It was really heart-rendering to read about the murder of the two sons of the pastor of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa Njairi Church (EYN) in Mubi, Adamawa State. The loss of a child is the worst nightmare of any parent, so for Pastor Daniel Umaru, my sincere condolences. This is a situation that is made worse by the fact that it should never have happened were the country to have the necessary security architecture in place. The pain of Pastor Umaru is the pain of Nigeria as a whole. All over the country thousands have been subjected to the wilful excesses of these murderous renegades.
The situation is very dire, if the happenings can be going on under the regime of Buhari, as well meaning as he might be for the country but under whose watch a simmering clash over the means of livelihood has been allowed to morph into a full blown insurgency that now threatens the fabric and foundation of the country. We need to be clear on a few facts, chief of which is that Buhari did not create this crisis. However it is obvious even by the most charitable assessment that his seeming inertia has contributed in no small measure to creating the current existential threat to the security, well being and unity of the country that we now have. Let us be clear, he has demonstrated the same inertia and disinterest in my view to the ESN menace in the Southeast as to the oil theft in the Southsouth, and to the menace of the herdsmen and bandits especially the cross-border ones that have no stake in Nigeria. The only difference is that by words and body language, he has shown understanding to the activities of his tribesmen which he has not shown the other major existentialist threats to the country.
If we move away from the human angle and consider the practical side, some recent occurrences more than amplify the need to comprehensively overhaul our security architecture. The first was the Owo Catholic Church attack, the second is the very daring attack on the president’s convoy and the third the equally daring attack to free terrorists held at the Kuje prison in Abuja. I am mindful that the Owo attack could as much be a terrorist attack as one arising from a local dispute involving gangs gone horribly wrong. Of all states operating Amotekun, Ondo State probably has the strongest and best organized force. Whilst the Federal Government has been clear that this was the work of ISWAP, it has not produced any evidence to back this up and the Ondo State Government has also rejected this assertion. The fact however remains that a church was attacked as it was rounding up its Sunday service leading to the untimely death of over forty people and what is more heart rendering children and members of the same family. The live telecast of their funeral service was something too difficult to watch for many. I understand that there was some sort of security response but the firepower of the attacker was so overpowering that two members of the response team lost their lives.
The attack on the convoy of the president, even though even if his ‘advance convoy’ could not in any way be described as a mistake by the terrorists. In my view, it was a direct challenge to the authority of the state and probably due to the pressure the continuous airstrikes have put the terrorists. It was, to put it mildly, an enraging thumbing of the nose at Nigeria and our institutions and it is clear to me that this can only be the work of foreigners; or largely foreigners. It is therefore concerning that the response or as much of it as was in public domain only consisted of half-hearted airstrikes in retaliation.
The Kuje Commando strike by ISWAP is such a monumental embarrassment to the security establishment of the country and it is surprising that some people still have jobs despite the grievous security breach. Those that attacked Kuje might as well have attacked and other facility in Abuja save Aso Rock and gotten away with it. From my recollection, the Airforce Base is not too far away, ditto the International Airport. I think for this attack, the terrorists only prioritized their objective as they could jolly well have chosen any other target. The president, an army general and as such somebody that knows much better about the subject matter and also having fought a civil war was angry about the failure of intelligence. Indeed, this is a sore point, but I what find even more inexcusable was the fact that the terrorist attack shows that Abuja lacks an immediate response force on a twenty four hour standing order to immediately respond to such attack. It appeared that nothing was done until the next morning when some laughable security tape was put across the site. Perhaps even more shocking than the lack of an immediate response force is the counterintuitive step of keeping over 60 terrorists in one facility without ‘hard security’ and strenuous detention conditions. God knows how many opportunistic criminals that the terrorist would have radicalized as there has been nothing to show that they were isolated.
The killing of about fifty people including about 35 soldiers in an ambush, not including policemen is the best argument that an entirely new and integrated security architecture is required involving setting up a new military wing outside the framework of the Ministry of Defence, reporting directly to the Presidency. A new approach is required, for one would wonder whether the Shiroro attack was adequately investigated and remedial measures put in place to avoid future occurrences. This always happens and has been repeated so many times that it is safe to assume that even if the incidents are investigated, nothing gets done either due to budgetary constraints or senior level inertia.
There are different suggestions as to what is needed to be done to address the security issue we face in the country, varied and coincidentally possible to put in boxes and thus addressed. From the Boko Haram and ISWAP (good to differentiate them) insurgency in the Northeast, to the terrorism of the Northwest, the existentialist struggle in the Middlebelt to the massive oil theft in the Southsouth, the separatist agitation in the Southeast and the criminality of some herdsmen in the Southwest and across the country.
It is often the case that the first port of call of most contributors is to call for State Police. Yes, State Police is good, subject to some restrictions, but pray, of what use would they be to confronting RPG and General Purpose Machine Gun wielding terrorists? Amotekun in Ondo State is certainly effective against miscreants and errand herdsmen on private criminal ventures and provides a good model of organizing the State Police which clearly should be a part of the envisaged new architecture. Given the excesses of the Native Authority Police in the First Republic and the unsalutary uses some mischievous governors could put them to, I also think the Ondo State model presents a good way forward on how a State Police Force can cooperate and minimize conflicts and overlaps with the regular police. Knowing that most state judiciaries are, for want of a better word, close to the governors outside of Lagos, the misuse a mischievous governor can put State Police to is best left to imagination. Community Policing should also be a part of this structural review and indeed some local governments in Lagos have what would pass for some form of this. How State Policing can be made more effective in the new arrangement would be discussed further.
The idea for an internal security force is not a new one by any means. IBB, realizing that he was losing the support of the army, set up the National Guard for so many duplicitous reasons, but the real reason being for him to have a core of loyalists around him as he sought to perpetuate himself in office. It did not survive him for long. Indeed, it is arguable if there was a compelling case for such a force as at then.
The proposal is to have an internal force organized along military lines with different specializations to fit the tasks they would be deployed for. They would be organized into arms and services and in some cases will share facilities with other arms of the military. They would also be able to call on the troops form the army, airforce, navy and the police as may be necessary.
The praetorian guard of this internal security force would be the counter terrorism force. Modelled and trained like the British Special Air Service/Special Boat Service and which for this purposes will be referred as the Special Security Troops (SST), it would be the elite counterterrorism force and it would be responsible for a rapid response to terrorist attacks such as the Kuje Prison attack, search and destroy missions such as following up on the terrorists responsible for the Shiroro attacks, covert surveillance such as shadowing terrorist camps (this author remembers SAS troops were sent to shadow the camp of the Sierra Leonean rebel Mosquito when he abducted British Troops, anti hijacking (both air and ship) operations, hostage rescue, special infiltration, extraction of high profile figures including even the president in the unlikely event of a mutiny and the capture or neutralization of high profile terrorists figures. It would also have marine units tasked with maritime operations and firm elimination or capture of oil thieves working with and ahead of regular forces.
They would be troops drawn not only from the Internal Security Force but also from the other armed forces and would be specially trained for the task. Soldiers would serve in this force for a number of years on special commission before returning to their parent force. Due to the tasking nature, there needs to be a maximum age for troops, say forty years. The second category of troops would be called the Rangers for this purpose. These would also be elite troops and together with the SST would form the Special Operations Corps. The Rangers troops would also be a highly specialized light infantry troops drawn from the Internal Security Force, other Armed Forces and the Police and specially trained to storm forest enclaves of terrorists. This is a capability seriously lacking in the Nigerian Armed Forces as presently organized and explains why we had Sambisa Forest enclaves for such a long time and the current forest safe havens for terrorists in the Northwest. Whilst these elite troops will storm the forest, more conventional forces will act as blocking troops and the police and intelligence services will pick up stragglers escaping into the communities from the onslaught. Though we Nigerians hate to ask or help, it would be imperative for example to share experiences and seek knowledge from the Colombian Armed Forces as an example who have a lot of experience in storming forest enclaves of insurgents and also review critically the experience of our own troops in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the benefits of the lessons of experience that appear to have been lost.
The third category will be the regular Internal Security Troops which for this purpose we shall refer to as the National Guards (NG). NG troops will be the backbone of the new force and will be trained to the level and intensity of the Royal Marine Commandos of the British Army. They would be the mainstay and organized with the Brigade level as the fighting unit and would be responsible for security of a designated grid area with nodal points manned by troops with troops reinforcing themselves and able to assist each other at short notice. At the centre of the grid would be the Brigade Headquarters where heavy fire power, in terms of ranged artillery, fixed wing air support and armed and reconnaissance drones able to assist any point in the grid within minutes. The challenges facing this force would be different from that facing the biggest specialist counter insurgency force in the world, The Rashtriya Rifles (RR) from which it can borrow much. Whereas the RR confronts lightly armed insurgents both home grown and infiltrated from Pakistan, the insurgents in the Northwest are known to be armed with RPGs as a matter of course, machineguns, light artillery and anti-aircraft weapons. The duty of enforcing and protecting the grids cannot therefore be left to a light infantry force. It thus call for appropriate troops at the different nodal points in accordance with the perceived risk.
Different nodes may therefore have different infantry forces in accordance. Thus, some nodes will be held and patrolled by mechanized infantry forces riding in Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) capable of withstanding RPG impacts like the modified Finnish Patria IFV and some would be regular light infantry troops. In all cases, motorcycle trained troops to be a useful complement for rapid cross country movement. As stated earlier the centre of the grid which is the brigade headquarters to be ready to deliver heavy fire power in support together with rotary air and drone support and using the same principle, fixed wing ground attack support from the divisional headquarters. These are the kind of troops necessary in the Norhwest, assuming that the army would continue to be responsible for the Northeast. A point worthy of mention is that it does not necessarily mean that all points in the node will be held by the National Guard. Some will be held by the police, some and others by the armed forces with specific designation and reporting to the Brigade Commander responsible for the grid.
Such seconded troops would also need retraining and reorientation to the doctrine of the internal security force. The NG would also have equivalent marine units trained to operate on open waterways and creeks and tasked with ensuring the security of oil facilities and pipelines. They would be appropriately equipped with patrol crafts, lots of drones and armored gun boats as may be appropriate on the same grid principle. In all cases, for urban areas the grids would be more tightly packed to ensure response in numbers when a nodal point comes under attack as it precludes the use of heavy weapons. The key task in defeating an insurgency is the denial of resting and refitting space. So, these would be troops trained and tasked to a very high standard, including the ability to operate with close intensive artillery and ground attacks aircrafts. Due to the fact that training standards should not be compromised, it calls for another category of troops under the internal security command, the Armed Police Force (APF) who would be required to deal with a different kind, but less intensive threat.
The Armed Police Force would be a kind of gendarmerie force wearing military ranks, trained to the same level as the NG but at a lower intensity. These would be ideal troops for the kind of risks faced in the Middle Belt area and tasked with the patrolling and security of areas with appropriate protection for the troops. I would imagine that intensive air support mainly in the form of drones and rotary wing support, motorcycle troops and armored troop carriers offering protection against light arms organized in accordance with the same grid principle would more than get the job done. This same category of troops should be more than adequate for the security issues posed in the Southeast, where the current insurgency is still very much in its infancy and is amateurish, but may not be for long. Much of the issues we face are cross border and from the Sahel. We need to develop a new way of policing our northern borders and for this reason, there would be a corps of the armed police with the additional training to act as a border security force, which should be a keen military force specially trained to prevent the smuggling of arms and ammunition across the border.
The emergence of this force would likely make the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps and the National Emergency Management Agency redundant as stand-alone organizations. NEMA should be brought in under the civil affairs unit of the new organisations as it should quickly be able to deploy resources and troops to respond to emergency situations. This is not out of place as the equivalent agency that was copied in the USA is now under the Department of Homeland Security. The Civil Defense Corps will be used to hold less risky points of the grid in places as the most compelling reason for its existence, pipeline protection and guarding of forests will now have been militarized. It would also be used for visibility patrols and protection of less sensitive federal institutions and schools still as part of the grid system. The Corps will also be seconded to states to help bolster their state police arrangement under a cost recovery basis. Security issues are hardly resolved by military means. Thus the Civil Affairs Department will also work on hearts and minds issues in close cooperation with State Governments and local leaders who will be responsible for the funding from the State Security Fund. They would also assist in gathering human intelligence.
The initial support arms functions would of necessity be supplied by the army, but even at the initial stages, a combined arms regiment, solely for the protection of the leadership and a solely NG regiment must be a part and parcel of the new arrangement, including its own mobile air defence systems. The lessons of history are that a light infantry force, no matter how elite, is of no use against a determined mutiny. The ouster of Robert Mugabe when armored columns had the luxury of ill maintained armored vehicles breaking down as they marched on Harare is a case in point. The old warhorse knew the game was up and decided on capitulation rather than risk the annihilation of his light infantry Presidential Guards.
One of the biggest impediments of the war on terror is the fragmentation of intelligence and inter-service rivalry. Thus the new force would have its own dedicated intelligence with a clearly defined mandate of subordination of all internal security agencies to its head who will more or less assume the role of the head of all the current internal intelligence agencies, viz, police, military intelligence, DSS and sundry others. However, it would still have its own dedicated officers initially seconded from these agencies and subsequently trained for specific purpose. It will act as the clearing house of all kidnap cases in the country and will direct investigations and delegate to the police as appropriate. Under the intelligence department will be the communications and information technology department composed of staff recruited for specific technical expertise rather than prior security training. The war on terror is as much one of putting boots on the ground as intercepting communications and tracking movements.
The final leg of the new arrangement is the State Police of which as stated earlier the Ondo State Amotekun model presents a model that can be modified across. It should never be the intention that State Police would be armed to the extent of confronting terrorists armed with RPGs. They should be a veritable source of intelligence for the new force as well as assisting the police deal with routine day to day ordinary criminal matters and low grade terrorists or banditry activities. There would be units supported by the Civil Defence Corps allowed to carry up to General Purpose Machine Guns in high ‘Flashing Point’ areas. For the SW states where the risks at the moment does not justify deploying the new force in big numbers, prudent deployment of a smaller force, the State Police together with highly mobile men from SST to respond to emergencies such as the Owo Church massacre within a stipulated SOP should be sufficient.
The new force and the formalization of the State Police arrangement will require constitutional amendments which as there is something for everybody, should not be too difficult to obtain. It also requires the cooperation of the Armed Forces who will provide the bulk of the initial men until the men for the Internal Security Force are trained in sufficient numbers. At any rate, it takes a long time to make an army general, so the existing armed forces structure will continue to play a role in the new force for a long time but with appropriate leaders that buy into the new philosophy. The new force would also have a healthy complement of foreign advisers. At this stage, we should not be shy to seek the necessary foreign assistance as all indicators are that we do need outside help.
The different regions will require different strategies. The Army to continue with the Northeast where they are doing well and have mastered the terrain, for the Northwest, it will be a policy of confinement (surrounding forest enclaves), attrition (bombing them including marginal weapons under the Geneva Protocol of 1925), maneuver (coordinated attacks on camps and especially boots on the ground) soft measures to address the social roots of the insurgency, and alliances (forming local militias as a counterweight). For the oil thieves, attrition, maneuver and soft measures. Due to the infancy of the SE insurgency, good old colonial pacification measures and regular show of force should still suffice.
There is no doubt that time is running out. An incoming president that does not enjoy the patron status of President Buhari has to start acting before Day One. Of all the aspirants so far, only the APC candidate has spoken about the surge of troops needed to end or at least efficiently minimize the security issues we face in the country. Unfortunately the less informed thought this an object of ridicule, arising more out of ignorance and sheer mischief. The only addition to his proposal is that key to the surge should be an entirely new force in other not to overburden the current armed forces which have obvious issues with its discipline, moral, equipment and pervasive rumours of corruption and a formalization of the different State Police arrangements. The new force with its comprehensive equipment needs also needs to be funded. Currently estimates are that we lose around US$10m a day to oil thieves. A lot more is probably lost to farmers not being able to go to work as a result of the security crisis. Addressing the security issues firmly should pay for itself in the short term and more than overcompensate in the medium to long term.