Still on the Security Situation in the Country

by Sam Kargbo

It is disheartening that our lamentation on the security situation in the country is unending. There is hardly a week that one finds an issue that outweighs insecurity in the land. Week in week out one rises from writing an article on the security situation in the country with the prayer that the next one would be on some cheering news. The monotony of the subject itself kills creativity, making what should ordinarily be a pleasurable exercise a burdensome chore. But what can one do? Without security, there would be no art or fun.

It is difficult to exaggerate the relevance of security to our wellbeing and prosperity. This is because there is hardly any aspect of our lives that does not turn on security. From our environment to our physical and mental wellbeing, security has a primary role to play. The capacity of the environment to protect and provide lifesaving resources and services for us is dependent on security. Our persons and earthly possessions will not worth much if not protected from environmental disasters, theft, vandalism, banditry, insurrections and terrorism. Our physical and emotional health is directly related to our security. In sum, the quality of our lives, aspirations, assets and environments is dependent on security. This explains why countries, organizations, groups and individuals put considerable resources and fortunes into security. Ironically, the greatest threat to security is man himself.

This article seeks to identify the gaps in the security architecture of the country and make the argument that the Federal Government cannot – and will not – succeed in securing the country if it does not secure the active support of the State Governments.

Nigeria is constituted and structured to promote the good government and welfare of all persons in the country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and to consolidate the unity of Nigerians. Welfare includes the health, happiness and fortunes of the citizenry and nationals. The unceasing insecurity in the land tends to lend credence to the argument that the present structure is not working effectively and needs to be set right. But before we consider that argument, we should have a review of the security apparatuses – to pinpoint their gaps and loose ends.

Nigerians and their assets reside in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. The state of security or insecurity of Nigeria refers to the security or insecurity in the respective States and the Federal Capital Territory. The Federal Government is meant to be a neutral and fair-minded umbrella structure over the States. Because of that, even though the Federal Government only has physical control over the Federal Capital Territory, it is vested with the responsibility of protecting the entire country from external invasion and keeping it as one indivisible and indissoluble country.  In the same spirit, the Federal Government is granted exclusive power over arms, ammunition and explosives; defence; immigration and emigration from Nigeria; military (army, navy and air force, including any other branch of the armed forces of the federation); passports and visas; police and other security services established by law; prisons; traffic and federal trunk roads; and any matter incidental or supplemental the matters already mentioned.

Security, as a head or item, is not in the exclusive or concurrent list. It is, by implication, the responsibility of the respective States. But the President, in whom the executive powers of the Federal Government are vested, presides over the following security agencies to the exclusion of the Governors, who are the Chief Executive Officers of their States: National Defence Council, which advises the President on matters relating to the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria; and the National Security Council, which advises the President on matters relating to public security, including matters relating to any organisation or agency established by law for ensuring the security of the Federation. The centralization and insulation of these agencies from the participation of the State Governors means that critical security decisions that may have a direct impact on the Governors’ respective States could be taken and implemented without their input. It also means that they are not only meant to court and depend on the magnanimity of the President, but are also exposed to the whims and caprices of the President. The ineffectiveness or insensitivity of an irresponsible President will have its toll on the States. This gap can be filled and its negative consequences ameliorated by having the representation of States in these security apparatuses as it is the case with the Nigeria Police Council, which organizes, administers and supervises the police besides advising the President on the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police.If the argument is made that the inclusion of the Governors in these agencies will compromise the ability of the Federal Government to monitor and prevent them from subverting the principle of indivisibility and indissolubility of the country, then the alternative would be to either expand the scope of the National Economic Council or rename the National Security Council as currently constituted and establish a National Security Council in purpose and content that will comprise the President, the Vice President, the Governors, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the National Security Adviser, the Inspector General of Police and Director-General, State Security Service(SSS). 

The Federal Government is expending humongous sums of money on security, but insecurity is escalating and taking more dangerous dimensions by the day. My argument is that the Federal Government cannot secure the country without the active and effective support of the States.

States are not meant to create their armies because it is not their business to secure the national boundaries of Nigeria or protect the country from foreign invasion. Of course, the personnel of the Federal Government would be drawn from among the States. But the point must be made that there is nothing in the Constitution or law books that prevents the States from setting up and maintaining agencies to address their respective security needs. What the Constitution forbids is the exercise of the executive powers of a State in a manner that will impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive powers of the Federation Government, or endanger any investment of the Government of the Federation in that State, or endanger the continuance of a Federal Government in Nigeria.

The security vote system, by which sums of money are allocated to States monthly to fund their security challenges, has not been effective and may never be effective. Because those sums are not accounted for, it becomes easy for unconscionable and rapacious Governors to pocket them and let their States burn. The conflicts between politicians and Governors or between security personnel and the Governors over security votes have often undermined or compromised security in the States. It is, therefore, long overdue for a review of the security vote system. The expenditure on security by the Federal Government is not yielding much because its efforts are not complemented by the States. The Federal Government is taking a lot of blame that should ordinarily go to the State Governors, who are busy grandstanding and deceiving their people about their investments and contribution to fighting insecurity. The fight against banditry, insurgency and terrorism would be strengthened if the billions given to Governors as security votes are used to partner with moviemakers, schools, religious bodies and NGOs in educating and sensitising the citizenry on how to help security agencies with information on bandits, insurgents and terrorists. Through education and enlightenment, people will know how people become bandits, insurgents and terrorists. They will also be able to know different roles the citizenry play in egging on bandits, insurgents and terrorists, and how they can be helped to leave and regain their normal lives.

A security outfit to address banditry, insurgency and terrorism is also urgently needed. Its personnel may be drawn from all the security agencies, but it must be a specialist outfit. Cost should not be a consideration because without security all investments in all other sectors may not yield much.  The call for foreign assistance may only make sense if meant to develop capacity through the training of the personnel of such an outfit. With such a large army of unemployed graduates, the job of the Federal and State Governments is cut out for them by the need to invest heavily and meaningfully in security.

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