With the worsening state of security challenges in Nigeria, the recent report credited to the Sun of London that the Islamic State has infiltrated the country and is about raising a new crop of terrorists and militants did not come as a surprise. Although the Defence Headquarters has gone to great length to discountenance it, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, has tacitly acknowledged the probability.
Against the backdrop of recent developments, there is cause to take the report serious. In the course of the military campaign against Boko Haram terrorists, hundreds of captured fighters were said to have undergone “deradicalisation” and subsequently released by the federal government. About two weeks ago, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, alleged that the federal government had directed that some of the “deradicalised” Boko Haram militants be absorbed into the country’s security agencies, including the military and Police. Remarkably, the CAN allegation has not been denied by the federal government.
Since the government introduced the “deradicalisation” programme for former Boko Haram militants, there has been no information on the nature, content and effectiveness of the programme neither has it been subjected to any independent evaluation. All that Nigerians have had to rely on are sparsely worded press releases from the Presidency stating that unspecified number of militants have been “deradicalised” and released. The programme is being conducted in an opaque manner and does not elicit confidence in the integrity of the exercise.
The report by Sun and allegation by CAN’s president have served to highlight the incongruities in the approach or game plan for combating insecurity by the Muhammadu Buhari administration. The level of atrocities carried out by Boko Haram fighters on civilian and defenceless population is well documented. Having pledged loyalty to the Islamic State, the organisation was inspired by the gruesome way of executing their victims and remains committed to the doctrine of violent enthronement of Islam and Sharia. Trying to surreptitiously incorporate the “deradicalised” rump of the group into the core of Nigeria’s security architecture at a time that the war is far from being won is illogical and troubling.
Equally disconcerting is the Presidency’s discordant response to the report of infiltration of Nigeria by elements of ISIS. While Dan-Ali admitted that it is a strong proposition, the Defence Headquarter tended to be dismissive of it. A more reassuring response would have been a comprehensive plan of action to rejig the security apparatus given the peculiar nature of Nigeria’s security challenge. So much has been made of the command and control leadership of the security agencies. Apart from a few salutary positions, the headship of virtually all the security agencies, including the military, Police and the internal affairs agencies are concentrated in a particular section of the country with the same religious persuasion. Such composition denies plurality in perception, evaluation and appeal that are essential ingredients for effective security operations. This has been amply demonstrated by the outcome of security council meetings on armed cattle herders’ attacks on farming communities where government remained fixated on preserving so-called cattle grazing routes at a time that common sense and massive urbanisation dictated the adoption of ranching to boost yield, protect the environment, create employment and respect the rights of other farmers.
The time has come for the federal government to evaluate its modus operandi for securing the country. It should begin with a review of the leadership of the various agencies to introduce plurality in line with Nigeria’s federal structure. It will impact on the quality of ideas and options for effective policing. In addition, there should devolution of powers to enable states lower rungs of the command structure order deployment of personnel in response to emergencies.
These will be just the first step on the long road to re-engineering not just the nation’s security system but also the nature of our federation to meet emerging challenges in an increasingly competitive world.
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