Nigeria: The Military and Internal Security

11 May 2021

There is urgent need to strengthen the Nigeria police for effectiveness and efficiency

Following the controversial statement by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria that the current political leadership should hand over power to the military for the purpose of restructuring the country, there has been a strong pushback from critical stakeholders. The military has dissociated itself from such anti-democratic utterance and position. "Let it be stated categorically that the Armed Forces of Nigeria remain fully committed to the present administration and all associated democratic institutions", the army said, while affirming: "The military high command wishes to use this opportunity to warn misguided politicians who nurse the inordinate ambition to rule this country outside the ballot box to banish such thoughts as the military under the current leadership remains resolute in the defence of Nigeria's democracy and its growth."

With Nigeria gradually descending to the Hobbesian state of nature where life is "nasty, brutish and short", it is little surprise that many otherwise respected citizens are getting so desperate as to be calling for military intervention. While we condemn such unhelpful utterances, it should also not be lost on the current administration that Nigerians are becoming so helpless that democracy is looking less and less attractive. The economic challenges keep multiplying with no solution in sight while the general climate of insecurity has led to a situation in which at least 34 of the 36 states are under one form of military 'occupation' or another. This bodes ill for our democracy.

To be sure, several recent studies by respected institutions over public confidence in the Nigeria police and satisfaction with their service have made damning conclusions. The findings have always revealed a general lack of confidence in the capability of the police to prevent and contain insecurity in the country. Therefore, the 'militarisation' of the country becomes a ready option, especially when armed robbers, kidnappers and terrorists choose when, where and how to carry out their nefarious activities. However, what drafting soldiers to the streets for law enforcement-a duty for which they are ill-equipped-has done is to reinforce the knee-jerk approach to fighting crimes which, more than anything else, defines our lack of serious approach to basic issues. It also exposes soldiers to unnecessary politics, which is rather dangerous, especially in times like this as we once saw in Cote d'Ivoire.

While we must demilitarise the civic space in Nigeria, we are also aware that what the polity can boast of presently is a police force that is easy game for a more sophisticated world of crime. For several reasons, majorly because of corruption, the Nigeria Police Force has abdicated its vital role in the society. But the blame goes round because when someone commits an offence in Nigeria today, there is no certainty of punishment, and this encourages the impunity that now pervades the land. To readdress the threat posed by the swelling militarisation of the country and the long-term effects, we need to strengthen the Nigeria police to be effective and efficient.

Therefore, even at the risk of sounding repetitive, we state that the best approach to fighting crimes remains effective intelligence gathering that not only helps in pre-empting and disrupting criminal activity but is also indispensable for the investigations of crimes. Only well-equipped and professional police can gather the close-to-the-ground information. But more worrisome is the over-exposure of soldiers to the civil space and the implications for our democracy. That becomes more dangerous at a period the security situation is almost getting out of hand. There is no better time than now to strengthen the police both in terms of professionalism and structure, so that they can sustain the capacity to carry out their constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order.

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