National Security: What role for private sector?
By Labaram Sale
In its early days as a governance concept, the term national security solely covered a country’s military component’s capabilities to fend off external adversaries and protect lives and property of its citizens. As time went on, the concept of national security evolved in scope, components and involvement.
These days, national security involves the collective ability of a country to protect its people, interests, values and critical infrastructure; grow and develop its economy; prepare and respond to natural disasters, environmental degradation and climate change; provide food security; secure its digital footprint against cyber attacks, and so on. It has also gone from being strictly government’s business to a shared responsibility, with both state and non-state actors involved in various components of the moden concept called national security.
Nigeria’s National Security Strategy, designed and being implemented by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), specifically outlines what constitutes the country’s national security threat as: terrorism and violent extremism; armed banditry, kidnapping, militancy and separatist agitation; pastoralists and farmers conflicts; transnational organised crime; piracy and sea robbery; porous borders; cybercrimes and technology challenges; socio-political threats; fake news and hate speech; environmental threats; public health challenges; economic challenges; and regional and global security challenges.
In the modern, interconnected world we now live in, the private sector is naturally a key player in national security, since it’s a stakeholder in just about all other aspects of nationhood. This stems from the fact that, in a free market economy, the public sector does not distribute resources. However, it puts in place public policies which regulate wealth creation and distribution. On the other hand, it is the private sector (manufacturing, trade, mining and provision of basic services) which generates wealth and lead the distribution of resources. As businesses rely on favourable public policies and conducive business climate to increase growth, so does public policies depend on businesses to ensure that more people benefit from the scarce resources. In essence, what affects one affects the other.
To underscore the importance of private sector participation in national security, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in 2018, announced the establishment of a new National Risk Management Center. The centre, among other things, is meant to “provide a centralised home for collaborative, sector-specific and cross-sector risk management efforts to better protect critical infrastructure”. It is not hard to see why.
Let’s take cyber security as an example. In July this year, between 800 and 1,500 businesses around the world were affected by a ransomware attack centered on U.S. information technology firm Kaseya. The company provides software tools to IT outsourcing shops – companies that typically handle back-office work for companies too small or modestly resourced to have their own IT departments. The hackers who claimed responsibility for the breach demanded $70 million to restore all the affected businesses’ data.
Cyber attackers have targeted oil pipeline companies, meat supply chain, schools and hospitals, and have become a major concern for data security among both companies and governments. In 2021, cyber security has assumed an important national security dimension.
This is why, in September, National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno, at the Meeting of the Cybercrime Advisory Council, announced plans for the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS), especially in the area of developing a protection plan for Critical National Assets and Infrastructure (CNAI).
Already, sensitisation workshops are being organised by ONSA across seven sectors – telecommunications, defence and security, education, finance and capital market, energy, professional organisations, the private sector and judiciary – to provide information, strengthen cybersecurity governance and coordination and build the capacity of relevant stakeholders on their responsibilities under the NCPS.
Where the economy of a country is concerned, issues around national security cannot be tackled by government without the cooperation and collaboration of the private sector. Of course, the economic stability of a country is a necessary ingredient to its national security.
Trade and investment, as well as protecting critical infrastructure, play a role in that economic stability. This is why in many countries government and the private sector have devised collaborative ways of protecting people and assets.
Also, threats to national security have evolved and are becoming even more insidious. They no longer comprise just terrorists who target critical infrastructure. They also include insider threats. It is therefore imperative for the public and private sectors to engage in effective partnership to protect people, facilities and national infrastructure assets.
It is important for government to maintain private sector partnerships to mutually share information, people, processes, technologies, innovations and ideas across private sector entities such as industry, non-profit organisations, think tanks, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, financial sector and technology institutions.
It is for this reason that Nigeria’s Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism acknowledges the role of the private sector in national security. Indeed, threat to national security is bad for any business, be it small, medium or large-scale enterprises, or national and multinational corporations. Also, as shown in the example of cyber attack previously mentioned, vulnerability in either the public or private sector could put either or both at risk of attacks by internal and external enemies.
It is, therefore, imperative for the private sector to embed national security-value projects in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, such as youth empowerment, community development, law enforcement and infrastructure development endevours, as highlighted in the various policy frameworks being implemented by ONSA.
Indeed, the presence of a formidable national security architecture and access to justice are part of the bedrocks of nationhood. This provision promotes good governance and ensures a peaceful society. In turn, good governance and peaceful society are crucial to sustained social and economic growth and development. Where the private sector collaborates and cooperates with the public sector in the areas of assessment, mitigation and monitoring of critical components of national security, the task becomes easier and results come much faster.
Sale Labaran writes from Kaduna
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