With less than a year to go before Nigeria’s general elections, it is pertinent to think about the defence and security issues that should be troubling the Federations leadership.
As the most populous African nation and the continents biggest economy African peace and prosperity is directly linked to Nigerian stability, thus we will examine the problem from the Internal, Border, Regional, Continental and Global perspectives, analyse and then make recommendations.
INTERNAL: Nigeria’s security issues include but are not limited to conflict between cattle rustlers/ cattle herders/ locals and vigilantes in the North Western states, such as Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina etc. In the Middle Belt the herdsmen/ famers conflict stretches from Niger State to Adamawa State as well as the semi frozen ethno-religious-political Plateau crisis. In the South-South; Niger Delta militants, oil bunkerers and river pirates operate in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Edo States.
In the South East, the non violent neo Biafran agitation ranges from the confrontational IPOB to the co-opted MASSOB.
In the North, the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Kaduna, Kano, Yobe, Sokoto and other northern states continue protesting the murder of their members and detention of their leader by the State.
Across the Federation in there is a large increase in crime and criminality, with human trafficking, cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping, highway robbery and other violent crimes.
Domestic abuse of drugs has risen exponentially, with the abuse of legal pharmaceuticals such as codeine based cough syrups and opioids like tramadol along with cannabis mainly by the lower socio economic class, particularly in the North. Amongst the wealthy and upper middle class, previously unused drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy and party pills are widely abused. This domestic market has created new drug cartels. Narco traffickers from South America use Nigerian ports to tranship drugs via mules and crystal meth and amphetamine factories have been discovered in Nigerian cities.
Analysis: These internal conflicts can be defined by myriad factors but for ease I will define them as either coherent (logical or achievable aims and objectives) or incoherent (illogical, irrational and unachievable aims), localised (within or without a geographic area defined by political, ethnic, sectarian, linguistic, geographic or economic boundaries) or general (not limited by such boundaries), and structured (with a recognisable leadership and command structure) or unstructured (amorphous and leaderless).
Organisations such as IMN, IPOB, Niger Delta militants etc can be considered to be structured, coherent and localised. Conflicts such as herdsmen/ farmers, cattle rustlers etc can be considered general, incoherent (if we discount the inherent logic of criminality) and unstructured. Crises such as Boko Haram can be considered incoherent, localised and structured. The different types of crises require different responses. Organised, coherent and localised conflicts generally provoke the worst response but are slightly easier to resolve, as actors with genuine grievances can be dealt with by using the organs of the state such as the courts, legislation, policy or development to address key grievances. In the case where these grievances are incompatible with the law and normal daily life (such as the imposition of Sharia or secession) these can be mitigated by engagement with and cooption of moderate adherents and the targeted use of law enforcement against fundamentalists and as a last resort force. Disorganised, incoherent and unstructured situations such as kidnappers, cattle rustlers or communal conflicts also require a mix of hard and soft effects but in different proportions. Communal conflicts have at their root a failure of accepted arbitration methods and mechanisms for aggrieved parties to seek redress. The employment of a multitude of accessible and acceptable conflict resolution mechanisms removes the need for parties to resort to force to resolve crises. Swift, fair and transparent punishment for transgressors, breaks the cycle of revenge. For kidnappers and cattle rustlers, basic law and order with aggressive and imaginative policing could be used.
Whilst the responses might be varied, the resources needed are similar; a well resourced, well equipped, accessible, mobile police force, efficient law courts and a reactive and accessible government.
BORDER: Nigeria’s border areas, once only disturbed by numerous convoys of smugglers taking fuel and other subsidised goods out and textiles, vehicles and electronics in are now beset by conflict. In the North East the Yobe, Borno and Adamawa borders with Cameroun and Niger Republic are troubled by Boko Haram, to the south east, the Nigeria/ Cameroun border has refugees from Camerouns Anglophone regions crossing the Taraba and Cross Rivers States border and Bakassi militancy and piracy at south eastern border. Cattle rustlers cross into Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina State from Niger Republic and into Adamawa State from Cameroun. To the West mass smuggling of fuel out of Nigeria and rice, vehicles and other highly taxed goods from Benin Republic creates a shadow economy.
Analysis: the overlapping nature of West African tribal and linguistic groups guarantees contagion, irrespective of the issue. The spill over of Boko Haram into Niger Republic and Cameroun, Bakassi militancy into Cameroun and then back to Nigeria and the Anglophone crisis into Nigeria are all clear examples.
Most of these situations require a comprehensive approach to address the unaddressed socio-political or economic grievances that are their cause, such as the displacement of the Bakassi peoples, economic policies of Nigeria, persecution of the Anglophones in Cameroun etc. Thus security forces can at best manage the immediate and second order effects, such as mass displacement, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, insurgent/ bandit base areas, increased insecurity and banditry, disruption of economic activity, cross border military actions and so on. All of these tasks are manpower intensive, difficult to sustain and carry a financial cost and risk of casualties without the ability to end or affect the outcome of the situation.
REGIONAL: West Africa has several ongoing security issues. In the Sahel, the ongoing French/ US counter terrorism effort, narcotic smuggling from South America, Gambia struggles with its transition from dictatorships whilst other fragile states such as Sierra Leone, Liberia etc deal with the legacies of conflict and under development, piracy pervades the Gulf of Guinea. Political instability and upcoming elections absorb much of the attention in Nigeria, Cameroun, etc.
Analysis: Nigeria’s quasi-hegemonic ambitions in West Africa as expressed unilaterally or multilaterally (i.e. through ECOWAS) whilst resented have helped ameliorate conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Gambia etc. Nigeria’s retreat from its regional hegemonic ambitions as its leadership became absorbed with the internal politics and patronage of its 4 year election cycle has led to significant crises such as Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali etc being dealt with by outside powers especially in Francophone countries. ECOWAS ability to stand out above other Regional bodies with trade and pro democracy policies has been sustained by Nigerian leadership and subsidy. In the absence of this there are insufficient states to take up (and support) that leadership role. Morocco’s recent interest in joining ECOWAS not only challenges Nigerian leadership but could create a power imbalance in the group with unknown consequences. Managing these issues requires significant diplomatic effort, balanced out by economic and cultural initiatives to develop a Nigeria- centric bloc. In the absence of this the West African sub region moves from the proactive model practiced previously to a reactive model such as the Gambia response, with foreign actors predominating.
CONTINENTAL: to the north the continuing Libyan Civil War destabilises the Sahel, frozen conflicts in Western Sahara and Algeria remain. In Central Africa the DRC and Central African Republic remain enmeshed in conflict. Sudan’s infinity civil war continues as does South Sudan’s. Eritrea and Ethiopia remain in conflict, whilst the Somali civil war continues. Burundi seeks to undo it gains since the civil war with a 3rd term bid by the President. Poaching environmental degradation, poor governance and economic mismanagement continue to create micro conflicts and grievances across the continent.
Analysis: the second, third and fourth order effects of these situations manifest themselves in the trafficking of weapons and people as well as drugs and other goods. The destabilising effect of these conflicts has an effect on their neighbours, Chad for example has interests in (and borders with) CAR, Libya and Sudan. This necessitates an allocation of combat power, diplomatic effort and other mechanisms of state, detracting from development or issues of interest to neighbours such as Nigeria like securing the Lake Chad Basin. Theses continental crises also lead to arms races or the intervention of external powers such as the French/ US efforts in the Sahel, US operations in the Horn etc.
GLOBAL: the reordering of the globe and the rise of Asian powers has accelerated with the new US administration. China’s bid for global dominance now looks set to only be challenged by its own hubris as the US consumes itself with dysfunction and the EU remains fixed by its economic and political issues and military weakness. Russia’s resurgence as a credible and competent military and geopolitical power, forces other powers to redirect significant combat, diplomatic and policy bandwidth to countering Russia’s hybrid insurgency against the existing world order. In the Middle East the defeat of Saddam Hussein and dismantling of secular Arab dictatorships, freed Iran to engage in a forward defence and increase its influence provoking a backlash from the Sunni Arab monarchies currently manifesting itself in the Syrian debacle (Iran/ Russia win), Yemen (stalemate) and the American cancellation of the JCPOA. The Middle East further breaks down into the GCC vs Qatar, Turkey’s neo Ottoman ambitions and Israel unconstrained by the US in a loose alliance with Sunni Arab states further dispossessing the Palestinian population and confronting Iran.
Analysis: As only a few of these actors are strong enough to confront each other directly and non of them wishes to risk doing so, they compete asymmetrically through proxies, economically, diplomatically and occasionally violently. The fallout of the GCC squabble has been seen in Somalia, Erdogans obsession with the Gulenist movement has seen Turkey pressure numerous African countries to close Turkish schools (originally opened with Erdogans approval), China has pressured countries to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan. These external pressures threaten the balance of powers within countries and sub regions and risk creating proxy conflicts which have no local drivers beyond hired or co-opted locals, which then domesticate and become local conflicts. Events such as the US reneging on the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear deal) affects oil prices, (a positive for Nigeria) however any kinetic action might cause Iran to activate their proxies, including those in Nigeria. A country of Nigeria’s size and wealth can look to stay above the fray but not the indirect consequences. Nor can Nigeria benefit from these quarrels in the way countries like Djibouti, Somalia etc do, as it is too large and wealthy to be gifted training facilities but not wealthy or powerful enough to influence avoid the consequences. However an inability or disinclination to plan for such events prevents Nigeria from exploiting any opportunities and exposes the country to alot of risks.
Whilst this is not an exhaustive or comprehensive review of security issues pertaining to Nigeria, it can be seen that they are numerous and serious
Whilst Nigeria currently does not face any obvious external foe with the means, motive or ability to threaten it, it possesses myriad internal and regional security threats some of which individually can be considered catastrophic but taken together could be considered existential. Simultaneously events beyond its borders shape the security and geopolitical environment, with second and third order effects creating or exacerbating issues within Nigeria.
Strategic issues: Nigeria is unable to exert significant influence globally, continentally, regionally or even internally because its political leadership is tied into the 4 year political cycle, which consumes a huge amount of time and resource to build alliances, undermine opponents, avoid and initiate probes, steal funds and in their spare time provide a facsimile of governance. Career civil servants no longer possess the professionalism required to conduct the affairs of state divorced from the politics of the day as they are also dependant on patronage.
International relations are not undertaken on the basis of Nigeria’s permanent strategic needs, but short term quick wins such as headline trade or investment deals, arms purchases or the like. Nigeria’s failure to sign the Africa Free Trade Agreement on the basis that the Federal Government needs more time to study it is one such example of a lack of strategic planning or policy.
This means Nigeria will remain a passive observer, reacting to external events, long after the fact rather than anticipating, creating counter measures or attempting to shape events to the countries needs and interests. This also applies to the many slow boiling internal crises, which go through clear and obvious escalations but are routinely ignored by the authorities as they have not yet reached catastrophic levels of death and destruction. Those that have crossed over into violence are minimised.
Operational issues: this lack of strategic thought and planning means the Nigerian security forces cannot plan or organise for the various crises. The police as the primary law enforcement body are undermanned, poorly trained, equipped, led, rewarded and motivated. A centralised command structure does not allow for rapid response to situations, a lack of equipment and training means even when deployed, the police are at best limited to checkpoints, vehicle patrols and guarding key infrastructure. Their interaction with the populace is thus always confrontational, made worse by their routine extortion from the population making the police simply a less worse element of whichever crisis they are reacting to.
This lack of policing capacity means the military is deployed on internal security tasks throughout the country, which not only denudes combat power needed to deal with serious military threats but prevents the military from developing an operational cycle that allows troops to deploy, train, rest, refit, redeploy etc. Troops are either being deployed on operations for years or else moved from crises to crises, with no breaks in between leading to exhaustion and poor morale. Add to this poor administration with pay, feeding, accommodation and welfare issues a perennial complaint, you have an over stretched, demoralised force, constantly on operations. These operations are poorly sustained due to an obsolete and corrupt combat service support element, a huge variety of weapons systems and equipment and poor leadership.
TOPICS FOR CONSIDERATION
The potential lawmakers and political candidates as well as the electorate could use the election season as an opportunity to ask reasoned questions of the Government and Security apparatus and debate steps such as;
Strategic Defence Review: a holistic review of the Nigerian security environment is needed, addressing not just the current operations but any and all conceivable future threats. Once this has been done the Ministries of Defence and Internal Affairs should be required to produce an update every 5 years.
Equipment Procurement: despite the huge amounts budgeted for defence Nigerian troops are generally poorly equipped and administered. This is a problem that has to be studied empirically and solutions relevant to the culture, physical and operational environment identified, rather than simply pouring money into an inefficient and corrupt structure. One potential remedy could be a semi-autonomous agency which specifies and purchases all weapons and equipment for all the security services, military, police, intelligence and paramilitary, based on their requirements. This allows increased oversight of this sector and also allows Nigeria to get reductions through bulk purchases. This agency could also take all Nigeria’s domestic defence industries under its wing, administering the government owned entities and regulating private ones.
Standardisation: Nigeria has an extraordinary variety of weapons, vehicles and equipment in its inventory, purchased with little or no thought as to how to maintain these systems or sustain them on operations. The plethora or rifles, artillery pieces, MRAPs, MBTs, APCs etc are a Quarter Masters nightmare. Having vehicles from different manufacturers and countries means they need different spare parts, maintenance, training, operators, fuels, lubricants and other consumables. It also means tactics cannot be standardised. A mechanised infantry battle drill that requires 8 soldiers cannot be conducted if vehicles can only carry 6 or 7 and others carry 9 or 10. Using 6 or 7 different rifles or machine guns means that different calibre ammunition is needed, different spares, cleaning kits, etc. All of these not only increase the cost of procuring and maintaining weapons and vehicles, but the sustainment as well.
A comprehensive programme of standardisation of all the weapons and equipment used by Nigerian forces would simplify, supply, maintenance and training, reduce the operational logistic burden thus freeing up capacity and funds.
Budgets: the nature of military, intelligence and police budgets should be openly debated and reviewed periodically, with clear input from civil society, NGO’s and international auditors. Measures to plug leakages and increase transparency such as spot checks, audits, Key Performance Indicators, open tenders etc would be useful.
National Reserve/ National Guard: a lack of manpower to allocate to the numerous security tasks is a recurring theme. This includes having sufficient personnel for routine or specific operations, to respond to emergencies or conduct periodic surges as well as sufficient personnel to stand by to reinforce or replace others.
This can be mitigated by expanding the security forces. However rather than recruiting thousands of full time regular service personnel who require pay, train and equip as well as administer and pay pensions, a system of Reserve/ Auxiliary Forces could be developed.
This could involve integrating the numerous existing vigilante forces scattered across the country into a formal structure. By formalising these groups into the police command, pay and administration structure with appropriate training, leadership and equipment the police increase their numbers with personnel who have a significant amount of local knowledge but without the administrative and pay burden of full time recruits.
The military, Customs and other paramilitary forces could get further manpower from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), if it was expanded to include an annual intake of all 18-30 year olds, and not just university graduates under 30. These people could provide a fresh batch of personnel every year.
Further trained manpower could be developed by use of a Military Reserve/National Guard type force, with civilians undergoing military training and joining Reserve/ National Guard units which could be activated to reinforce the Regular Army.
Communications and Mobility: Nigeria is a vast country with varied terrain, many population centres lie off main roads and are only reachable by air or through uncompleted roads. This makes the task of security forces much more difficult. A comprehensive security review of Nigeria’s transport network should be undertaken to ensure the rapid movement of the security forces. At the same time the security forces organic mobility on land, water or in the air would need to be reviewed particularly the logistics, maintenance, fuel and other support infrastructure. The state of the telecommunications network should be reviewed to identify weaknesses in the network and opportunities to improve and or replace the existing or supplement it with a new system, so as to aid the rapid reporting of crime
Data and mapping: policing, disaster and emergency relief, military operations and development are all hampered by a dearth of accurate data and maps. Modern cartography is much cheaper and easier than the days of surveyors and theodolites, UAVs can map large or small areas with different parameters such as land use, water resource etc. The correct recording of demographic data, medical, crime figures etc, helps in the planning for taskings.
Force multipliers: involves identifying things which can produce an exponential effect. This can be training, technical, education, personnel, skills, vehicles etc. For example a trained EOD or CIED specialist allows a unit to defuse explosive devices, a UAV enables situational awareness, a local hunter knows the terrain of an operational area. Identifying force multipliers in particular areas is a key way to maximise the effectiveness of security force operations.
Information and Intelligence: the collection, collation and dissemination of intelligence needs to be demystified and brought down to the local level where it can be utilised. The top heavy, highly centralised and competitive systems in place does not seem to work in a huge, diverse country. Building a vast surveillance state comes with its own dangers however these can be mitigated with appropriate safeguards, allowing decision makers to operate effectively.
Conflict resolution: the lack of recognised and accessible pathways to seek redress leaves aggrieved parties with the option of either accepting a perceived grievance or taking matters into their own hands. In most cases due to the absence of effective governance, people take matters into their own hands. A way of arresting this is to have number of conflict resolution mechanisms at the community, local government, state and Federal level that can be used to resolve disputes, in a fair, timely and cost effective manner. If people believe they can get redress legitimately they are less likely to resort to violence
Justice reform: the inability of the Government to catch and try criminals is a source of discontent. By reforming the courts, prosecution and prison service, faith in the system can be restored
Police reform: the police need to be reformed in terms of training, equipment, models of policing, communication etc.
Military reform: a key part of any Defence Review must involve looking at the military and deciding if its fit for purpose, which parts are working and which parts are not and why? Questions as to the optimal platoon, company or battalion’s size, best rifle, best unit organisation, doctrine, tactics etc should be asked. Objective review of the utility of the Navy and its ability to protect the coast, inland waterways, littoral waters and project power or sustain an expeditionary operation. A review of the Air Force would study whether its operations are distinct from the Army’s beyond close air support and transport. A no holds barred review could throw up surprising results which could redefine and refine a more efficient Armed Forces.
Nigerianisation: the lack of depth in Nigeria’s defence industry belies the countries resources and abilities. A way to ameliorate this would be to insist on a Nigerianisation clause in all future procurements, in which equipment is assembled in country, joint ventures are made with foreign defence companies in order to manufacture as many pieces of equipment from boots to water bottles to helmets/ body armour as possible in country. Local universities and technical colleges could be set challenges to solve technical problems
It can be argued that almost all of Nigeria’s immediate security problems are internal or on its borders and can be said to stem from a lack of governance and leadership.
Whilst many of the problems are serious, they are not insurmountable.