By Olakunle Olafioye
The collapse of internal security architecture has been identified as one of the factors responsible for the spike in crime and criminality in Nigeria.
This is the view of a Port Harcourt-based security expert, Jackson Lekan-Ojo Fatoye. Speaking in an interview with Sunday Sun, the Switzerland-trained security expert also explained why the recently launched security outfit in the Southwest zone, Amotekun, has equally failed to live up to expectations in view of the upsurge in criminal activities in some parts of the zone.
He offered more insights on other major security challenges confronting the nation in this interview.
States in the Southwest geo-political zone are gradually feeling the heat of insecurity in recent months. Isn’t this an indication that the entire country is slipping into deeper security crisis?
The number one reason is that the internal security has collapsed totally because in a situation where the army now finds itself handling internal security challenges is uncalled for. The army , the navy and the air force are mainly to protect the territorial integrity of the nation against external aggression; not internal rancour. But what we see today is that the army has been overwhelmed while the police have been relegated to the background. Gradually, if there is no solid internal security and people are allowed to move uninterruptedly with arms; we see herders with arms, we see security operatives who dress like touts and move from one place to another. So, if people can move in such manner any criminal can approach a Commissioner of Police and apply for security escort and once that is approved, he can now move about with any criminal intention without being challenged. So, when you look at the country you will see a lot of rascals who can afford to secure the services of security escort perpetrating all sorts of crimes. Sometimes, the escorts guarding such criminal elements might not know what he has in his vehicle. The escort will be outside while the vehicle will be loaded with dangerous weapons and when they are ready to move the police officers will hop into the vehicle to provide cover for the content and occupants of the vehicle. But because of the presence of a police officer in the vehicle, they can move from any part of the country to another unchallenged. Our security operatives are now being attached to rascals and bandits. But in situations where people are subjected to thorough security checks while moving from one point to the other, irrespective of whether they have security escort or not, you will discover that criminals will stop exploring that approach. Secondly, most of these ambulances that move about and blare sirens are being used by criminals to convey arms. It is not all of them that are conveying corpses. Our security operatives must up their game to check these criminals from moving their arms and ammunition freely within the country. The current system provides security for those that are security threats to the country.
Are you calling for the return of multiple security checkpoints on our roads?
I am not advocating that we should have multiple security checkpoints. What I will advocate is serious human security surveillance not electronic surveillance; that cannot work in Nigeria now. When we have this human security surveillance they are not going to be in police uniforms. These are intelligence officers that will move randomly. In Western world random patrol is the father of security. Let there be random patrol and a lot of intelligence gathering. When these people have suspicion about occupants of a particular vehicle they will send information to the front, maybe in the next one kilometer, and those at the front will intercept them and subject them to thorough checks. If this is put in place and we record a number of arrests a lot of other people will be discouraged from crime. High profile vehicles in Nigeria are above security checks now; this ought not to be.
It was against this background that many people are of the view that the Southwest security outfit, Operation Amotekun, has failed to live up to the billing. What would you say is responsible?
Amotekun, as currently constituted, cannot work. Are the people recruited being paid or are they just doing the work for free? What mode of training did they undergo? Have they been indoctrinated to know how to deal with the people? But all these have not been done. I am sure we have not really seen Amotekun in its true light. I am not condemning the outfit. In fact, I was the first person that called on Southwest governors to form the outfit based on legislative approval. I encouraged them on those who should be their handlers, the mode of their renumeration. I encouraged them to call a security summit to involve Hausa and Igbo people who have been doing business in the region to suggest their people who should be part of the outfit, after that they should be sent for training and change their orientation, but all these things were not done. There is no objectivity about what they recruited them for, so it will not work.
Are you suggesting that non-Yoruba should be recruited into the outfit?
I am from Osun State, but there are some Urhobo people that were born and raised in the same community, they understand the terrain more than me because I left that community about 36 years ago. There is a security outfit here in Port Harcourt called All Spark, there are Yoruba, Ijaw, Efik, Hausa, Igbo among them. That is how it ought to be. If you go to America you will see Nigerians, Ghanaians in their army.
Do you think Amotekun will perform better if the outfit is allowed to bear firearms?
It is laughable to expect the operatives of Amotekun to protect people when they themselves are not protected. The outfit is not protected in any form except they want to really on juju, but then don’t forget that those who are coming to attack them have superior juju powers and with their own ammunition they will overwhelm and overpower them easily. When you go to the North, the people they call Civilian JTF bear arms. So, why won’t Amotekun bear arms. If the governors are serious they can license live weapons for them for gaming. You won’t say the weapons are for self protection or community defense. It is a matter of approaching the police for that. When you do this you will then train them on the modus operandi of applying it. Who to shoot, how to shoot and when to shoot. But their most important work is to supply information as formal informants to police and SSS, but they also can bear weapons for self-defence. When they get information from the locals they give it to the police and SSS, they can also lead them secretly. But where you expect people carrying ordinary sticks to go after those carrying AK 47, you just want to waste such people.
What would you say is the major challenge confronting the Nigerian military against Boko Haram insurgents?
No army in the world can perform magic in the fight against insurgency than what the Nigeria army is currently performing in the North. The problem is that the army lacks basic things needed to prosecute the war effectively. About two months ago an American was kidnapped in Niger Republic and was brought to Nigerian territory. Four American soldiers left their country on a rescue mission and within 24 hours they rescued the victim unhurt. Do you think it’s wizardry? It’s not. That is what we call electronic super security. But in Nigeria, we cannot track criminals. This is why the insurgents will be bold to attack military establishments. Also there are saboteurs within the Nigeria military who are feeding the insurgents with information on the strengths and weaknesses of the military. Once these insurgents have been given adequate information about the military they will prepare in such a way that they can easily overrun the military. How are we tracking these informants? How are we sure some of these top military officers do not have sympathy for these criminals because of ethnic or religious sentiments? And again, it is only in Nigeria that we publicise the strengths of the army. It is only here that you would hear that we are sending 200 military men with AK 47 and two APCs on a particular mission. Those you are going to attack will be listening and reading the information and before you arrive they have already mobilized a stronger contingent against your army. By the time the soldiers arrive they will just hand pick them and forget about them. They are bringing aTucano to Nigeria and they have been announcing it everyday such that everybody already knows the actual date of its arrival. Meanwhile, we don’t even know the strengths or the backbone of these terrorists wether their sponsors are among these weapon manufacturing industry overseas. You can be sure that before the Tucano lands the terrorists would have already taken delivery of a superior one.
There have been a call by some people that the government should seek the help of mercenary to aid the military in the fight against insurgency. What is your take on this?
That is the highest form of stupidity. We don’t know the countries of the world that are sponsoring these people. I want to tell you that the Hausa and the Fulani in northern Nigeria don’t have the strength to carry out the destruction and devastation we are seeing in the North. Most of these criminals elements are from Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali. There is no single individual who can single-handedly sponsor these people. So, since you don’t know those behind this atrocious group, how do you know who to hire as mercenary? So that call, to me, is the highest level of stupidity and recklessness. It is very obvious that the governor that made the call has been overwhelmed by the situation. That call is condemnable.