Scrutinizing the National Security Roadmap


Jide Ayobolu


President Muhammadu Buhari recently in Abuja launched the National Security Strategy 2019 Document.  He said his administration remained fully and unreservedly committed” to achieving a safer and a more secure Nigeria. According to him, the execution of the national security strategy is a task for all heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government. Loading “Security is a bottom-to-top cooperation. Failure at any level leads to a serious lapse in overall security. “I, therefore, call on all of you gathered here as Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies to see yourselves as stakeholders and partners in the onerous task of securing our people and to demonstrate the unity of purpose in implementing this strategy,” he said. He said the various security challenges confronting the country had made it necessary for the articulation of a comprehensive and coordinated response that involves all segments of society and all elements of national power.

The National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, said if the county did not end the almajiri system of education, it would “come back to bite us big time”. He underscored the need for all stakeholders to join hands and tackle the challenge of the almajiri phenomenon before it became one of the regrettable security threats. He said: “Now, what the strategy does is to look at our national security objectives and align these objectives with this administration’s goals in fighting corruption, giving access to improved education, taking care of the healthcare problems as well as increased productivity in the agriculture sector. But rooted in the strategy are issues that may not be visible to the naked eyes, but are issues that have tended to be malignant to cause a lot of greater problems to this society. “Fundamentally, if we are going to take care of these problems, we need to try and safeguard the fast-growing young population of Nigeria and guess what? We need to look at issues of poverty eradication and illiteracy. “The issue of illiteracy is directly linked to the issue of children not going to school, this almajiri phenomenon, which we have been talking about, we cannot continue to push it under the carpet. Eventually, it will come back to bite us big time, we need to deal with this issue and it is the responsibility of all of us to try and take care of this issue without any inhibition. I will tell you one thing.”

Insecurity and terrorism has been a major challenge to the Nigerian government in recent times. The activities of the Islamic sect (Boko Haram) had led to loss of lives and properties in the country especially in the Northern part of Nigeria. Some of these activities include bombing, suicide bomb attacks, sporadic shooting of unarmed and innocent citizens, burning of police stations, churches, kidnapping of school girls and women, etc. Kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and political crises, murder, destruction of oil facilities by Niger Delta militants alongside the attacks carried out by Fulani Herdsmen on some communities in the North and South have been another major insecurity challenge facing the country. Nigeria has been included in one of the terrorist countries of the world. Many lives and properties have been lost and a large number of citizens rendered homeless. Families have lost their loved ones. Many women are now widows. Children become orphans with no hope of the future. This has implications for national development. Government had made frantic efforts to tackle these challenges posed by terrorism and insecurity in the country and put an end to it but the rate of insurgency and insecurity is still alarming.

It must be noted that Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group has destabilised the North-East of Nigeria. Since 2009 the group killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more. About 2.5 million people fled their homes and towns, and the direct consequence of the conflict was that the North-East was plunged into a severe humanitarian crisis - as of 2018, one of the worst in the world - which has left about 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid. In his first term, Muhammadu Buhari claimed that his government would bring an end to the national suffering inflicted by Boko Haram. The government made significant military gains, reducing the number of Boko Haram attributed deaths from more than 5,000 in 2015 to less than 1,000 in the past couple of years. Nevertheless, the crisis is not yet over, and it would be a grave mistake for the president to disregard the continued importance of the conflict. Suicide attacks and kidnappings have been carried out by the group this year. At this time, the government should not just focus on security but invest in peace-building, reconstruction and rehabilitation and socio-economic development.

Also, the Middle Belt region of Nigeria has faced prolonged violent clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and the mostly Muslim cattle herders. At the core of the conflicts are disputes over access and rights to land and water resources and rapid desertification which has changed the grazing patterns of cattle. These clashes are not necessarily new, but since 2015, the disputes have become more frequent and violent. In 2018 alone, more than 2,000 people were killed in such clashes - more than the number killed in the past two years combined. The conflict now claims an estimated six times more than the Boko Haram crisis. The dispute is being politicised and is stirring ethnic and religious tensions, which is very dangerous in a deeply divided country like Nigeria.

Another sore point, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) is an Iranian backed Shia group in Nigeria. The leader of the group Ibraheem Zakzaky is opposed to the federal system of Nigeria, Israel, the US and also opposes secular governments. Correspondingly, Zakzaky has called for an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria. The group’s strong position on these issues and their regular protesting has resulted in clashes with security forces. However, recently these clashes have become more frequent and more violent. In 2015, the leader of the sect was arrested, and in 2016 a judicial inquiry revealed that the army had unlawfully killed 347 members of the group in Zaria state. Late last year, the security forces arrested 400 IMN members and allegedly killed dozens of civilians in the capital city Abuja and surrounding areas. According to Amnesty International, the security forces’ use of automatic weapons was an excessive and horrific use of force. This escalating violence, the emergence of a charismatic leader and excessive use of force by the Nigerian military are reminiscent of the rise of Boko Haram. President Buhari has to ensure that the army has learnt lessons from how they dealt with the then-emerging threat of Boko Haram, and make sure that the situation does not repeat itself.

Relatedly, the Niger Delta, the oil-producing core of Nigeria has for decades suffered from oil pollution which has led to the loss of livelihoods and sources of food for locals. The area has also been neglected by the federal government even though the bulk of the country’s fund comes from the region. In the last decade, clashes between armed groups in the area and the security forces reached an all-time high; kidnappings were rife, and oil infrastructure destroyed at a phenomenal rate. In 2016, one of the most prominent armed groups in the region, the Niger Delta Avengers (and other smaller groups), destroyed oil production infrastructure reducing production from 2.2 million barrels per day to the two decades low of 1.4 million barrels a day. The infrastructure vandalism contributed to the onset of one of Nigeria’s worst economic recessions on record. Efforts were made by the Buhari administration in its first term to address the grievances of the region. Nonetheless, the Niger Delta Avengers have just ended their ceasefire with the government claiming that the government has not made good on bringing peace and development to the region. There is every reason for the government to make efforts to better foster peace and development in the region especially given the havoc the Avengers (and similar groups) have already brought to the country.

One major immediate factor which has enhanced insecurity in Nigeria is the porous frontiers of the country, where individual movements are largely untracked. The porosity of Nigeria’s borders has serious security implications for the country. Given the porous borders as well as the weak and security system, weapons come easily into Nigeria from other countries. Small Arms and Light Weapons proliferation and the availability of these weapons have enabled militant groups and criminal groups to have easy access to arms. Nigeria is estimated to host over 70 per cent of about 8 million illegal weapons in West Africa. Also, the porosity of the Nigerian borders has made it possible for unwarranted influx of migrants from neighbouring countries such as the Republic of Niger, Chad and the Republic of Benin. These migrants which are mostly young men are some of the perpetrators of crime in the country. Again, as a result of the high level of unemployment and poverty among Nigerians, especially the youths, they are adversely attracted to violent crime. Failure of successive administrations in Nigeria to address challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequitable distribution of wealth among ethnic nationalities is one of the major causes of insecurity in the country.

Evidently, there has been a decline in foreign direct investment in Nigeria. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is usually investment targeted at building new factories or investing in actual production activities which create jobs. Foreign investors in the Nigerian economy are moving away from starting new companies or production plants and are buying up shares of quoted companies instead. Figures from the 2010 Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) annual report show a steep 78.1 per cent decline in foreign direct investment while also showing a significant 87.2 per cent increase in portfolio investment into the Nigerian economy to take advantage of the depression in the Nigeria stock market due to low economic activities. This can largely be attributed to the state of insecurity in the country besides the issue of lack of regular electricity supply, which itself is a source of economic insecurity in the country. And, it is imperative to underscore the fact that, security and development are also related in the sense that being a public good, the imperative to maintain security competes with other public goods such as education, health and infrastructure for public funds.  Insecurity, therefore, becomes a drain on local and national resources at the expense of development and peoples’ well-being thereby, having adverse consequences on economic growth and development.

As a matter of fact, cultivating the culture of good governance where the government is responsible and accountable to the people is a panacea to insecurity in the country; also enhancing socio-economic growth and development of the country, by creating an economy with relevant social, economic and physical infrastructure for business operations and industrial growth, to provide gainful employment, high-level education facilities and medical care for the people to deal with the perennial challenge of insecurity.

The formulation and effective implementation of policies and programmes capable of addressing the root causes of insecurity in Nigeria are crucial, especially with regard to poverty; unemployment, environmental degradation, injustice, corruption, porous borders and small arms proliferation. Therefore, efforts to tackle insecurity can only be effective if there is a robust combination of executive, legislative and judicial interventions with government reforms that address some of the acute human security challenges confronting a vast majority of the population in the country. Therefore, the new security roadmap should take into cognizance the totality of these issues to be able to make Nigeria a safe place for all to live in.