Tag Archives: national security concerns

AN URGENT CASE FOR REFORM OF POLICE AND STATE SECURITY OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA

Policing Nigeria seems to be getting harder for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) due to the misguided agendas of the politicians who seem bent on destroying whatever is left of the operational effectiveness of the police. The NPF has been under attack since the mid-70s when the military administration, removed the Special Branch out of the Force and made it a separate independent organisation. The Special Branch later became the NSO during Shagari administration and then changed its name to the SSS of today.

Although its powers and operations are defined by laws, the practical operation of theNigerian-police-1 police is affected by the political and socio-economic interests of the governing elite and political groups in Nigeria.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in section 214 (1) states that:

“There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof”.

Section 214 (2)(a) empowers the National Assembly to produce an Act to organise and administer the details of police operations in Nigeria in ways that protects the constitutional rights of Nigerians. This is known as the Police Act. First enacted in 1943, it has been reviewed by the legislature in 1967 and 1979. A new review is being planned by the National Assembly.

This constitutional provision makes it unconstitutional for either the government of the states or even the federal government to establish a parallel police service in competition to the Nigeria police Force. This has however not stopped the Federal government from establishing additional investigatory and enforcement institutions, even though they have not called any of them ‘police’.

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Many in government agree that the Nigerian government seem to be in breach of the spirit of the constitution if not the letter of it. By not calling these parallel agencies “police” the government seem to say they have stayed within the provisions of the law. But with these agencies having powers similar to that of the police and taking over functions and duties performed by the police, it can be argued that if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, walks like a dog, then it is a dog.

These agencies perform policing duties, hence it can be argued that they are police in practice if not in names. But nobody has yet litigated this fact by taking the government to a court of competent jurisdiction over it. Examples of these additional agencies are:

  • The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)
  • The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC)
  • The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)
  • The National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)
  • The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)
  • Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO)
  • State Security Service (SSS)
  • National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)

For instance, the CCT has not led to accelerated hearings of misconduct cases, hence there is doubt as to its continued existence.

Most in the Police believe the plethora of agencies, many with overlapping powers, and duplicated duties have led to the weakening of the main police force as a result of talent flight to these new agencies and reduction in police funding, as funds are allocated to these additional agencies.

The main police force is then left to do the heavy lifting task of crime prevention and investigation with fewer resources to do the job. These policing related agencies consume a lot of resources and many believe overwhelmingly they are inefficient and incoherent in operational agility. These many policing agencies stretches the budget of the government to the detriment of the NPF. We are now in a situation where the Federal government only manages to pay the emoluments of the police officers and barely nothing else is available for equipment, training etc, thus the operational funding of the police now largely come from the goodwill of the respective state governments. As a result, a multi-tier police is emerging. With states like Lagos able to better support the police and others like Adamawa doing much less. If this trend continues; the federal government will lose its moral right to a federal police structure it cannot afford to fund.

From nowhere, President Obasanjo created the Civil Defence corps and put his sympathisers in it. Billions of naira were spent establishing this group to perform duties meant for the Nigeria Police constitutionally. Few people see any value this group brought to the nation. But in the meantime, Billions meant for the Police has now been diverted to another agency created by politicians.

Seal_of_the_Senate_of_Nigeria.svgGiven the foregoing, one will wonder why the National Assembly is now creating another paramilitary group called the Peace Corps. It does not make sense. That will make it the ninth agency to be created to perform a traditional police function. If this Peace Corps bill is finally passed by the National Assembly, Nigeria will now have TEN organisations performing policing duties; including the main NPF itself. This is madness.

Effective policing in most countries is made of a unified police body that has specialist units within it to focus on special areas of security interests, but all under the same command and control system and sharing unified databases for joined up intelligence-led policing. Instead of this, Nigeria seems to be creating more policing agencies and inevitable confusion of roles, duplicated responsibility; unclear hierarchy of power amongst them and financial dissipation that makes the NPF suffer under little or no funding.

With the Peace corps, we have Ten policing organisations, Ten Back-office departments and cost centres, Ten databases, ten operational procedures and intelligence systems and a massively confused citizenry who are now not sure who to call on amongst all these policing agencies. In all countries I know of if a civil servant steals; you call the police. In Nigeria, we created the ICPC. Why? With these kaleidoscope of policing organisations, you also have Ten prosecuting agencies for relatively similar crimes. This creates multiple prosecution standards and inconsistent prosecutorial decisions.

In the end, it seems the politicians are only interested in creating power bases for themselves in the security sector of the country. This is to aid their manipulation of our laws and impunity in political activities. The solution is to unify all these agencies under the NPF, strengthen our police, fund them better and demand better outcomes accordingly.

The trend globally in the security sector is to join-up activities of different agencies and reduce their number to the barest minimum. We seem to be going in the opposite direction. You can finish serving a jail sentence for robbery in Niger state and travel to Lagos the next day to join the Police. There is no national database of criminals in Nigeria. The system relies on the honesty of applicants to declare their own past convictions. In fact, there is no State-wide database of criminals in any state. All we have is a state-wide record of cases, not criminals. And this is mainly manual when it exists. So if there is no joined-up operation within the police as a result of a paucity of funds and historical neglect; how much more between the police of all these other policing organisations. It will not be a surprise if a good number of our police officers are ex-convicts and others unfit to hold such vital roles.

Historically, while the military invested and modernise themselves infrastructure wise when they were in power, the police was deliberately underfunded and neglected. So the continuing negative public perception of the role and capacity of the police is a major source of concern in a democracy. Hence the NPF remain the most misunderstood profession by the general public in Nigeria. Many expect them to work magic despite the limitations and massive constraints of their tools and service conditions. Their performance is weighed with misconception and ignorance, resulting in an out of context assessment of their activities.

Ignorance of the inner workings of the police and the penchant for secrecy by the Nigeria police had led to little public confidence in the service by Nigerians, plenty of misconception and depleted public support and cooperation with the police. These challenges are being exacerbated by the plethora of policing agencies created by the politicians. These other agencies create a capacity problem for the police and dilute the funding available to the NPF.  In my opinion; it is now time we create a unified security platform in Nigeria under the leadership of the NPF as the only constitutionally empowered civil security organisation. Train them, strengthen them, support them and see a new security landscape emerge that we all can be proud of.

The NPF as presently crafted and treated by the politicians is set up to fail. We need the leadership of the National Assembly to see the need for a joined-up security infrastructure and unified command and control. Creating the Peace Corps must be abandoned and the funds meant for it given to the NPF to strengthen its numbers and operational tools. God bless Nigeria.

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BREAKING THE CYCLE OF CYNICISM IN NIGERIANS

Nigerians have grown to expect the worst from their leaders and government. Give an average Nigerian a couple of scenarios; one positive and the other negative and ask which they belief relate to their country and its leaders. Most will go for the negative. We have come to expect the worst from our politicians and no doubt, we get what we expect. But are we perpetuating a dysfunctional mindset that keeps us in a self-fulfilling cycle of failure as a nation? Hence, I have lately been reading the various chartrooms and threads about Nigeria on the web as well as other media commentaries.

I fear we are in danger of allowing cynicism to rule and ruin our future as a people. We know most of our career-politician leaders are corrupt. But then we are equally quick to find fault in new generation of leaders coming up. If it is an old politician, we complain that he has been there for too long and assisted in the pillage of the country since independence. If it is a young politician who has been in active politics for a short while; we complain that he has made no difference and a stooge of the godfather.lagos1

If it is a young or old aspiring politician, who is entering the terrain for the first time; we complain that he is simply going there to ‘chop’ (steal) money like others. It seems nobody is ever good enough for some Nigerians. We have become a nation of habitual complainers, moaners and cynics. We have given up on the old guards and the new ones are viewed with suspicion even before they take a single step.  My consolation is that even God has His critics here on earth. Much less mere humans.

But in my view; what is lacking in many Nigerians is ability to think rationally. Rational psychology expects you to prioritize your assessment of people and then decide based on dominant good qualities, while viewing the few bad qualities in context of an otherwise overwhelmingly ’good’ candidate. Many of us make these analysis daily. You indulge that driver constantly coming late to work, because he is otherwise an excellent driver and the best you have ever had. You indulge that househelp’s bad manners because the kids love her and she is the best cleaner you have ever had. You decided not to relocate from your area of Lagos despite the horrendously bad road leading to it because the area is otherwise very safe and little or no crime at all. We all make these judgments and balance analysis all the time. So why do we not apply the same to our old or aspiring politicians. Let us learn to increase in hope and optimism and believe good can still come out this country. Our focus on the negative has got us nowhere; so why not try a new approach Let us be less cynical and more hopeful.

Truth is; the worst offenders are the educated middleclass, many residing in Diaspora. Many complain about everything Nigeria does; yet live in Chicago where several of their governors in the past 20yrs have been jailed for fraud and corruption.   And the Internet allows people to pontificate, become tin gods with little repercussion and minimal sense of responsibility.  We need to change. There are now many “good people” reluctant to join the political arena. Not due to the fear of the corrupt political elite; but for fear of been shot into pieces and have the reputation stained by the mostly Internet-based/Educated/Chattering brigade; who theorizes and analyses everything from the sidewalk. I am sure some will say that at least the governors in Chicago were caught and prosecuted successfully, while none has been brought to book in Nigeria. But that is not the salient point here. My argument is that there are bad and corrupt politicians everywhere. Why must we allow cynicism to destroy the future of our hope?

In the most memorable section of his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, President Roosevelt captured his life philosophy in just a few sentences. “The Man in the Arena” tells us that the man we should praise is the man who’s out there fighting the big battles, even if  imperfect and those battles end in defeat. In our day, when cynicism and aloof detachment are considered hip and cool, he reminds us that glory and honour come to those “who spend themselves in a worthy cause.”  He noted:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

These perpetual Nigerian critics specialize in finding fault in anybody that is brave enough to enter the political ring. We all need to be careful. It seems many are naively looking for a “Perfect Candidate” that is blemish free. Remember that Joseph (in the Bible) had a criminal record when he became the best Prime Minister in Egypt; straight from Prison. I know Joseph was innocent; but nobody knew that except him and God.

My advise to these armchair critics is; why don’t you throw your hats into the ring. If nobody is good enough for your Nigeria, does that include yourself as well? Are you as bad as the people you always criticize?  If not; why don’t you enter the arena and make a difference. Perhaps, you are the change agent the nation has been waiting for.

Let’s stop shooting down everybody that is trying to make change happen in our Nation; even if they are not perfect. It’s hard to see the good in people, when you’re only looking for the bad.  Let’s focus on their ideas/policies/agendas and not simply on personalities or the mistakes they have made in the past. And finally, let us be led by that inner voice; so that we do not simply know everybody after the flesh. I see change happening in Nigeria through unexpected vessels.

Let us believe the best for our nation and support and constructively criticize those in the arena; not because we agree with all they do or they are prefect; but because we owe it to Nigeria since we are not in the arena ourselves. God bless Nigeria.

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MISLEAD, MISTRUST, MISINFORM, MISUNDERSTANDING

Why most Nigerians do not trust President Jonathan and his administration.

As the Cuban missile crisis raged in October 1962; the US president sat in the White House and called the leaders of the key nations that were members of the UN Security Council to get their support for American position at the UN. The world was on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. The Russians denied everything the Americans claimed and the stage was set for a monumental nuclear confrontation. Up till this point; there was no objective evidence as to who was telling the truth; Russia or America. So it was simply a game of whose report to believe. It was reported that the French President, 0413-nuclear-summit-Goodluck-Jonathan_full_600Charles de Gaulle received a call from President Kennedy asking for the support of France in the impending UN vote on this matter. The French president offered his unqualified support for the American position. Few days later a French minister asked the President why he supported the Americans when there was no conclusive evidence of their claim. Charles de Gaulle was reported to have responded boldly “The word of the American President is good enough for me”. 

That statement demonstrated that Trust is key to any meaningful relationship between governments and also between governments and the people. It is not always possible to provide clear evidence of government decisions; either due to national security concerns; or the conclusive evidence does not exist. If there is trust in the relationship between the people and its government; a lot can be achieved as the citizens rally round its leaders to move the nation forward. This intergovernmental trust was one of the unwitting victims of the Iraq debacle. Many leaders now do not trust the American position on many things today. This will hunt the global diplomatic scene for decades to come. There used to be a time that the American position was accepted by the world without any question; not any more.

The foregoing brings me to the case of the Nigerian government and the lack of trust by many Nigerians. Over the years; the fabric of trust has been eroded by successive Nigerian leaders; thus creating a cynical and untrusting citizenry. Many expectations of the people have been dashed. An average Nigerian does not believe anything the government says. Each new administration is given an initial window to prove itself and as always they all fail by unveiling their predisposition and addiction to lies, corruption and deception.  Hence many Nigerian have grown to expect lies and sometimes the worst from their government.

Focusing on the Jonathan administration; it is sad to see how a potentially transformational government has squandered its goodwill and productive expectations. Many Nigerians, including myself had high expectations of the Jonathan administration at the beginning. But now; it is a different story. There is a wise saying that states: if you sell-out your relatives at a cheap price; you cannot buy them back at an expensive amount, because once they lose trust in you and see your betrayal; that will be it. For me; the Jonathan administration seems to have forgotten the adage that it is the little foxes that spoils the vine. It is the ‘little’ acts of deception and lying that erode trust and make it difficult to believe the big things; even if they are now true.

For example; when you have the President’s office telling the nation that the First Lady was not sick but merely taking a break; despite all the reports to the contrary. Aso Rock denied all reports of any illness of the President’s wife. Only for a few weeks later to hear the First Lady herself tell Nigerians that she almost died and had to undergo several major operations in foreign hospitals. It is clear; we were lied to. Yet no apology till date. There are several instances of these “little” lies by the government and the presidential team. That much cannot be disputed. So how does President Jonathan expect us to believe him on “big” issues like the menace of Boko Haram and national security situation when he has already lost credibility and the trust of the people through series of “little” lies. It is indeed the little foxes that spoil the vine. The President may indeed be telling the truth about many of the major issues confronting the nation today; but how can we believe him and his team when they have shown themselves unworthy of our unflinching trust.

GEJIn my experience; honesty in “little” things is the hallmark of real honesty. It is more difficult to lie about big and major issues due to the complicated and multifaceted nature of such things. But it is much easier to lie about minor and small matters; thus revealing your dishonest nature. So a person that refuses to lie about minor issues (that many cannot verify in any case); will tend to remain honest when the big, more verifiable matters come up.  If you ask me what time I went to bed last night and I am honest in my response (even though you have little way of verifying my answer); it will be easier for me to be believed if asked what time my flight to London took off from Lagos; (as there will be many more witnesses to the departure time).

So my counsel to President Jonathan is to demonstrate his openness and honesty first in little matters. Build a “portfolio of honesty” in the eyes of Nigerians. He should instruct his team to either give out honest responses to all matters or simply ‘no comment’. This portfolio of honesty will help to build goodwill with Nigerian; thus making it easier for us to believe the leadership when big issues come up. Honesty does not mean divulging every single information about an issue; it simply means being honest about the thrust of an issue; even if you then refuse to go into specifics, for good reasons. But the deliberate deception that has been often evident in the words and actions of the Presidential spokespersons and government officials need to stop.

We want to be able to believe our leaders. We need to be able to believe our leaders.  Our prayer is that one-day will come, when an average Nigerian will be able to proudly say; “The word of the president is good enough for me”. Let that paradigm shift and process begin today.

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