Nigeria’s Security Challenges: The Way Forward

A cursory examination of the topic evidently indicates that there is no better time to dwell on the security challenges we are facing today given the internal security challenges confronting Nigeria presently. Considering the contemporary nature of this lecture, I shall attempt to sensitize or arouse our curiosity on the dimensions and dynamics of the topic for a more general discussion during the interactive session.

In Nigeria today, there are contentions as to whether our system of national security is functioning effectively. A number of public analysts freely opine that not much is being done to combat crime in the face of our resources being continually expended on International Peace Keeping Operations (PKOs) and commitments. Of course, most of these opinions emanate from lack of understanding and appreciation of the dimension of national security and its challenges, the threats to it and its management in a dynamic environment.

Security is an encompassing phenomenon that is paramount to individuals, entities, communities and even nations. Security has to do with self-preservation which is the first law of existence. Security implies a stable, relatively predicable environment in which an individual or group may pursue its ends or objectives without disruption, harm, danger and without fear of disturbance or injury.

In the Grand Strategy for National Security, security was defined as: the aggregation of the security interest of all individuals, communities, ethnic groups, political entities and institutions which inhabit the territory of Nigeria”. The Grand Strategy specifically states that paramount importance is attached to safety, security and the prosperity of individuals and institutions within Nigeria and what belongs to Nigeria and Nigerians abroad.

A country’s national security therefore is concerned with the well-being, welfare and interest of her citizens, preservation of her sovereignty and territorial integrity against external aggression. The importance of security to economic well-being of a country and her citizens was amply highlighted by a former American Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara when he stated that security is development and development is security. This means without security there cannot be any development.

The importance attached to security was well captured in the Nigerian constitution of 1999: Section 14 (2) (b) of the constitution state that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Invariably therefore the Constitution has saddled the Government with the responsibility of safeguarding lives, property, welfare of Nigerians against both internal and external threats including other forms of danger. Thus it is incumbent on the Government to monitor public order and safety, including law and order.

It has however been observed that no matter how endowed and organized a country ~is, it can hardly be totally free/devoid of security challenges. The security challenges nations contend with are inextricably linked with their history, culture, social structure and economic conditions.

In order to tackle security challenges nations established the armed forces, police, security agencies and other Para-military forces. It is however to be noted that given the broader perspective of national security, government security agencies alone cannot provide the desired peaceful environment.

Therefore, everybody has a role to play at enhancing our national security and security is and should be everybody’s business. The purpose of this paper therefore is to discuss Nigeria’s Security Challenges and suggest ways forward. In order to achieve this, I will like to give a conceptual framework of national security, Nigeria’s security challenges and the way forward.

Conceptual Framework Of National Security
In all academic circles, no definition is ever all embracing and perfect. Bearing this in mind, I shall attempt to give a simple definition of national security which will guide our focus in the examination of the topic before us. Until the recent past, security was understood broadly as absence of insecurity as a result of actions of law enforcement agencies. More appropriately it was misunderstood to be the job of the defence force on the national frontiers and of the police inside the country. This perception sums up security to equal a system of law and order maintenance.

The dynamics of our society have since altered that configuration of security to now include consideration for societally generated crises such as riots, demonstrations, secret cult-related criminal acts, terrorism, drug-trafficking, intra and interethnic strife, religious intolerance, advance fee fraud, anti-government campaigns, armed robberies, hijacks and a host of others that threaten lives and property and indeed the peace and tranquility in the society.

Even activities of some foreigners in collaboration with their Nigerian hosts often add to the complexity and intensity of security challenges we may have in our great country.

Given the foregoing scenario, security can be said to be a state of being or existence that is free from danger, fear, threat, anxiety and uncertainty. From this simple explanation, security apparently transcends every facet of human endeavour. By implication therefore, security embraces the establishment of proactive and defensive measures to safeguard all persons, materials and information from every form of danger.

On a wider scale, national security exists in two domains and these are the internal and the external. The security of a country is affected from within by a considerable number of political, economic and social factors. Political strife, the state of the economy, intra and inter-ethnic animosities, the conduct of government affairs, the issue of resource allocation and management, all acts on the equilibrium of the state.

The external domain has to do with how the country’s security is affected by its foreign policy and the nature of the geopolitical circumstances surrounding it. For example, Nigeria was sometime at cross-roads and daggers drawn with Cameroun over the Bakassi Peninsula.

The details of the disagreement were too clear to be recounted here. However, relative peace can be said to have been restored with the ceding of Bakassi.

Both internal and external security linkages play complementary roles to affect the capacity and capability of Nigeria to independently pursue a course of action best suited ~ to promote her national interests in the overall achievement of her national objectives. This is precisely what national security is all about. It is therefore common practice to see countries constantly weighing and adjusting the internal or domestic and external factors affecting their .entire security architecture with a view to promoting their unity and survivability.

It is only through such a coordinated system of assessments and readjustments that a country’s human and material resources can be directed towards meaningful and positive ends. A nation with an insecure environment is doomed to distractions and possible disintegration. It is only imperative, therefore, that Nigeria enhances her security and intelligence organization to contain the myriad of challenges and threats facing her.

It would be recalled that during the administration of President Obasanjo, the Grand Strategy for National Security was evolved. In this document, national security was described as the aggregation of the security interest of the individuals, political entities, human associations and ethnic groups which make up the nation. The security interest includes safety of life and property, economic, physiological, mental well-being and the freedom to pursue the attainment of legitimate objectives without hindrance.

This definition is holistic and most relevant to us as it sees the objective of national security as elimination of all distractions in other to bring about growth and development of the society and its constituents. In other words, every national security structure must be seen in the light of its two core obligations of preserving the safety of its citizens at home and abroad, and preserving the integrity of the borders and assets of the country.

The assets of the country include physical objects such as the infrastructure and other tangible assets that support the economy. Intangible things such as national values, the political ability to project power and authority, including national cohesion of citizens, are treasured assets any country would desire to have.

Nigeria’s Security Challenges
No nation is free of security challenges. These challenges also vary from one country to the other. Thus, Nigeria’s security challenges would definitely differ from those in Egypt, USA or Russia. For instance, in US today, the dangers posed by” weapon possession are perhaps the greatest security challenges confronting the country.

Threats/challenges to a country’s security may range from low level civil disorder, large scale violence, even armed insurgency or terrorism. These threats may be directed against citizens or the organs and infrastructure of the state itself. Foreign powers may also act as a threat to a country’s security by either committing or sponsoring terrorism or rebellion without actually declaring war.

Perhaps the greatest and predominant security challenge in Nigeria today is terrorism or terrorism related. The Jarna’atu Ahlis Sunnah Ladda’awatih wal- Jihad, a religious based Islamic fundamentalist group, popularly known as Boko-Haram is the harbinger of terrorism in Nigeria today. The sect, which is predominately based in the’ North Eastern part of the country, has an ideology that is averse to western education and anything it represents.

The sect also seeks an enthronement of Islamic (Sharia) government in the whole of Northern Nigeria. Adherents of Boko Haram attack government institutions, such as the police, and military through armed attacks, suicide bombing or lED.

Notable attacks carried out by the sect with concomitant loss of lives and property include: the Mogadishu Barracks bombing in Abuja in December 2010, the Police Headquarters in Abuja in June 2011, and the UN bombing in Abuja in August 2011 to mention a few. The sect seeks to erode the credibility and legitimacy of the government by making it appear incapable of protecting lives and property of the citizenry.

Mr. President’s strategy for dealing with the Boko Haram threat is based on a multi-dimensional approach involving all elements of national power. While security forces operations dominate the media headlines, government has also embarked on other activities spanning across legal reforms, de-radicalization programme and strategic public communications.

Additionally, the Federal Government, in conjunction with State Governments, is making efforts to tackle the issue of unemployment in the affected states as joblessness has been. identified as one of the drivers fuelling terrorism in the country.

The Boko Haram has international links with other terrorist groups such as the AI-Qaeda in the Magherb (AQIM), AI-qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabab in Somalia. The sect has been getting tremendous support from these groups. The participation of Nigeria forces in the Malian crisis is bound to open another flank of vulnerability to the Nigerian interest worldwide because the Malian terrorists have vowed to retaliate against any country that participates in the operation.

They have. demonstrated capability by taking people of different countries hostage. The recent incident at the Algeria’s oil and gas facility is instructive. It thus behoves Nigeria to take additional security measures to protect her interest worldwide and also heighten security at KPs and VPs within the country.

Maritime Security
The insecurity in Nigeria’s maritime environment is a major challenge to our national security. These occur in many forms, such as, piracy, illegal oil bunkering, oil theft” illegal fishing and hijacking. It has caused the Government loss of revenue and making our ports unattractive to foreign shipping lines. Efforts are being made by government to put a stop to various maritime security challenges.

The Nigerian Navy has statutory responsibility for security in Nigeria’s maritime environment. Interestingly, the Navy is being strengthened through training, capacity building and purchase of new platforms to adequately cope with the tasks of policing Nigeria’s maritime environment. The Nigerian Maritime Security and Safety Administration (NIMASA) is another body set up by the government to deal with problems of safety and security in Nigeria’s harbours and coastal area. Recently, NIMASA entered into agreement with Global West, a private security company to ensure security of Nigeria’s coastal waters and prevent piracy and illegal oil bunkering.

At the sub-regional level, Nigeria is partnering with other countries in the West African sub-region, through the auspices of ECOWAS to forge collaboration, security and legislative efforts to combat piracy and other illegal maritime activities.

As you all are aware the Nigerian Navy and Beninese Navy are currently involved in a combined operation code name OPERATION PROSPERITY aimed at enhancing maritime security between the 2 countries. The same is being done through the Gulf of Guinea Commission, which has 8 countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea from Angola to Nigeria.

Niger Delta Militancy
At the peak of the militancy in the Niger Delta, crude oil production which is the mainstay of the country went as low as 700,000 bpd against over 2million bpd, This adversely affected Nigeria’s economy as the revenue accruable from oil dwindled. However, with the granting of amnesty to the Niger Delta militants, threats posed by the militants to oil production and oil facilities have virtually disappeared.

However, there are still some residual threats being posed by those claiming to be remnants of the Niger Delta militants seeking to benefit from the FG Amnesty Programme. They seek to be included in the third phase Amnesty Programme. On a number of times they disrupted peace and tranquility in Abuja and other cities in the Niger Delta.

The security challenges in the Niger Delta area may not be attributed entirely to the remnants of the Niger Delta militants, as the government has commenced moves to inaugurate the third phase of the Amnesty Programme. It is suspected that criminal gangs may be responsible, in their effort to make a living from all sorts of illegal activities in the Niger Delta.

Kidnapping started initially as part of methods used by Niger Delta militants to attract attention of oil companies and the government to their struggle for resource control. However, with the FG Amnesty Programme in place, Niger Delta militants have abandoned the crime but criminal elements, especially in the South-Eastern part- of the -country, have adopted the kidnapping strategy, .believing that kidnapping is a less risky and more lucrative venture than armed robbery.

Currently, cases of kidnapping that are concentrated and frequent in the South-East, have gradually spread to other parts of the country and the phenomenon is now regarded as one of the main security challenges confronting the country. Prominent Nigerians, lawmakers and traditional rulers have fallen victims. Kidnapping gives the impression that lives of oil workers, prominent citizens and ordinary Nigerians are not safe and consequently portrays Nigeria as insecure, with attendant consequences.

Illegal Bunkering
Nigeria has long been confronted with challenges of illegal bunkering and oil theft during which both crude and refined products are stolen on a regular basis. This development not only creates serious economic problems for the country in terms of loss of revenue, it also gives the impression that the main foreign exchange earner on which the country depends cannot be effectively secured.

The President while decorating the recently appointed Services Chiefs had to task them to stop the threat of oil theft. Efforts are currently on-going by the Government through the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA to bring the problem under control.

Pipeline Vandalisation
Pipeline vandalisation is closely related to illegal bunkering, though not the same. Nigeria loses about N105 billion (one hundred and five billion naira) to pipeline vandalisation annually. Most of the vandals puncture or blow up pipelines to siphon crude or finished products while some others cause damage so as to get oil companies to engage them in the repairs of such damaged pipelines or engage them for the security of the pipelines.

Whatever maybe the case, this is a serious security challenge for the country. They both constitute a big drain to the country’s revenue. Huge sums of money are also spent in repairing damaged pipelines. Loss of lives and environmental degradation are other negative impacts. The Arepo pipeline vandalisation which has become a constant phenomenon is instructive.

Armed Robbery
Armed robbery has been a long standing security issue in Nigeria, especially after the 1967-70 Civil War, when arms became widely available in the country. For a very long time it was the number one security challenge confronting the nation until the Niger Delta militancy and later Boko Haram activities pushed the ‘problem to the back burner. It has persisted despite many efforts to tackle the root causes of this particular security challenge.

It is generally believed that youth unemployment, and the culture of get-rich-quick based on greed, which pervades our society today are responsible. Proliferation of small arms and light weapons as well as inadequate policing of our borders and maritime environment are other inducing factors.

Unemployment is one socio-security challenge that successive governments over the years have identified and acknowledged. Unfortunately, government’s efforts appear not to be making the desired positive impact. The engagement of these unemployed into criminality is a matter of concern for the government. In Nigeria, on many occasions many youths have been used as thugs during political campaigns and in time of crisis.

Government is very concerned about this problem and had taken several steps in the past, and currently, to train youths in relevant skills in order to generate employment. To solve the youth unemployment issue, the FG has initiated the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (You WIN) programme. The programme is a collaboration of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communications Technology, the Ministry of Youth Development and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development that will launch an annual Business Plan Competition for aspiring young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

This is in line with the FG drive to create more jobs for the Nigerian youths particularly. The programme will be implemented in partnership with Nigeria’s private sector, who will be requested to provide funding, support and mentoring for the aspiring young entrepreneurs.

The recent heavy rains and associated flooding in many parts of the country has brought the issue of climate change as a security threat to the fore. Efforts are being made to study the pattern of climate change in a comprehensive way so as to predict weather patterns. This will allow government to provide early warning to farmers and those living in flood-prone areas. With the depletion of the ozone layer and the resultant consequences of global warming, there has been significant climate change, which is now a major problem for many parts of the world.

The recent “Sandy” storm disaster in the United States and flooding of many parts of Asia and Africa are urgent reminders that climate change is a serious security problem that needs to be properly addressed. All the relevant security and environmental agencies have been summoned for a comprehensive assessment of the problem, as it pertains to Nigeria, towards advising the government on the best approach at minimizing the effect of climate change and other natural disasters.

One of the main security challenges in the country is the wide expanse of Nigeria’s porous borders with contiguous countries. Many border communities have over time, out of practice, come to depend on the proceeds of smuggling and consequently, have come to see such practices as a way of life. Porosity of the borders has many implications, apart from revenue lost to smuggling, small arms and light weapons are brought into the country in large numbers.

This has led to a situation where the country is awash with all sorts of weapons which find their way into the hands of criminal gangs. With the recent collapse of the Ghadafi regime in Libya, heavy weapons from Ghadaffi’s arsenal, such as the ones with the Islamists in Northern Mali, could be smuggled into the country and used to deadly effects by armed gangs and members of the Boko Haram sect. To avoid this frightening possibility, the government has taken steps to firm up border security, by opening up more border posts and increasing the manpower of the various security agencies at the borders.

Nigeria has also signed joint border patrol agreements with some of the contiguous countries having land borders with Nigeria. There is now provision for aerial surveillance of the border with helicopters and planes, as well as electronically aided security checkpoints to capture biometric data of those coming in and exiting the country through the land borders. These measures when firmly in place will go a long way to help secure Nigeria’s land borders.

The way to overcome many of the security challenges is for Nigeria to re-double its efforts at nation-building, take a hard look at the root causes of the current problems highlighted in order to find lasting solutions, I will at this point briefly highlight some mitigable measures Nigeria may adopt to alleviate the effects of-the security challenges we are currently facing.

Data Base: One of the fundamental essentials of security is the establishment of a comprehensive data base to capture relevant data which would aid documentation and monitoring of the population. Nigeria, as it obtains in most Western countries, must have a computerized data base, not only of criminals but of everybody within the country, including visiting foreigners. Such data base needs not to be in one single place, it could be established at both the state and federal levels and by each security organization. What is paramount is for such data to be linked together.

Many intelligence agencies rely substantially on data bases to do their work and use them to crack crime cases. The data base, ideally, need to capture the date of birth, death certificate, photograph, finger-print, car registration data, travelling passport number, tax identification number, and other important details, such as house address, details of owners of each house located in any local government area, records of building approval, and other details necessary for planning, monitoring and development. But what is of major interest to security agencies is the data base on criminals, those who have been convicted of various crimes in the past, those jailed for offences, as well as those of security interest to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

These data bases must be with or accessible to both the Police and State Security Service, the 2 main agencies responsible for internal security. Availability of a current data base would go a long way in surmounting many of the security challenges confronting the country today.

Infrastructure: The level of Nigeria’s infrastructure needs to improve significantly above what it is at present, so also, the quality of education, health services, housing, roads and rail transportation. It is imperative that these infrastructure are not only present but of high quality to ensure adequate welfare, safety and security of the general populace and to give the people the feeling of satisfaction regarding access to the dividends of democracy.

Public Enlightenment: Currently, the Nigerian population cannot be described as security conscious. This has to change dramatically and fast, for Nigeria to confront many of the security challenges being experienced at present. There is need for enlightenment of the public to make them aware that security agencies .alone cannot fight crime or terrorism. Security agents all over the world rely on the people for relevant information which provides leads that could solve security related problems.

At the same time, the general public must be made to have confidence in the Police and other security agencies, and must be re-assured that the source of information being provided remains confidential and protected. Public awareness of the need to be security conscious and the dangers posed by terrorism to the general wellbeing of the people and the security to the state needs emphasis, until it becomes part of the people. Introducing security awareness curricula from primary to secondary school may be one way to achieve this. Adverts and publications issued in the media on security related issues is another way out.

Reorganization of Security Agencies: Another area where government would need to focus on is capacity building among security agencies, especially the police. Professionalism must be improved, recruitment and training need to be overhauled and the curricula reviewed to ensure that policemen and other security agents are in tune with modern technology and devices that can measure up to the standards of their counter-parts in more developed countries.

There is need for far-reaching security sector reform within some of the security agencies. The military, and I say this most dispassionately, is the only security organization that would appear to be doing well in this regard and is quite on the right track given its professionalism and regular exposure of officers and men to training and retraining.

Intelligence Liaison: Intelligence is crucial in tackling most security related challenges. All the security agencies established by the Government need to observe inter-agency cooperation in their relationship by sharing relevant intelligence amongst them. Similarly some of the security challenges have external dimensions e.g the Boko Haram has links with AQIM, AQIAP and EI-Shabab -from which it receives training and funding.

The link between Boko Haram and the external support has to be severed, to deny it weapons, funds, training and other logistics. This is being done through liaison with foreign intelligence and security agencies. In addition, security personnel need to be adequately. trained in counter terrorism and other security related relevant skills in order to be more effective in tackling terrorism and other related security challenges.

Job Creation: Job creation is the solution to youth unemployment. The government has’taken many laudable steps to create jobs. Some MDAs, such as the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) was created by government to tackle the problem of job creation. But to really achieve an enviable level of job creation, it is necessary for government to provide the enabling environment and infrastructure, such as, stable electricity, good roads and schools amongst others.

Power availability in particular is very important to manufacturing and industrial enterprises, as well as small and medium scale businesses. Once power stability is achieved, there is bound to be marked improvement in job creation and the standard of living of the people. From all indications so far, the government is poised to deliver on its promise of marked improvement in availability of power to all and sundry.

Poverty Alleviation: Poverty alleviation is being tackled by the government from many angles, this is done through job creation, investment in agriculture, increase in local content of manufactured products, power generation, and improvement in quality of infrastructure. But efforts being made in this area take time to come into fruition, given that many aspects of infrastructure development have been neglected for a considerable period of time in years past.

But the foundation for gradual improvement in different areas of the economy, and of our daily lives, is being laid gradually, towards the eventual achievement of a reasonable level of poverty alleviation and attainment of sound economic status.

Before I conclude, I will like to further expatiate that the topic of today’s presentation presupposes that the security situation in Nigeria is currently experiencing some hiccups which need to be improved upon in order to attain the desired state needed for economic activities to thrive.

As a recap and to give credence to the points I have already mentioned in this presentation, I will like to give a quotation from Mr Kofi Annan’s book titled ‘Interventions: A Life in War and Peace.’ He mentioned that “it is widely recognized today that the 2 principal obstacles to African development are Energy and Infrastructure” Obviously, these 2 principal obstacles are applicable to Nigeria.

— Text of the speech delivered by Col Sambo Dasuki at the 3rd seminar held at the National Defence College, Abuja by the Alumni of the institution