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Deficiencies of Nigerian national security measures



Before Nigeria’s independence, our security problems were focused on internal security. The main thrust was to suppress the Nigerian people. This focus of national security has continued to characterize the Nigerian security architecture even long after independence. This approach to security is premised not on the causes but on the effects hence security has always been viewed from the criminalityof the people and not what turns them into criminals. Instead of building confidence in our people, our successive leaders see Nigerians negatively. Hence they schemed them out of a culture of decency and respect for the fatherland. Since security is viewed as an exclusive domain of the military and police, the answer is to equip the police and the militaryto deal squarely with the crisis, in the process the security becomes militarized. We often employ these wrong tools to threats toour security. A cursory look at security thinking in the United States reveals that its focus is their economy. In this vein, any factor that threatens American Economic prosperity will become the legitimate concern of its policy makers.

As a result, there is a tight linkage between economic prosperity and national security, the task of seeking economic development is an essential part of US policy. As former US defence secretary Robert McNamara put it: “In a modernizing society, security means development, security is not military force though it may involve it. Security is not traditional militaryactivity, though it may encompass it, security is not military hardware, though it may include it. Security is development and without development there can be no security.”


Thus, the deficiencies of our national security lie in Nigeria’s inability to use appropriate tools in analyzing our security problems from the colonial period till today. Our security problems hinge on Nigeria’s economic underdevelopment. We’re so tam about this now that the Buhari administration lacked both a ministry of economic development and a Presidential Adviser of economic affairs. That the vice President has an economic adviser isn’t enough. In the US, both the president and his deputy have economic advisers coupled with the Council of Economic Advisers staffed by more than 10 professional economists among them can be found two tothree Nobel prize winning economists.

These lapses have led to acute food shortages in Nigeria, population explosion, low level of productivity and mass unemployment. In appreciating the enormity of these challenges, it is instructive to ponder over what McNamara said in this respect: “Any country that seeks to achieve adequate military security against the background of acute food shortages, population explosion, low level of productivity, fragile infrastructural base for technological development, inadequate and inefficient public utilities and chronic unemployment has a false sense of security.” From the perspectives of Robert McNamara, we will be able to locate the deficiencies of our national security. A definition of security is the establishment and maintenance of protective measures intended to ensure a state of inviolability from hostile acts or influences. Though this is just one of many definitions of security, let me point out that national security goes beyond the provision of mere physical protection of a state and her people. National security covers both civil and military challenges for which various government agencies have been established.


Threats to national security can be classified into internal and external threats. Since independence, Nigeria has experienced more internal threats to its existence than external. Thus, more emphasis will be placed on internal threats as a means of developing control measures. Of the myriad of factors contributing to insecurity in Nigeria, ethnicity, militia groups, religious and boundary disputes constitute most threats to peace. Others are socio-economic induced factors such as poverty, armed robbery and violent crimes; drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption, weak judicial system, inefficient security agencies and the widening educational and economic gap between the north and the south.

Resentment arising from ethnic domination of one group over the other caused uprisings as Western Region crisis between 1963 and 1965, the Tiv riots of 1964, and the military coup of 1966. The declaration of the state of Biafra in 1967 and the subsequent civil war between 1967 and 1970 did a lot of harm to national security. Those events polarised Nigerians along regional, ethnic and tribal lines. After the civil war, insecurity became the order of the day as rumours of coups including successful and attempted coups in 1975, 1976, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1995 and 1997. Thus, despite more than 40 years of independence, Nigeria is still politically an infant. Our weak political institutions remained a threat to our national security.

Which is why it is necessary to strengthen our democratic institutions to avert conflict and enhance national security. Instability in government is destabilising the economy of the nation, creating new power blocks for influence peddling. Such state of affairs have created capital flight due to the fear instilled in foreign investors and local entrepreneurs. More worrying is the fact that the acquisition of political power has become a veritable means of self enrichment, making the competition for political power a matter of life and death.


Moreover, government developmental efforts also suffered lopsided distribution, lopsided political appointments based on parochial interests. These are detrimental to national unity, and thus to national security. Such behavior impairs the development of a political class that isn’t only patriotic but selfless and detribalised. Since government came to symbolize regional ethnic interests, like the Buhari administration championing the interest of herders, Nigerians are forced to identify more closely with ethnic linkages.

The key driver of ethnic tension is poverty caused by mass unemployment, economic recession and smuggling. Unemployed youths are often restive, becoming a ready pool that can easily be mobilized to riot, demonstrate like the EndSARS saga. In the oil boom era, most people were gainfully engaged such that they were too busy to engage in conflicts. Religious intolerance is another factor causing insecurity. The current killings in Kaduna state and the Boko Haram war in the North East are due to religious intolerance or the use of religion to gain political power.

For the kind of insecurity Nigeria faces the best antidote is an efficient police force. This is achievable through the establishment of regional police forces. The Nigerian states are too poor to run police forces. Let the six geopolitical zone create their own police outfits for their own peace. Nigeria is a federation, let the various governments imbibe the spirit of federalism. This is the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Let the states and zones which are recognizable enough, implement true federalism. Only the implementation of true federalism as practised up to 1966 will resolve Nigeria’s security conundrum.


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