Beyond the sustained military offensive against insurgent groups, the Federal Government needs a more comprehensive reform of its security strategy to tackle the growing insecurity negatively impacting the country’s economy, an Abuja-based think tank, Agora Policy, has said.
In its latest report published on Monday, the group urged the government to combine the reforms with systematic efforts to address the root causes of conflicts and agitations in the country.
Apart from the use of private security contractors and a significant increase in the number of security personnel, the group recommended the creation of a dedicated border patrol force; regulation of state vigilantes and other irregular security outfits, while carrying out mop-up of arms across the country.
In its report titled ‘Understanding and Tackling Insecurity in Nigeria,’ although current military engagements should be sustained, the group said the nature, pattern and trend of security challenges confronting the country, a more holistic approach was required to efficiently deal with the menace.
“Addressing only the manifestations of insecurity without tackling its drivers is akin to merely cutting off the tail of a dangerous snake, while keeping intact its head and the rest of its body,” the report said.
With all the country’s six geo-political zones contending with one form or multiple forms of insecurity, the think tank said the country was “currently battling generalized insecurity” in the forms of terrorism in the Northeast, banditry and terrorism in the Northwest, herder-farmer clashes and terrorism in the North-Central, militancy in the South-South, insurgency and separatist agitations in the Southeast, farmer-herder/communal clashes, and even a sprinkle of terrorism in the Southwest.
The report warned that allowing the prevailing security challenges to fester in Africa’s most populous country, once acclaimed as the most stability in West Africa, would hasten Nigeria’s slide to the league of failed states like Iraq and Syria.
The report, which analyzed the types, drivers and
manifestations of insecurity in Nigeria, was put together by a team of security experts, including those with service experiences within and outside the country.
The report made short-, medium- and long-term recommendations on
how to address the growing insecurity it noted, negatively impact not just security of life and property in the country, but also national cohesion, the capacity and the credibility of the state, economic growth, commerce, food production and education.
“Insecurity in Nigeria is multi-dimensional. As such, for any attempt at addressing the growing menace to be effective and sustainable, it needs to be holistic, deftly combining ‘hard’, military solutions with ‘soft’ approaches aimed at tackling the socio-economic underpinnings of conflict and crime. Insecurity does not thrive in a vacuum. Some factors are precursory to it. [These are] the environmental conditions that
both kindle and nurture insecurity.”
The report identified 11 drivers of insecurity in Nigeria, including ineffective and inadequate security architecture, ineffective and insufficient criminal justice system, easy access to small arms and light weapons, the existence of porous borders, easy access to illicit drugs, prevalence of poverty and unemployment, impact of climate change, multiplication of unaddressed socio-political and economic grievances, poor land use policies, agitations over resource control, and failure to address structural and constitutional deficiencies.
To address the socio-economic underpinnings of conflicts and crimes, the report recommended a number of interventions, including reviewing the Land Use Act and other extant laws, providing targeted education and skills training to youths in conflict areas, prioritising dialogue and alternative conflict resolution mechanisms, strengthening legislative and judicial responses to ensure quick dispensation of justice, embracing the
use of strategic communications to win the hearts and minds of the populace, addressing abuses by the security forces, controlling access to arms and drugs, and embracing a national healing process and ensuring reparations for victims of conflicts and abuses.
The report said these measures should be implemented alongside interventions that would enhance the capacity of the security forces to defeat and deter the terrorists, bandits and others who pose security threats to the country.
The report recommended a root-and-branch reform of the country’s security architecture to ensure that its security forces were fit-for-purpose and could adequately rise up to current and future challenges.
“The current security architecture of Nigeria may have once been effective in tackling the challenges at their time of institution,” the report said. “However, the challenges across the country have evolved significantly. There are new domains of security threats, while smaller and largely benign groups have evolved into well-armed transnational insurgent groups.
“This means the security and defence structures that worked in prior dispensations are currently struggling to keep up with the evolved challenges. The need for a defence and security sector reform is imperative.”
The reform, the report proposed, should start with a comprehensive and consultative audit of the missions, doctrines, trainings and staffing of all the military, paramilitary and other security forces and agencies in the country to ensure an alignment with current and future security threats. The result of the audit, the report adds, should provide a guide to how to better streamline, resource, staff and coordinate security agencies in the country.
The outcome of the comprehensive reform, the report added, should incorporate mechanisms for significant boost in the number of security personnel, increased focus on accountability, more respect for rules of engagement and monitoring and evaluation, and greater coordination of intelligence gathering and usage.
The report also recommended the need to mop up and control of the flow of small arms and light weapons, recruitment of more women in the security forces and introduction of more gender-sensitive policies, regulation of irregular security outfits across the country, and the introduction of a dedicated border patrol force to contain the unchecked flow of arms and terrorists/bandits across the country’s extensive borders.
“We recommend the creation of a border guard force focused on providing border security, as the current role is being performed by the Nigerian Customs Service which considers border security a secondary priority to its primary focus of revenue generation,” the report said.
“Nigeria can look at examples such as the Border Security Force and the Frontier Force in India, the Pakistan Rangers in Pakistan, and the Border Security Agency in Malaysia, among others.”
The report also recommends the use of private security contractors but in a specified and
controlled manner. The report states that: “It is a known fact that Nigeria’s security
personnel are overstretched due to the persistent and widespread nature of current security challenges. This deficiency has allowed insecurity to fester.
To relieve the security forces and to enable significant efforts to be applied to degrade the threats, the
government should consider inviting private security contractors as it was done shortly
before the general election in 2015 [and use them] to confront armed banditry in the North-
West and North-Central regions.
“The engagement should be handled through the security forces to assuage concerns in
some quarters that the private military contractors are an indication of the non-appreciation
by the political class of the security forces’ contribution and sacrifice. Clear objectives and
measurement parameters should be set and monitored closely.”
Produced with the support of the MacArthur Foundation, the report is the second of four
policy papers commissioned by Agora Policy to contribute to national debate before,
during and after the landmark 2023 elections in Nigeria. The other two reports focus on gender and social inclusion and transparency and accountability.