Friday 15 July 2016

Widespread Insecurity in Nigeria: A Case For URGENT Restructuring of Security, Intelligence Agencies

Introduction:   This essay argues that the unprecedented and widespread insecurity – terrorism, insurgency, militancy, herdsmen attacks, communal clashes, kidnap for ransom and extortion (KRE), cultism amongst other security challenges stifling Nigeria(ns), are inter alia, a byproduct of Nigeria’s old-school, bureaucratic security and intelligence establishments’ knack to be REACTIVE rather than PROACTIVE, innovative. As a result of this inertia, scores of Nigerian citizens are randomly murdered, kidnapped daily. While the Nigerian security agencies are overwhelmed, helpless and bereft of pragmatic solutions to the security challenges, the government of the day is strongly averse to taking responsibility; buck-passing and finger-pointing are its stock-in-trade.
It beggars belief that while the government maintains an omerta when Nigerians are butchered, same government swiftly commiserates with foreign governments over tragedies in their clime. With life expectancy hovering at 54.5 years, one is tempted to ask, what is the value of life in Nigeria?

Forward-thinking security, intelligence establishments world-over strive to nip insecurity, crime in the bud. As they say, prevention is better and cheaper than cure. It is unacceptable, more expensive to allow events escalate, deteriorate before running helter skelter to fix them. Nigeria, the much touted giant of Africa has suffered manifold national security embarrassments lately and in the past due to the failings of its potpourri security and intelligence agencies. This explains why not many Nigerians repose confidence in Nigeria’s security, intelligence establishments. Going back to memory lane, Nigeria suffered one hell of a national security embarrassment, circa 2003, when a seized Russian tanker, MT African Pride with 13 Russian sailors and laden with 30, 000 barrels of crude oil, under the custody of the Nigerian Navy mysteriously ‘disappeared’ without trace till date.

Writer will proceed to highlight few incidents that portray paucity of intelligence gathering and a proactive security approach in Nigeria.

1.     ‘Militant’ Attacks on Lagos, Ogun Communities: Sometime in May 2016 or thereabout, news filtered in that militants were planning to attack Lagos State. The tidings was swiftly dismissed. We were told ‘nothing dey happen’, ‘the police is on top of the situation’. People were told to go about their businesses. Weeks later, daredevil gangs carried out sporadic attacks, killed scores in Elepete, Muti both in Igbo-Olomu, Ikorodu, a Lagos suburb and another Ogun community (Ifo). Days after the deed, we were told that 5,000 policemen and soldiers have been deployed to the affected communities. This incident would have been averted if the security agencies took proactive steps to forestall its occurrence rather than reacting to it.

2.     Proliferation of Arms, Militancy In The Niger Delta: Now the relapse to militancy in the Niger Delta led by the Niger Delta Avengers and a miscellany of other militant groups in that area further buttresses the paucity of intelligence and proactive security in Nigeria. Imagine the manner of sophisticated weapons been overtly brandished by so-called militants in a country where firearms is prohibited. How do we explain a situation where after an Amnesty was granted to ex-Niger Delta militants which led to them surrendering their unserviceable firearms, the Security and Intelligence agencies literarily went to sleep? Now is the time for the Nigerian Navy to optimize its Falcon Eye maritime surveillance system in the Niger Delta.

3.     The Marauding Herdsmen quagmire: Prior to herdsmen attacking Enugu community, the State Governor – Ugwuanyi reportedly passed Intel to the Police and military authorities of an impending attack but nothing was done. Whether the herdsmen slaughtering Nigerians emanate from Libya as some of our leaders unashamedly insinuate or not, are they also licensed to bear sophisticated weapons and kill at every slightest provocation? Is it not an indictment on our security agencies and a national embarrassment that hordes of nomads with cattle supposedly all the way from Libya, Niger republic, Chad infiltrate from the Northernmost part of Nigeria and disperse to remotes parts of Nigeria to cause mayhem? Possible the herdsmen parachute into Nigerian territory, villages? 

4.     The Boko Haram Insurgency, Abduction of Chibok Schoolgirls Scenario: In what started like a child’s play, to our chagrin, a so-called rag-tag Boko Haram Sect carved out and occupied swathes of land as its Islamic Caliphate from the Nigerian federation. More than two years after Boko Haram militants abducted in excess of 200 Chibok schoolgirls, there’s no credible information as to where the girls are kept. Of a truth, the inability to locate the missing Chibok schoolgirls is not only an affront on Nigeria’s security, intelligence agencies but on the intelligence agencies of other foreign countries that threw their hat to the ring. It sure portends shrewdness, craftiness to have kept an impenetrable lid on the domicile of hundreds of girls after two years. Every day we hear in the news that a top ranking Boko Haram commander or Amir was either killed or captured alive. And the common sense question here is: if such arrested folks are top Boko Haram commanders, won’t they spill the beans under interrogation as to the abode of the Chibok schoolgirls? 

5.     Another example of paucity of intelligence gathering and proactive security in Nigeria is the reported slaughtering of over 60 police and Department of State Security officers in 2013 by Ombatse ‘cult’ group in Alakyo Nasarawa state when the officers went there on national assignment. Former DG of the Department of State Security (DSS) stunned Nigerians when he said the DSS has forgiven Ombatse cult group for killing its officers. This means nobody was charged, let alone convicted of this heinous crime?

Nigeria’s Security And Intelligence, Paper-Tigers?

In addition to the three tiers of the Nigerian Armed forces and their intelligence wings – the Nigerian Army (Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) cum the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps - NAIC), Nigerian Navy (Naval Intelligence) and the Nigerian Air force (Directorate of Air Intelligence), Nigeria also boasts of the following: the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) which is tasked with overseeing foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) is responsible for overall military intelligence, the Department of State Security (DSS) formerly called State Security Service (SSS) is responsible for domestic intelligence, the Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID), the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation), Nigeria Customs (Customs Intelligent Unit or CIU), Nigeria Immigration Service (HQ National Intelligence Unit), the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), an arm of the global financial intelligence unit domiciled within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission tasked with combatting money laundering and terrorism financing, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (Intelligence Unit), amongst others. Now the question is: despite the potpourri security/intelligence agencies, why do we have wanton insecurity, arms proliferation in Nigeria? Are they just paper-tigers?

Based on his research and observation, writer proceeds to submit some of the reasons which account for the inherent inertia, inability of Nigeria’s security and intelligence agencies to nip insecurity in the bud.

Why Nigerian Security, Intelligence Agencies Are Wanting

1.     Lack of state of the art technology, gadgets: there is no gainsaying the fact that technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) revolutionized intelligence gathering and collection hence less reliance on human intelligence (HUMINT) which portends more risk. Definitely not implying that HUMINT is not important; recall that Osama Bin Laden was sniffed out due largely to HUMINT. For instance, the United States Global Hawk is an outstanding source of signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery intelligence (IMINT) and so are Reaper and Predator drones (with lethal capabilities). Similarly the United States F-35 jet has electronic warfare (EW) capability; it can jam enemy communications and suppress enemy radars.
2.     Paucity of Social Media Intelligence (SMI or SOCMINT): My essay: ‘’Fighting Terrorism, Insecurity with Social Media: Tips For Nigeria’s Security Agencies’’ is handy in this regard. There’s a lot of open source intelligence these days on social media and on the internet. There’s a lot of radicalization, indoctrination going on online and on social media. Just recently it emerged that the Islamic State adherents launched a mobile application to indoctrinate Nigerian children. How can an ordinary citizen who has got Intel disseminate such to say, the National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff, Director General of the National Intelligence Agency or his DSS counterpart anonymously when these gaffers, their office have not social media – Twitter handle etc.? The implication is that more often than not, such bosses are detached from reality, goings-on around them as they depend mainly on skewed ‘’security or intelligence reports’’ from subordinates. How can the security Nigerian security and intelligence agencies counter the narrative of Boko Haram or other extremism contents out there if they lack online, social media presence and are unresponsive?  ‘’This explains why the following foreign intelligence agencies: FBI (US), CIA (US), MOSSAD (Israel), GCHQ (UK), MI6 (UK), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki) (SVR), the French foreign intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), amongst others, all have online presence and are active on social media. For instance, the U.S. Military increasingly plugs into Social Media for intelligence gathering (Social media intelligence, SMI or SOCMINT). After Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down on July 17, 2014 in eastern Ukraine killing all 298 on board, a United States Defense Intelligence Agency analyst sifting social-media communications was one of the first to get "a hit" of the incident. By the way, what happened to the multi-million dollar internet surveillance and eavesdropping contract that the Nigerian government reportedly awarded to Elbit Systems, an Israeli firm?

3.     Porous Air, Sea, Land Borders, Not-so-stringent e-ID Card: During the Ebola crises, it came to the fore that there are officially, about 1,479 illegal borders in Nigeria. This means aliens, contraband products, arms and ammunition swiftly waltz in and out of Nigeria through those illegal borders. With such extensive and un-policed porous air, land borders, it is practically impossible to rein in the free flow of aliens, arms into Nigeria. As for the Nigerian National Identity card, folks, non-Nigerians are exploiting inherent weaknesses in the system to acquire the so-called electronic ID Card. Same applies to the Nigerian international passport which an average interested foreigner can easily obtain. Does it not impinge on national security that an Indian company prints Nigeria’s expatriate permits on behalf of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS)? Need I mention that in this age of data breaches, Nigeria is bent in harvesting, storing fingerprints, personal details of its citizens devoid of a data protection law and state-of-the-art cybersecurity measures? This writer dwelt extensively on the implications of this in his write-ups titled: ‘’Nigeria's e-I.D Card: National Security, Unintended Consequences’’.

4.     Unhealthy inter-agency rivalry, lack of synergy/information sharing: Granted unwholesome inter-agency rivalry is a global phenomenon but this seem to be more entrenched and glaring in Nigeria where gaffers tend to place self-aggrandizement ahead of national interest. During an inter-agency peace-building conference organized by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in Abuja, in 2013, participants drawn from Nigeria’s security and intelligence agencies were in agreement that, ‘’lack of collaboration amongst the security agencies is one of the factors responsible for the growth of Boko Haram’’. The then National Security Adviser, NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), who was represented by Major General Sarki Y. Bello, asserted: “It is pertinent to note that this lack of collaboration among our security agencies was one of the factors that permitted the growth and, until recently, the success of Boko Haram terrorist attacks.” Fast forward to 2016, same inter agency rivalry persists. Premium Times Newspaper of 9th July, 2016 reports that, ‘’President Muhammadu Buhari’s National Security Adviser, NSA, Babagana Monguno, and the Director General, DG, of the State Security Services (SSS), Lawal Daura, are locked in a bitter battle for supremacy’’. According to Premium Times, “The NSA complains that the DG of the DSS is over-reaching himself and performing his duties”. Recall that prior to this, President Buhari’s ADC, one Lt. Col. Abubakar Lawal reportedly ordered DSS Operatives out of strategic points in the presidential villa and there were reports of DSS officials clashing with Personnel of the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps, NAIC, deployed to the presidency. This is just a tip of the iceberg as ‘superiority complex’, unhealthy inter-agency rivalry is deep-seated in the Nigerian security and intelligence circle

5.     Poor Funding? It is debatable as to whether or not the Nigerian military and security agencies are well funded or not. Granted our military spending is paltry compared to that of the western world but juxtaposed with African countries, Nigeria doesn’t fare poorly in military spending. To give us an idea, Global Fire Power index suffices. In 2016, while Egypt with an annual defense budget of slightly above $4b billion was ranked first in Africa, the Global Fire Power (GFP) Index ranked Nigeria ($2.3 billion defense budget) 44th out of 126 countries in the world and 4th out of 30 African countries with the highest military strength and firepower. To put this in perspective, same index ranked Ghana 19th in Africa, Cameroon 20th, Kenya 11th, and Tanzania 17th and so on and so forth. 

6.     Corruption: Sometime in 2015, Premium Times Newspaper posited that, ‘’Nigeria spent N4.62 trillion on National Security in the last 5 years, yet widespread insecurity remains’’. This certainly does not measure up with security budgets of many Western climes but is quite considerable when juxtaposed with budgets of some African countries as seen in the preceding paragraph. The gist is that as a result of pervasive corruption, more often than not, Nigeria’s security budgets end up in private pockets of the top brass of those organizations. An ex Airforce gaffer purportedly plundered more than N500 million (five hundred million) naira monthly from the Nigerian Air force while SaharaReporters allege that a former Army boss reportedly raked in N1 billion monthly from the Nigerian Army. There will be a whole lot of difference and improvement in National security if the money appropriated to the military and security agencies are judiciously utilized.

7.     Negligence, sweeping Intel under the carpet or not acting on them: An acquaintance of mine that served in the Army Intelligence Corps in Maiduguri back in the 1990’s told me how they wrote reports of arms proliferation and build-up in the North-East prior to Boko Haram uprising but their reports were swept under the carpet by their superiors and the Borno state government authorities then. Moving on…is there a stringent monitoring of private jetty’s in Nigeria? Grapevine suggests contraband, illegal stuff come in through private jetty’s in Nigeria. 

8.     Nepotism (Na mu ne in Hausa, tinwa-tinwa in Yoruba, Ima mmadu in Igbo) languages is our bane in Nigeria. This entails recruiting folks not qualified, not passionate about the job simply because they know one big shot or the other. This writer served in the armed forces and is abreast of the goings-on, a couple of things inherent in the Nigerian Armed forces. In many advanced climes, academically bright students are headhunted right from their studies in Ivy League schools to serve in the security and intelligence agencies. This cannot be said of Nigeria’s NIA, DIA, DSS, FCIIB et al. I dare say that not up to 20 percent of cadets in the Nigerian Defence Academy got in there by merit. This nepotism phenomenon also plays out in postings or deployments and promotions where unqualified and undeserving officers, personnel are deployed to sensitive positions or promoted because they have godfathers.

9.     Lack of stringent background checks on prospective recruits: Due to lack of stringing background checks in Nigeria, there are insinuations of ex-convicts, cultists etc. enlisting into the Nigerian security and intelligence agencies.

10.                         Partisanship and bootlicking: The same accusation of partisanship, bootlicking that bogged Nigeria’s security establishments; particularly the DSS during the presidency of Jonathan has relapsed now that that President Buhari is in power. Security and intelligence agencies are national institutions hence their allegiance is supposed to be first to the country and not as apron strings of the political party in power. Security agents must be apolitical patriotic citizens; they should learn from history and shy away from partisanship, politics. Where’s Marilyn Ogar, the former spokesperson of the DSS under President Jonathan’s government today?


An Igbo proverb says, ‘’onaghi adi mma mmiri zoocha echenyewa oku’’. A rough translation means – it makes no sense to bring kegs to fetch rain water after the rain has stopped. Let it not be seen that Nigerian security and intelligence agencies are more adept at harassing, bullying, indulging in extrajudicial killings than in combatting or nipping insecurity, crime in the bud. If we can’t have ‘State Police’ now then let’s have community policing which entails police officers working the beats and been closer to the crime scene rather than stay at the counters in police stations. It is commendable that the new Inspector General of Police has ordered the withdrawal of mobile police officers attached to individuals, we pray this action will be enforced to the latter and not initial gara gara (IGG) as we call it in Nigeria.

Let’s take a cue from the United States and France. Due to what it called, “failure of intelligence”, the United States restructured its Intelligence agencies aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attack. As recently as July 5, 2016, French MPs recommended an overhaul of its intelligence in the wake of 2015 Paris attacks. We appreciate the sacrifices, efforts of our security agents hence this is not a scathing attack on them, just a way of nudging them to up their game. We cannot continue doing the same thing, the same way and expect different results. If Nigeria must rein in wanton insecurity, terrorism, militancy and instability, then it’s high time our old-school, reactive Security, Intelligence agencies were restructured to be proactive, innovative! Nigerian security and intelligence establishments MUST enlist the brightest and best in its fold, embrace state-of-the-art technology and eschew corruption.

Written by:
© Don Okereke
(Security Junkie/Analyst/Consultant, Writer)
Twitter: @donokereke
July, 2016

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