The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is the national police force of the Federal Republic of Nigeria tracing its lineage from 1861. The NPF in its current form comes under the Minister of Police. The NPF is broken into 9 departments, 12 geographic Zones with each controlling 3 or 4 Commands of which there are 34 Commands in total.
The departments deal with Administration, Intelligence, Operations, Communications etc with B Department dealing with Operations and is responsible amongst other things for internal security, anti terrorism and crime prevention. There are 18 arms within B Department including Mobile Police, EOD etc.
The purpose of this article is to propose a 19th Arm to B Department- an Internal Security and Stabilisation Police Force.
The Problem: Nigeria is a large fractious multi ethnic, multi tribal, multi religious country with fracture lines running through class, wealth, religion, tribe indigene/ non indigene etc.
These fracture lines are exacerbated by the generally poor state of economy and infrastructure, poor access to opportunities for employment and education amongst a large youthful population. The final exacerbating factor is the lack of obvious and transparent means of conflict resolution and the conspicuous consumption of questionable wealth.
This means that at all times and in all geographic zones there are potential conflicts and crises waiting to erupt. A land dispute can turn deadly even within the same family simply because one party can use money or violence to try and impose its will upon the other.
Whenever crises do erupt the response of the Nigerian Government to date has been to allow the Police to be overwhelmed and then deploy an ad hoc military force. This is highly inefficient as the military is not a police force. An aggressive force trained for combat operations is not best placed to resolve a dispute which may hinge upon whose great grandfather built his compound first or other such nuances. It also begs two other questions; what happens when the military force departs and how do we prevent an argument over an oil spill from degenerating into a kidnap and ransom bonanza in the first place?
The argument thus is that in an environment where there is a constant potential for a break down in law and order and proactive effort is required to prevent a demonstration from turning into a riot or a quarrel over working conditions into an armed insurrection.
This Force must be able to:
- Defend itself against attack with small arms and IEDs
- Defend the population against attack with bladed weapons, small arms and IEDs
- Keep roads and other means of communication open for the civil population and maintain the free flow of people and goods through their area of operations
- Maintain mobility over all terrain peculiar to Nigeria
- Capable of urban and rural patrolling on foot and in vehicles
- Capable of urban and rural combat, up to and including company sized mounted offensive operations
- Prevent crime
- Investigate crime
- Build local security capacity
- Engage in minor local development works
Thus one would need a mobile force organised, equipped and trained to operate in a hostile or non permissive environment over all terrain that can operate launch offensive operations, direct traffic and solve domestic disputes!
There are sufficient examples from history of militarised police forces that one can review from the Brazilian BOPE, Apartheid South African Koevet, present day South African Police Special Task Force, Russian OMON etc etc. Each of these were created with a specific physical and operating environment in mind.
Roles: In order to identify the forces roles one would have to identify when it would be used. I would suggest that for the force to be deployed to an area it should be at the point where a peace keeping intervention is required.
During their deployment there they will be required to maintain law and order. If the situation degenerates further they will be required to engage in combat
Thus the roles of Internal Security and Stabilisation Police Force can be summarised as Policing, Peace keeping/ stabilisation and Combat.
Policing: basic police work of crime prevention, maintenance of law and order, investigation of crime, crowd control, public order, keeping traffic flowing and keeping the peace.
Peace keeping/ Stabilisation: the essence of a deployment on a peace keeping tasking would be to primarily prevent the outbreak or escalation of violence between conflicting groups. This would involve protecting the population, maintaining the security of transport links and protecting key infrastructure as well as a determined intervention to create the conditions for a solution to the underlying crisis. To achieve the latter in a local context would involve the local, state and Federal government as well as other state bodies. A key element of the peace keeping effort will be interventions with quick impact projects which provide basic needs such as wells, school classrooms, health facilities etc
Combat: this role will be necessary where the unit is compelled to entire an environment where there is an active opposition that needs to be subdued. Thus the unit will need to have a mobile offensive capability that can sustain an area clearance operation, as well as the ability to hold and defend the area once subdued and prevent subversion and infiltration. Thus for all intents and purposes the force will need to have the ability to operate as a light or mechanised infantry unit as required. In an internal security environment specialities such as counter IED, EOD, field fortifications, obstacle breaching etc would be useful to such a force and support weapons up to medium machine guns and medium mortars.
Rationale: in a country with several specialised forces within the NPF, Mobile Police Force (MOPOL), Anti Terror (AT) Police, Marine Police etc one could reasonably ask why these capabilities could not simply be built into one of these forces? Well the answer is several fold
Specialised: the objective is to create a specialised force between the rank and file police and the Army, a force that can act in both roles without sacrificing their core tasks. A soldier is not a policeman and a policeman is not a soldier. However a policeman trained to fight as a soldier can operate comfortably in a non permissive environment without either being defeated or escalating the use of force unnecessarily
Knowledge base: the skills developed and honed internally can be used externally in international or regional peace support or peace keeping operations, this is (cynically I know!) a source of revenue to the police but more importantly increase the skill and experience of the force, increases the prestige and standing of Nigeria.
Credible: the existing police forces come with an unfortunate historical baggage, be it corruption and venality for the regular NPF or brutality with MOPOL. A new force raised specifically for a Counter insurgency/ stabilisation role, taking in lessons learned from Nigeria and best practice from around the world can effectively counter the negative views of law enforcement and serve as a positive role model for the rest of the force
Sustainability: it is illogical and wasteful to use the military every time under resourced, under equipped policemen fail to contain a crisis. The Army will continuously have to disrupt its training and deployment cycles to support COIN operations that it is not organised or trained for. Thus the military suffers constant wastage in men and materiel in a task far removed from its core function.
Utility: Intervening in internal communal conflicts distracts the military from its core purpose of defending the nation’s territorial integrity and a policeman from his core duty of preventing and solving crime. The job of an army is to close with and destroy an enemy, an awesome trait on the battlefield against a fellow army, however a dangerous liability in an ambiguous war amongst the people.
Organisation: There are a myriad number of ways such a force could be organised or structured, from one centrally located Force to a series of Regional Forces.
For the purpose of this article, I’d propose a Force with a company (preferably battalion) sized unit in every state and the Federal Capital Territory, with a reserve battalion, a training and logistic unit and a company sized specialist unit for high risk arrests or searches, reconnaissance, surveillance etc.
The state based units will develop the necessary local knowledge and conduct constant human terrain analysis and exercises.
In the event of a crisis this unit will form the core of the first response with other units from other states immediately tasked to reinforce the unit if it is a crisis beyond its immediate capabilities.
This model means that there is always sufficient local knowledge to allow the Force to deploy with a reasonable intelligence picture and it also means units based in more benign regions get the requisite operational experience.
There are no humane enduring military solutions to insurgencies, the end state must be political and to endure must have the consent and support of the population. Sometimes military means must be used to create the conditions whereby an equitable civil solution can be implemented. Sometimes the rule of law and the imposition of order is enough to prevent a problem becoming a crisis.