat of sundry terror groups in the region and preventing them from marching down to the sub-Sahara region.
Without security, any other achievement of the administration will pale into insignificance to attract any favourable verdict of history. Given his antecedent as a retired army general versed in security operations, no political leader is better equipped to offer the nation security than President Buhari. It is only befitting that the legacy of his administration speaks eloquently to the total restoration of law and order in Nigeria as in the days of yore. Let it be said of President Buhari that “he came, he saw and conquered’’ Boko Haram and other violent crimes in the country.
•Agbachi is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja