The recent removal of the service chiefs and the appointment of new ones by the President, provides an opportunity to start afresh, a new canvass to etch innovation for security and ensure that we improve the security situation from the red danger colour to the green normal.
This change had been long advocated by all segments of society, from legislators in the National Assembly who belong to the same party with the President, the media, organised private sector and civil society. But Buhari, in his usual know-it-all approach to governance, refused to listen to the voice of the people. Now that he has decided to listen to reason, this discourse articulates some key issues for the new security team to take cognisance of in their task of securing the nation.
The security situation in the country has so much deteriorated over the years that criminals whether called terrorists, bandits or kidnappers have gained confidence and are no longer afraid of engaging the security agencies. The criminals are convinced, and rightly so, that our security agencies are incapable of stopping their nefarious activities.
It is either the security agencies are no longer very interested in performing their duties or they are going about them in a half-hearted manner or the wrong way. So, the starting point for the new kids on the block is the reorganisation of the security architecture to restore round pegs to round holes and square pegs in square holes. There is a need to put certified performers in control of operations and anyone who fails in the discharge of their duties should not be rewarded or allowed to continue in the position.
This restoration will rely to a great extent on intelligence gathering rather than the physical brawn. It is no longer about a power show of using 50 pickup vans laden with policemen and soldiers to parade the major streets of a town. That can only intimidate the civilian populace and not the criminals. It is about infiltration of criminal gangs, learning and understanding firsthand their modus operandi and logistic arrangements so that when the security agencies strike, they disorganise the insurgents, effect lawful arrests and release the captives. This is not beyond the capacity of our security agencies because many Nigerians have come out publicly to the media to confess that these insurgents especially, in the North-West of Nigeria do not operate secretly. They are known and they come out from time to time to interact with the communities and even issue threats and demands before they strike. Thus, it will be easy to identify these men, track them and counter their activities.
There is also the need to introduce technology in dealing with the security situation. It is not just about hotlines which no one responds to in times of distress, Nigeria needs real and actual hotlines that will attract responses in a matter of minutes or at most, not more than 30 minutes of reporting the crime. Drones will come in handy for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. Thank God, they do not cost a fortune and the sums so far appropriated for the security agencies if they had been properly used would have procured so many of them.
Security camps in these hot zones should be in distances that allow the agencies to respond at the shortest notice. Of course, the logistic arrangements of vehicles, motorcycles, big and small aircraft, boats and ships and horses where necessary should be available for deployment at the shortest notice.
Security agencies on standby, ready to be deployed must also be available. Where the infantry or security agencies operating on land are facing difficulties, air firepower and support should not hesitate to join to rout the criminals. If it cannot be done immediately for the safety of the troops, airpower should be able to follow up the chase when the infantry have withdrawn or even identifies the hideout of the insurgents and take them out at a convenient time.
When reconnaissance is done, the air force should not hesitate to bomb the hell out of these insurgents in the forests. These forests are not so big that they cannot be dominated by the superior firepower of the government.
This leads to the next which is about building confidence with communities, a practical assurance that information given to security agencies will not find its way back to the criminals who will come for reprisals. This discourages citizens from passing on vital information that would have prevented crimes or nipped them in the bud or led to the tracking down of perpetrators of crime. These insurgents and kidnappers are not ghosts. They are human, blood flows in their veins and gunshots will put them down. Let no one tell cock and bull stories about their invincibility.
Building confidence will also involve doing something drastic on the prevalent reportage about security officials who refuse to take action, to investigate and prosecute criminals. Many who have left the kidnappers’ den have reported that the kidnappers boasted that nothing will happen to them and the security agencies cannot arrest and prosecute them.
This is an affirmation of impunity which destroys the citizens’ confidence in the security agencies. Thus, the criminal elements of Fulani herdsmen who kill, main, rape and destroy without provocation on the understanding that their kinsmen occupy the highest positions in the land must be told in very clear language that they are not above the law.
Government through the security agencies should exert control, occupy, and dominate all the forests that provide a hiding place for the insurgents and criminals. In most parts of the North-West where insurgency has gained traction, most of the so-called forests are just big grassland, shrubs and very few trees.
They are not the big forests we have in the rainforest south. Yet, our army was able to fight and win the civil war against an organised army in the rainforest belt. There is nothing big or incredible about these rag tag insurgents that the Nigerian security agencies cannot deal with if they remain true and honest to their professional calling.
The security agencies and the Nigerian immigration authorities must fish out some of the criminals who evidently are not Nigerians but have come into our country without valid papers and authorisation. Even if they want to hide under the Protocol of the Economic Community of West African States, that protocol does not offer justification for criminality. They should be deported from Nigeria.
Finally, on no condition must government succumb to blackmail, to negotiate and pay ransom to insurgents and bandits. Paying them money only emboldens them and financially empowers them to buy more ammunition to continue their criminality.