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‘Nigeria needs Special Force in mold of America’s SEALs’

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Efoziem

Dr. Bone Chinye Efoziem is the Managing Director of Strict Guards Security, a foremost private security in Nigeria. In this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO, Efoziem, who is a member of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), speaks on the bleak security situation in the country, pointing out how the newly appointed service chiefs can address it.

How would you analyse the present security situation in the country?
The security situation in the country is very bad. For the military to take over internal security service, which is supposed to be handled by the Police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and so on, it means we are in a terrible situation. Go round every part of Nigeria and you will see that it is the Nigerian military that is providing security. By the time the people who are supposed to protect the territorial integrity of a nation are being involved in internal security, and are even being overwhelmed at that, I wonder where we are going to run.

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How did the country find itself in this ugly situation?
Things went wrong when Nigeria decided to apply what I can best call reactionary security approach rather than proactive security approach. The authorities wait until things happen before the police would respond by shooting people. When they can no longer out-shoot the criminal elements, the Armed Forces will be invited to do that; whereas security was supposed to be based on intelligence gathering, which would enable them to proactively arrest a group intending to foment trouble instead of engaging in a shooting duel with a group that is already fomenting trouble.

That is why we had a situation in the Northeast where insurgents overran and took over some places, which included even military and police formations. In the South-south, it started with the Niger Delta militants overrunning a lot of government security agencies.

Before things got to this stage, people sponsored them. Meetings were held, foot soldiers were recruited and people were trained on the use of arms. Why couldn’t any of our security agencies get the intelligence, make arrests and possibly stop the inflow of arms and ammunition before it got to the level of these people being organised.

What gave room for this lapse?
It has to do with training. It has to do with equipment. It also has to do with administration and funding. In a situation where the security agencies would be informed that some criminals are meeting somewhere and they would respond that their men do not have access to that place, the question to ask is how did the people get there to hold a meeting?

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I have always been an advocate for unmanned aerial surveillances in creeks, border points and other remote areas. You don’t need to really go to those places to find out what is really happening there. There are lots of unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry out surveillance and transmit the images they capture to a designated control post, which will now guide the right security authorities to do what they are supposed to do. But we have a situation where they are waiting for the police to go into the creeks to find out what the criminals are doing there. How can it work? In the Northeast, insurgents operate from Sambisa forest. On many occasions, soldiers ran into ambush in their bid to get to the front before they can confront the insurgents. But they were supposed to have gathered intelligence electronically before responding.

There is nothing special about the American army; the Nigerian Army can do better if equally equipped and trained. So, we need to begin to look inwards to see how we can train these people and equip them.

Last week, President Buhari heeded calls by Nigerians by appointing new service chiefs. What are your expectations from them?
First, I do not join those who praise him for making the change; it is coming belatedly. However, these are new people coming with new ideas but they are still going to use the old Armed Forces and the old equipment. So, those celebrating should celebrate with caution.

I have looked at the appointments. I don’t have problems with that even though I would have preferred a Lucky Irabor as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), given his very impressive record as Commander of Operation LAFIYA DOLE. But there could be things the Commander-in-Chief may have been briefed that guided his choices that we don’t know.

So, I think we really have to strengthen the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and make it more functional and more operations based on the person occupying it. I am saying this because I know that Lucky Irabor would have been better as COAS than CDS. He is an engineer but a core operations person from records.

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The Chief of Air Staff should be more concerned with expanding air intelligence and air strikes in collaboration with the COAS who is coordinating land forces. That is why I said that the office of the CDS has to be strengthened in order to coordinate and articulate the activities of the Airforce and the Army in the fight against our internal security challenges.

How do you think they can win the war against banditry?
The first thing we need to do is to strengthen and re-strategise the police. The police can contain banditry. It will cause Nigeria more havoc to use the Armed Forces in fighting bandits. You know, like an animal that has fore tooth and the hidden fangs, the Armed Forces is the fang hidden inside while the police is the fore tooth. A situation where you allow your fangs to come out to the front to bite, what do you have as defence? Nothing!

Now, we have demystified the Armed Forces by bringing them to do all these internal security services. In the past, we had a situation where if the general duty policemen went out to quell a crisis and began to fail, they didn’t say they were going to bring soldiers. You would hear them saying, ‘if you people don’t stop this rubbish, the Mobile Police would swoop on you’. And as soon as they heard that mobile police would be coming, in most cases, without firing a shot, the crisis came to an end. But today, the police mobile force has been bastardised. SARS came and was bastardised. The Army has come and is also going down the drain. If you go out on the street, you will see some of the internal security operatives of the Nigerian Army going to motor parks to collect money from agbero. What does that say? It means we have become powerless.

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What I think the new service chiefs should do is to conduct an appraisal of the situation in the country and come up with a new anti-vice unit like the SEALs of the U.S. Nigeria should come up with a squad that can be like that, intimidating enough. I know the Army and the Airforce have Special Forces but I think that is not exactly what we need. They should downgrade to the police. It means disbanding some of the service units currently existing, replacing them with new ones and creating a mystery of surprise around them.

You know that perception is a major arsenal of warfare. Today, there is no positive perception about the police. The Armed Forces are also losing the very positive perception they had among the populace. There is no formation of the Police, Army, Navy and Airforce that people will be scared of when they hear that they are coming to a crime scene. So, we need one as a way of curtailing insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other crimes.

They can call it any name. But there should be an inter agency training for them. The Army can train them on combat and the use of arms; police can train them on intelligence likewise the DSS. They should be taken to countries that have been able to combat and suppress insurgency and banditry for further training. They could be massively recruited as new people. Don’t forget that the Babangida regime came up with the National Guard, even though it was disbanded. The government can come up with a body like that if they don’t want to create it from the police. Until that comes up and they do some pioneer activities in given states, such that the Armed Forces will revert to their role as the last resort, Nigeria may never experience peace.

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