Internal Security Challenges: Military is No Magic Bullet
By Chidi Omeje
I took this caption from the ‘Conversations’ of Lindy Heinecken, Chair of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa wherein she was remonstrating over South African Government’s decision to deploy military to quell the recent violent protests that greeted the conviction of former President, Jacob Zuma. Her contentions include worry over government’s use of the military against its own citizens, risk of giving prominence to the military in what should otherwise be a civil unrest and the consequent culture of militarism and militarization of the civil space, among other concerns.
Well, her concerns, as expressed above, are not the only the concerns of this submission as she appears to be still grappling with the propriety or otherwise of deploying the military for internal security operations – in fact, it appeared to her as such an ‘irregularity’ in the civil-military relations dynamics which disposes the civil space to gratuitous “culture of militarism and militarization”.
We have gone beyond such ‘innocent’ contemplation in Nigeria. Nigerian military’s engagement in internal security operations (ISOs) does not only have robust precedence, it has now become a national security imperative considering the gravity and multiplicity of internal security challenges across the country. In fact, deployment of Nigerian military for internal security challenges has become so common place that it is now a reflex action for governments (federal and states) and citizens to summon soldiers to take care of any reported security infraction. Even more telling is the fact that owing to the military’s vaunted readiness and availability to be deployed, some other security agencies have conveniently abdicated their responsibilities and are currently cocooned in the ‘comfort zones’.
This compulsive reliance on the military to take care of any and every security challenge in the civil space is a clear evidence of faulty internal security operations mechanism. I wrote the following words to describe this falsity in my article titled “Kankara, Kagara and Our Faulty Internal Security Operations Mechanism” in February 2021 when the mass abduction of school children in Kagara, Niger State, happened:
“That all manner of internal security challenges that task our national security are popping up in various degrees, intensities and complexities across the country should not come to anyone as surprise. It is actually expected; and in fact, no nation in the world today is immune to the reality of its own internal contradictions or emerging security challenges. What makes or marks the difference, however, is how the security system in place is fashioned or implemented to confront any security situation. This to a large extent determines the level to which such security violation can easily be detected, confronted and surmounted or how fast and far reaching such challenge can fester, deteriorate or conflagrate.
“Nigeria’s model of internal security operation is such that the Nigerian Police Force is the lead agency in dealing with any security challenge. This means that the Nigeria Police is the first responders to any internal security violations; and not just responding first but taking charge and ensuring that the security challenge is nipped in the bud through intelligence undertakings. To boost this policing effort, the system created the secret police otherwise known as the State Security Services which will work in aid of the police to uncover and deal with crimes and criminalities that could imperil the state”.
However, when the security challenge is such that is beyond the capacity of the police to contain, the civil authority, in exercise of its constitutional duties of providing security of lives and property to the citizens, is compelled to invite the military to act in aid of the police to deal with the situation. By this design and process, the Nigerian military is the last line of defence in our internal security operations mechanism. In essence therefore, the military will only be called in when the security challenge is such that is beyond the capacity of the police to deal with. Such security challenges like insurgency or terrorism which threatens the sovereignty of the state or which its perpetrators deploy combat grade weapons that have the capacity to overwhelm the police are the kind of challenges that naturally demand military intervention. But that is not what is obtained now. Almost every crime in the books in Nigeria today is handled by the military. The military are deployed to man elections; they are deployed to chase armed robbers, to stop cultists, to confront kidnappers; they are deployed to quell protests and even to chase street hawkers around! They are currently deployed to 34 out of the 36 states of the federation to do the work they were not in actual sense trained to do.
The indisputable truth is that for Nigeria to decisively surmount the various internal challenges across the country, the whole nation and her citizens must own up to the challenges, face them squarely, each contributing his or her own quota until victory is assured, and law and order, peace and security become the order of the day. The idea of leaving everything for the military and turning around to vilify them when things go awry will not cut it. The ‘Whole of nation’ approach will. This approach entails a more participatory process in the business of solving common existential problem like insecurity. Synergy is the key component and action word here. Synergy results to shared intelligence, joint operations and commonality of focus that are devoid of unhealthy competition or mutual suspicion.
Everybody should have a role to play in the quest to take back our country from the firm grip of our adversaries. We must integrate preventive education, involve civil society organisations, promote peace and moderation as a counter-narrative, ensure conflict-sensitive reporting in the mainstream media and more effective and patriotic use of social media in containing terrorists’ or violent separatists’ messages online. These things are not impossible. That is what other countries do. They don’t see their military as possessing the magic bullet that shoots down every internal security challenges.
Chidi Omeje is Editor-in-Chief, Nigeria Security Digest (www.securitydigestng.com).
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