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Insecurity and security


It is unclear how and when President Muhammadu Buhari would redesign the country’s problematic security architecture, but his publicised intention to do so draws attention to his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno told journalists on August 4 that the president was concerned about the performance of the service chiefs: “The president is angry over the declining security situation…What he said today is virtually a reaffirmation of what he said the first time. Yes Mr President said you are doing your best, as far as I’m concerned, but there’s still a lot more to be done. I’m more concerned about the promise we made to the larger Nigerian society and I am ordering an immediate re-engineering of the entire security apparatus.”

The service chiefs, appointed in July 2015 by the president, have been targets of criticism following escalating insecurity in the country. The targets are Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

A report by SBM Intelligence said an estimated 2,732 people were killed in Nigeria between April and June 2020. An earlier report said nearly 1,000 people were killed in the country between January and March 2020. According to the latest report, ‘Media reported killings in Nigeria Q2 2020,’ 221 security personnel including 173 soldiers, 39 police officers, three civil defence officers, and six vigilantes were killed in the three months.

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Insecurity and security

August 10, 2020President Muhammadu BuhariFacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInWhatsAppEmail

Femi Macaulay

It is unclear how and when President Muhammadu Buhari would redesign the country’s problematic security architecture, but his publicised intention to do so draws attention to his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno told journalists on August 4 that the president was concerned about the performance of the service chiefs: “The president is angry over the declining security situation…What he said today is virtually a reaffirmation of what he said the first time. Yes Mr President said you are doing your best, as far as I’m concerned, but there’s still a lot more to be done. I’m more concerned about the promise we made to the larger Nigerian society and I am ordering an immediate re-engineering of the entire security apparatus.”

The service chiefs, appointed in July 2015 by the president, have been targets of criticism following escalating insecurity in the country. The targets are Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

A report by SBM Intelligence said an estimated 2,732 people were killed in Nigeria between April and June 2020. An earlier report said nearly 1,000 people were killed in the country between January and March 2020. According to the latest report, ‘Media reported killings in Nigeria Q2 2020,’ 221 security personnel including 173 soldiers, 39 police officers, three civil defence officers, and six vigilantes were killed in the three months.

The jolting attack on the convoy of Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum on July 29 highlighted the magnitude of the security crisis. The governor was on his way to Monguno and Baga towns to distribute food to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“You have been here for over one year now, there are 1,181 soldiers here.  If you cannot take over Baga which is less than 5km from your base, then we should forget about Baga.” Zulum was quoted as saying to the army’s commanding officer in Mile 4 after the attack.

Significantly, the governor later described the attack as “a complete sabotage, adding, “As far as I am concerned, there was no Boko Haram… It was a serious shooting by the Nigerian armed forces while ‘residing’ in Baga. The situation is very embarrassing.” The army said it was investigating the attack.

In reaction to the disturbing incident, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) observed:  “This is one unwarranted attack too many. It epitomises our collective vulnerability and the fragility of the country’s security architecture.” It condemned “the worsening security situation in the country generally, in spite of all the efforts of the government to end it” and the “worrisome and rapidly degenerating situation.”

It is noteworthy that, about a week before the Borno incident, the Senate had asked the country’s military chiefs to ‘step aside’ so that new leaders could bring new ideas to tackle insecurity across the country. This was, according to a report, “barely 48 hours after an ambush by suspected bandits in Katsina State left at least 16 soldiers and officers dead and 28 others wounded.”

In January, federal lawmakers had asked President Buhari to sack the service chiefs and appoint new ones “after a four-hour deliberation on a motion on national security challenges and the need to restructure the nation’s security architecture.”

President Buhari appointed the service chiefs, and he can fire them. But he has been unwilling to relieve them of their positions. It is puzzling that he claims to want to minimise insecurity but also wants to keep service chiefs who have been unable to minimise insecurity.

However, beyond the president’s inconsistency on this issue, there is the critical question of whether the service chiefs are occupying their positions lawfully.  “The tenures of the defence and service chiefs, according to the Armed Forces Terms and Conditions of Service, expired on July 13, 2017,” a report said, citing Section 8 of the public service rules which stipulates that the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.

Also, the report cited Section 4 of the harmonised terms and conditions of service officers (2017) which states that military service of an officer is a period of unbroken service in the armed forces of Nigeria from the date of commission to the date of retirement from service.

“This covers the date of enlistment into service as soldiers or ratings or airmen for regular commission, short service commission, direct short service commission, direct regular commission, executive commission officers, including other commissions.

“Each of the service chiefs has, however, spent above the stipulated service years. Olonisakin, 57, has spent 38 years in service. Buratai and Ibas, both 59, have been in service for 36 years. Abubakar, 59, has spent 40 years in service.”  The report was published on February 10, 2020.

Interestingly, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd.) was quoted as saying recently, “A service chief can resign but sacking them is at the discretion of the President. When you get to that position, you are serving at the discretion of the President.”

He argued against the application of the cited rule concerning this context, saying “The civil service rule which has been extended to the forces now; that if you have served for 35 years, you should leave. I don’t particularly think this is a good idea because somebody can serve for 35 years and he or she is only 56 years old, has such a person reached the climax of their productive life?

“If the person is doing well, are we going to just kick out such a person because they have served for 35 years?  These are matters which we have installed in our system but which are not necessarily productive at some points.” There is no clarity, and the situation needs to be officially clarified.

There is no guarantee that new service chiefs will improve the security situation, but there is also no guarantee that the current ones can do better than they have done.  The point is that the fight against insecurity needs new ideas, and changing the service chiefs should reinvigorate the fight against insecurity.

Fundamentally, the presidency also needs new ideas to tackle the socio-economic conditions that fuel insecurity.

Credit: The Nation

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