Sunday, 10th December 2023

‘How to improve intelligence, stop bandits’ attacks on military, police’

By Odita Sunday, Abuja
17 September 2023   |   4:35 am
Nigerian security and intelligence agencies could be more effective and responsive if they are insulated from politics and given the freedom required to address issues of national interests.


• Experts Blame Killings Of Personnel OnPoliticisation Of Security
• Non-state Actors Emboldened By Illicit Ties With People In High Places —Amachree
• ‘We Got Here By Standing Truth On Its Head, Allowing Criminals In Governance’
• ‘Decentralising Policing Will Bring Law Enforcement To Grassroots’

Nigerian security and intelligence agencies could be more effective and responsive if they are insulated from politics and given the freedom required to address issues of national interests.

Security experts and ex-service personnel made the submission against the backdrop of the recent killing of a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) by cultists in Rivers State.

In separate interactions with The Guardian, they agreed that the ambushing and killing of the DPO in Rivers State by cultists is a sad reminder of the depth of insecurity and perhaps, signals a total collapse of the security intelligence architecture.

The Rivers State incident poignantly reminds the nation of other incidences across the nation during which bandits, cultists and other marauders easily attack, overrun, kidnap or even kill Nigerian security personnel.

Recall that on May 4, 2023, three police officers were killed by some gunmen in Umunze, Orumba south local council in Anambra state. The officers were reportedly killed at a checkpoint along Umunze-Ihite road in the community. The gunmen reportedly invaded the area and opened fire on the officers, killing three.
On February 20, 2023, gunmen had attacked Awada police station in Onitsha, Anambra State, killing two police officers.The gunmen, after carting away guns and ammunition, also set the station on fire.
The Awada attack came less than 24 hours after six persons were killed during an attack by gunmen on 3-3 Police Divisional Headquarters, Nkwelle-Ezunaka in the Oyi Local Council of the state.
On July 4, 2022, an Assistant Commissioner of Police ACP, Aminu Umar Dayi, in charge of Dutsinma Area Command in Katsina was ambushed and killed by bandits in a fierce gun duel.

The list seems endless. But it underscores a gloomy reality of how the intelligence system in the country, which could help detect and prevent the now sustained attacks on police and military formations, may have been seriously compromised or totally collapsed.

A former Director of Nigeria’s secret police, Dennis Amachree noted that it is a sad metaphor to see the rise of non-state actors, who carry out their activities as if there is no law to be enforced in Nigeria.
According to him, “These non-state actors, known as bandits, terrorists, cultists and the likes, are unfortunately emboldened because of their illicit relationships with politicians in high places. Like in Rivers State, the cultist who led his boys to attack and kill the DPO, has a reputation in the Ahoada area as a political thug.
“In Zamfara and Niger states, we have documented evidence where a leader of bandits was having photo-ops with top government officials and even attending wedding ceremonies, with no fear of being arrested. These are security threats that are allowed to fester without pulling the breaks.
“This government promised to review the security infrastructure, especially in the Nigeria Police. The issue of state police is still not realised. Balkanising the NPF will bring law enforcement to the grassroots to effectively ameliorate the security situation in the country.

“The security and intelligence agencies are doing their best, but could be more effective if they are insulated from politics and given some freedom to address issues of our national interests. The question remains: can Nigeria dispense equal justice under the law, to make our society safe?”

LENDING his voice to the discourse, Frank Oshanugor, a Certified Protective Officer said the ambushing and killing of a DPO in Rivers State by cultists “leaves the average Nigerian in an emotionally abysmal state,” adding that it is quite disheartening and highly disturbing that a senior police officer at that level could be slaughtered in such a gruesome manner and culprits still not apprehended days after.
Reacting to the question of how things got bad, Oshanugor noted that the nation got to this level the moment it began to stand truth on its head, by way of allowing criminals to take over governance in a manner that those with faultless pedigree are denied the opportunity of being in charge of governance. 

“There is absolutely nothing the military or police can do to take us back to the old good days in so far as the political leadership thrives on anti-people and unconstitutional tendencies. We live in an era when government officials cannot obey their own laws. We live in an era where might is right.  
“We live in an era when the application of the nation’s laws is selective. If you are a member of a particular political affiliation, your sins would be written off but if one is in opposite political camp, he becomes culpable. 

“Moreso, our military and police will never get it right until their loyalty begins to be given to the country and not the President, Governor or some leader somewhere. The military and police are not independent enough to act with the audacity and finesse their institutions represent. They are still subject to the whims and caprice of the political leaders hence a police officer would stand aloof and watch a political party thug disrupt voting during election and yet remains indifferent because the thug represents the party in power.

“I do not see intelligence gathering working effectively as far as the political system is fraught with suspicion, indifference, corruption and such mundane tendencies that are politically, socially and economically unprogressive,” Oshanugor said.
Former President of Private Security Practitioners, Dr Wilson Esangbedo, however, noted that ambushing of officers could never be avoided in policing or warfare.
According to him, “Anyone can be ambushed; it does not mean our security forces are not working or they are ineffective. Ambush means surprise or unexpected attack. This cannot be avoided in policing or warfare.
“To prevent this, security forces ought to send advance teams to carry out surveillance so their operations take cognisance of the reality on the ground.They ought to also infiltrate some of the cult and militant groups.When they are unable to do so,ambushes will always occur.
“Having paid informants is also helpful when they have funds allocated for this purpose. The truth is there is paucity of funds for proper law enforcement activities. It is a process with many layers that are really not operational. We must fund our law enforcement operations. We must ask for accountability of funds budgeted for security operations. We must improve on the quality of personnel recruited into the armed forces and law enforcement agencies and ensure continuous training for these operatives.They must also be properly motivated to serve their fatherland.

“We need to go back to the drawing board. The citizens must be oriented into gathering of information. The private security officers must do their part and government security officers must be properly integrated into a unified homeland security system, which reduces inter-agency competition to the barest minimum and, instead, promotes cooperation amongst the officers,” Esangbedo said.

National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko hinted that progressive decline of intelligence-based policing was responsible for the embarrassing attack on the DPO.

To him, the Nigeria police force has a colonial antecedent that is fundamentally structured around carrying out only oppressive operations in obedience to the directives issued by the appointing authority.
“Till date, the police in Nigeria is at the beck and call of the oppressors wielding political and financial powers wrongly or rightly. Even long after the British colonialists that established the then Elizabethan police that metamorphosed into the Nigeria police force left and Nigeria got sovereignty, there were little efforts to reform the mindset of the operatives and officers of the Nigeria police force except in the year 2020 when the new police Act came into being.
“Although there are too many potholes and wrong provisions but largely, the new law on policing has about 65% good ideals. But ideals can only become good if implemented by good persons in authority, which is lacking in Nigeria substantially at this moment,” Onwubiko said.

In 2020, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave his Assent to the Nigeria Police Force (Establishment) Act, 2020, which repealed the defunct Police Act.

The Act brought in, as it were, some far reaching and fundamental changes in the operations of the Nigerian Police force and how they relate with the citizenry, with particular focus on effective policing, accountability and transparency, protection of human rights and freedom in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Universal Declarations on Human Rights.
But Onwubiko laments that the good provisions are yet to see the light of the day, stressing that policing currently is deeply insufficient in intelligence gathering mechanisms and that the old order still rules.
He called for urgent and comprehensive police reforms in line with modern global policing standards. He stressed the need for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to reconsider its current policing strategies.

According to him, the widespread solicitation of bribes from motorists at checkpoints, a practice known as ‘Roger Me’ syndrome, undermines the force’s reputation and reinforces a culture of corruption.This practice, he said, not only conflicts with global policing standards, but also damages the relationship between law enforcement and citizens.
“In an era where effective and efficient policing practices are being embraced worldwide, the Police Force’s decision to persist with the outdated roadblock system raises significant concerns about the Force’s commitment to adhering to global best practices.
“The assertion that checkpoints cannot be discarded demonstrates a reluctance to evolve and adapt to new, technology-driven crime-fighting methods proven successful in other countries,” the group said.

HURIWA also emphasised the need for comprehensive reforms within the police force. It highlighted the significant disparity between Nigeria’s roadblock-heavy system and the community-oriented, consent-based policing models adopted by developed countries such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Drawing a sharp comparison between the policing systems of Nigeria and those of the aforementioned developed nations, HURIWA underscored the Peelian principles, the bedrock of modern policing, which prioritise ‘policing by consent’ and underscore transparency, accountability, and integrity in police operations.
“Nigeria Police Force is in need of reform based on the good provisions embedded in both chapter 4 of the Nigerian constitution and the year 2020 Nigeria Police Act. Only then can we begin to see intelligence-guided and rights-based policing,” he said.