By Patrick Okigbo III & Darren Kew
Nextier’s most recent edition of her Development Discourse was hosted by Patrick Okigbo III, Founding/Principal Partner at Nextier; Prof. Darren Kew, Associate Professor of the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance; and Dr. Ndubuisi Nwokolo, Managing Partner at Nextier and head of Nextier’s Security, Peace, and Development business unit. The crux of the conversation was focused on the preparedness of the incoming administration to deal with the volatile security issues with a focus on key drivers, prior intervention, and an outline of the fundamental building blocks of an effective security strategy. Some of the issues discussed at the session included:
Understanding the Profile of Insecurity in Nigeria
Over the last 15 years, Nigeria has struggled with violent conflicts ranging from terrorism to banditry to secessionist agitations countrywide. The fundamental drivers of these conflicts are quite complex. The 2022 Nigeria Violent Conflict Report (January – December) by Nextier captured the country’s dire security situation. Nigeria’s complex insecurity situation cuts across the six geopolitical zones with terrorism in the Northeast, banditry, Farmer herder conflict, and, ethnoreligious conflict in the Northwest and North central. Secessionism and kidnapping in the Southeast, cult activities and kidnapping in the Southwest and Southsouth. No state is spared, with different regions having peculiar issues. According to Dr. Nwokolo, “people are being kidnapped; incidentally, some of them are ritual killings and organ harvesting… in the Southwest.”
What are the fundamental drivers of these conflicts?
To Professor Kew, an overarching issue in Nigeria’s insecurity is “the lack of legitimacy of the Nigerian state” regarding a working state that addresses basic human needs for survival. The state only needs to get some basics right to unlock the potential of a largely entrepreneurial demographic; however, this is lacking due to massive corruption in the system. Another driver is the political economy of violence, with the low standard of living pushing people into violence to improve their lives. The Niger Delta militants pioneered this. In recent years Boko haram, kidnapping and others have, become embedded in the political-economic landscape with “political actors and state actors deeply colluding with other actors” countrywide. Banditry will likely continue as it is very lucrative and a way of life for perpetrators. President Tinubu will have a short time before he has to put forth radical reforms tackling the security concerns head-on to convince the Nigerian people, unlike the previous administration that took nine months to assemble a cabinet.
How much of the security problems in Nigeria are economic, political or religious?
According to Professor Darren Kew, the security situation is an economic problem with political roots, while religion and ethnicity remain a subset of the problem. “The political dimension makes the major decisions that structure the economy”. As such modern governance should be based on checks and balances.
Shaping up a solution set for the incoming administration
Shaping up a solution set for the incoming administration is paramount through critical elements of a security strategy at the federal level. Firstly, the non-neutrality of the Nigerian state and the inability of the state to mask its interests remains a catalyst for distrust among the populace. According to Dr. Nwokolo, “if the state is unable to mask its interest and the people notice that, they will continue to fight against the state and its agent”. Thus, there is a need for state legitimacy as a key step to addressing the situation by the new administration. After this, there is a need for restructuring the security architecture while quizzing if it caters to issues on ground and modern-day conflict situations across Nigeria. A country with over 200 million people cannot be policed by a single police force of less than 400,000. The focus should be on Police restructuring by either increasing its strength or pooling all paramilitary units together and further show leadership in the crisis by being an “honest broker” for peace by appointing a special representative for an effective security strategy. Dr Nwokolo further stated that looking at the synergy between agencies is critical, citing the Kuje attacks and the availability of intelligence without actions to have prevented it. Thus, taking a cue from the United States by creating The Department for homeland security as a reaction to the 911 attacks for a united response and making intelligence sharing paramount.
Creating an Office for Homeland Security
Professor Darren Kew states that it is an important idea, and the national security adviser should be playing the role of coordination among security services. The National Security Adviser’s Office should be beefed up to coordinate intelligence sharing and a united response. This can be done without having to create new legislation, as the creation of the Office of homeland security can be a larger response in case the former is insufficient. Furthermore,
expanding the police force remains a good option for state and local government policing.
Other Reform types the new administration should focus on
The president must start with military reform, especially regarding resource control, which has truncated the fight against insecurity. According to Prof. Kew, a team for security reform is necessary, especially regarding addressing security votes and security budgets, which are “corruption pots”. In addition to restructuring police reforms, improved training is important. Department of Security Services (DSS) and Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) reforms are also necessary so that they are no longer wielded as “the oppressors of opponents” but reformed into an “anti-corruption unit”. Furthermore, the civilian oversight of the security sector must be improved. According to Dr. Nwokolo, stamping corruption out on all levels of the security sector remains vital in exercising civilian oversight. Addressing
issues of good governance, and democracy, makes it easier to address the problems of police and military reform.
How do we address the push for state policing and the potential for its weaponization?
As an advocate of state policing, Dr. Nwokolo opines that state policing can be a step in the right direction as most states already possess informal policing structures and only lack federal constitutional backing. Furthermore, “policing and intelligence are local”; as such, policing should surround familiar terrain. Likewise, to ensure efficiency, accountability, and transparency, a state police structure can draw its leadership independent from the influence of the federal and state government. Prof Kew also supports state and local policing. He emphasizes professionalism through a comprehensive approach, including “financial commitments” on the part of the Nigerian state to put the money behind necessary infrastructure.
Are there pragmatic approaches to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons?
On the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, addressing poverty issues and governance problems should be addressed in conjunction with targeted programmes such as weapon buyback programs.
On foreign policy, Nigeria is in an unstable region and would likely be affected by movements across the Sahel from conflict-prone areas. Working with other actors in West Africa to set up a more robust system that tries to build a firewall against the imploding states while including global actors will be contributing to curbing arms flow into Nigeria. According to Dr. Nwokolo, Nigeria should renegotiate the ECOWAS protocol on Trans-humance while looking at actions that improves livelihoods at border communities. Furthermore, it should create a sense of nationalism among Nigerians in border communities by providing amenities for enhanced cooperation.
How to address the resource conflict issue known as farmer-herder-conflict?
In Prof. Darren Kew’s view, addressing the resource conflict known as farmer-herder, climate, and population crises remains key. Climate change seems to be on the persisting side. Imposing grazing pathways as done in Benue state is not the best approach; however, herder groups have to be engaged in a conversation”. The Federal government on its part must be an honest broker”. Civil society actors can also play mediation and facilitation roles.
Addressing The Blur Between Security And Defence
On security and defence, Military presence in 34 out of 36 states should be redirected to priority areas. Negotiating with people who are disgruntled with the Nigerian state should be considered, as some violent conflicts can be prevented from this approach. This will limit the need to deploy the military in these regions.
Why Negotiate with violent actors?Precedence of Negotiations with militants has enriched violent actors as in the Niger Delta region; however, the carrot and stick approach can be employed by negotiations with some and a kinetic approach with others. Negotiation must be part of a larger package in Prof. Darren Kew’s view. The new adminstration should consider “negotiation with these groups… as semi-legitimate actors.” While also focusing on a more robust foreign policy. However, “there must be a sincerity of purpose” when dealing with violent actors, according to Dr. Ndu Nwokolo.
Role of NGOs and International Organizations in Mitigating the security challenges
They play a vital role and fill the retreating part of the state across the federation. A wide variety includes religious institutions and ethnic associations. Also, Neighborhood associations remain pivotal and form the basis of local development. The United Nations on the other hand is limited based upon what the Nigerian government says it can do.
Other notable areas worth looking into are transitional justice issues and private use of the police
Transitional justice issues involve a multilevel solution that must begin with neutrality from the attorney general’s Office rather than hounding the President’s opponents. It should play an advocate role in pushing the state for professional conduct. Engagement of religious actors should involve some level of soul-searching to rein in violent actors. Private use of the police has to stop, as it is unconstitutional and ineffective.
In a nutshell, a review of the Nigerian security strategy is paramount and should take precedence. There should be concerted efforts by the government and security agencies to build trust and stamp out corruption. The military should change their attitudes towards Nigerians and use consultation models to reconnect with them. Consequently, there is a need to put the house together by reducing reliance on Interpol for intelligence and creating a West African equivalent.