A security risk management and intelligence specialist and Managing Director, Beacon Consulting Limited, Kabir Adamu, reviews the security situation in the country and proffers solutions in this interview with ADELANI ADEPEGBA
Some days ago, over 78 rice farmers were killed in Borno State by terrorists. Why do you think the security agencies are still playing catch-up with the Boko Haram insurgents?
In simple terms, we are not doing well and there is ample evidence to show that we have been caught off-guard by several security challenges. The viral video by Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi (former Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole) for which he was court-martialled indicated intelligence failure; that was one of the key things he mentioned in the video and it led to the ambush of his troops and the killing of some of them. From all indications, we were caught off-guard by the #EndSARS protest and we tried to respond to it and it resulted in the unfortunate circumstances that happened. Clearly, our intelligence capabilities don’t appear as effective as they used to be. You will recall that in the past, we had very good intelligence capabilities.
What should be done to address this deficiency?
I’m aware that the government is attempting to implement certain changes within the security architecture to enhance intelligence capabilities. One of them is the purchase of drones by the Nigerian Air Force and the idea is to enhance aerial surveillance and achieve the objective of more capable intelligence. Despite the weakness, the government is trying to do a few things to enhance that.
However, the one that worries me more is the Office of the National Security Adviser. It appears for some reasons that that office has been underfunded and its capabilities are no longer as strong as they used to be. Remember, it is the coordinating element in the intelligence community and if it is weak, then it means the intelligence community will be weakened. There is a perspective, whether it is true or not, that a personality clash between the occupier of that office and the late Chief of Staff to the President affected the funding of some of the things that office needed to generate its intelligence. Whatever it is, the consequence is what we are seeing because that office has its challenges and it is also rubbing off on the other intelligence departments and their capabilities.
Is the office of the Counterterrorism Commander still existing, because it appears it is no longer functional?
As far as the counterterrorism strategy is concerned, there is a commander of counterterrorism in the office of the NSA and he still performs that role. Unfortunately, it appears the military command does not subject itself to the authority of that commander. We have a situation where that commander is more or less left at the level of strategy, which boils down to my earlier statement that all of these organisations are operating in silos. He is supposed to provide a clear head to ensure that all the agencies – 27 of them – are meeting the objectives of the counterterrorism strategy, but unfortunately, that’s not the case at the moment.
Does this have to do with the capacity of the occupant of the office or is it a systemic problem?
It is a systemic problem as far as I’m concerned; even, his boss, the NSA, encountered that problem. You will recall the infamous letter he wrote to Mr President, where he complained about the conduct of the former chief of staff and indicated that the CoS had side-lined him to the extent that he was having meetings with the service chiefs. It’s a systemic problem; unfortunately, it is affecting units like that. How true is the belief that the Department of State Services is more focused on going after government critics than providing intelligence?
Unfortunately, as a result of our history, regime protection is inherent in almost all the security organisations, including the DSS. However, I can tell you that the DSS does generate good intelligence, but it is at the discretion of the political leaders; whether they want to use that intelligence or not is another thing. You can generate the best intelligence, if the end-user does not use it, you will not see the result. Yes, regime protection is there and it comes in different forms. Any political leader at a point in time has his interest. It could even mean serving his personal interest.
It is an unfortunate situation that we found ourselves and the onus is on the National Assembly to address because it will require constitutional amendment, including the appointment of the leadership of those organisations to reduce the capacity of the President in determining those appointments so that whoever holds that office knows that his allegiance is more to the state and not only to the political leader. That way, he knows that if there is a clash between the interest of the President and those that run the presidency, the so-called cabal and the national interest, then he or she will project the national interest. This is what happens in developed countries.
There is no security leadership appointment that is not political anywhere in the world, but what happens is that the influence will be introduced in their mandate to ensure that they project national interest more than whatever political requirements that the office hold and that way, they will remain professional. Remember, every civil servant, including security organisations, have that need for neutrality and they should never be seen to be projecting any political interest.
Do you see the security agencies projecting that essential neutrality?
They need to be helped and that’s why I said the National Assembly can play that role by tweaking the existing laws that set them up and ensuring that their appointments, even though are made by the President, are protected. A good example is the Police Act, 2020, which guarantees the tenure of the Inspector-General of Police for four or five years and that gives him some semblance of immunity. If he takes an action the President doesn’t like, the President cannot just fire him. There are several levels of protection that will allow them to exercise their professionalism. Right now, the way it is, if they exercise their professionalism and that professionalism is against the interest of either the President or the cabal around the President, they will not last 24 hours in office.
What should be done to enhance the capacity of the police to combat crime in view of the brazen operations of kidnappers and armed robbers across the country?
The police are a reflection of the society and it is just one arm of the administration of criminal justice system – law enforcement arm, the judicial arm and the correctional service arm. No matter how good the police are, if those other arms are not good, you will not see any effectiveness. The whole essence of the administration of criminal justice is to punish offenders. If it does punish offenders, then the second function will come in, which is deterrence. Now, where all three of them are unable to punish offenders, then you have a situation where more offences will be taking place.
The socio-political system also breeds criminality, starting from the family value system that has almost collapsed in certain parts of the country, down to the political system that is unable to address the disparate co-existence that is unhealthy among several components of the society. There is no state you go to that you don’t find one part of the state in crisis. Take Benue State, you find the Tiv and thebIdoma in crisis; go to Kogi, it is between the Ebira and the Igala.
So, the entire political system has not been able to address that disparate nature of our existence to ensure a form of balance or parity. The police now find themselves trying to enforce the law in such an environment. That means the burden on the police is heavy. Add to the fact that from the inception of the police, it was never set up to meet the needs of the average Nigerian; it was set up to protect the interest of the colonial masters and unfortunately, there has never been any revision of the police and the structure to make it more pliant with democratic precepts. Thank God, in 2020, the Buhari administration introduced the Police Act, 2020, which has several elements; civil liberty was introduced, and the tenure of the IG and several innovations that will make it a bit democratic were added and that is very commendable. Unless that Act is implemented, not enough is being done presently to ensure its implementation, then you are not going to see its effectiveness.
There have been complaints about police manpower and the recruitment process. How can these be addressed to make the force more effective?
The police have recruited several persons that I will say are not ideal for any police arrangement. I can almost with all confidence say if today a drug test is done on the police, probably a significant percentage of between 30 and 50 may be found to be under the influence of one drug or the other, and that’s not what you want. So, in terms of professionalism, a lot needs to be done. It is a catch 22 situation because they have been trained in weapon handling and so, you don’t want to let go of people who have weapon handling training.
There needs to be rehabilitation; find out why they are addicted, rehabilitate them and those that will be 100 per cent rehabilitated, reabsorb them. Those that cannot be rehabilitated, you need to get something more effective for them to do. Something akin to dialysis needs to be done in the police to weed out this group of unideal persons in the police system. That means going forward, starting from recruitment to deployment needs to be changed. The entire police structure needs to be revised so that we can have a more functional and professional police than we have.
Is that possible in the nearest future with the ongoing legal tussle between the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police?
That’s very unfortunate. We have a Ministry of Police Affairs, which I thought would have brought them together, sit them down and chart a course. It is like a husband and a wife, they have to live together. Why are they in court when after the case, they still have to work together? Though the commission got the ruling at the Appeal Court that it has the mandate to recruit, but it cannot do that without the Inspector-General of Police. Beyond that, whoever has the mandate at the end of the day will need to look at the current model more critically.
A lot of allegations are swirling around the recruitment, including bribery and poor background check. We hear that a lot of ex-convicts are finding themselves into the police; I don’t know how true that is that societal rejects and deviants are finding themselves in the police. That means the background check process is zero. I know what they used to do is to ask candidates to get letters from their local governments, but that is not good enough. They need to do a bit more in terms of background checks to ensure that anyone being recruited into the police has a good moral standing. Most importantly, periodic vetting needs to be done by all security organisations after recruitment so that when there is a red flag, if there is any misconduct by any of their personnel, it can be corrected.
Do you believe that the alleged collusion of security operatives with kidnappers and other criminals was responsible for their inability to curb the rising insecurity in the country?
It’s not surprising; if you recall that the immediate past IG visited a community between Abuja and Kaduna at the height of the kidnapping incidents and announced the redeployment of the police officers deployed in the communities along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. The reason he gave was that there was evidence of complicity as regards their inability to prevent the kidnapping going on there. And that was the highest person in the police structure making that kind of allegation. The late Ali Kwara, the famous hunter, also gave enough evidence to suggest complicity where weapons used for some of these crimes were from the police armoury. So, there is enough evidence to suggest that complicity, unfortunately.