Security expert, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, speaks on the issues raised by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma and others security challenges in the country
How can Nigeria be secured?
The security challenges facing Nigeria are quite complex. There is a broad threat spectrum ranging from assault to suicide terrorism (Person Borne Improvised Explosive Device, PBIED, threat). Almost every state in the country is affected by grave security threats.
The authorities appear to be overwhelmed. At present, the military is running JTF operations in 34 out of 36 states of the country. The Police have been relegated to the background, in direct contravention of the constitutional mandate to be in charge of internal security.
The “self-defense” and “be vigilant” advice given by Gen. T.Y. Danjuma was quite apt. Every citizen has the right to protect him/herself and his/her property. That is an inalienable right. If someone should attack you with a knife, you will not simply offer your throat to be slit; you will instinctively raise your hand in defensive maneuvers and possibly disarm the adversary, if you are trained in the martial arts.
Danjuma recognised the relative ineffectiveness of the security officials to protect the farmers from the herders and vice versa.
Going forward, I suggest that we create a programme in every state and local government area called the Community Security Defense Shield. In this programme, vigilance groups are organised in every community and they report to a coordinator and are recognised by the Police and the local government intelligence chief.
The vigilance group members should patrol and defend the community and call the Police when the threat exceeds their capacity to contain. As provided in S14 CPA, all arrested persons shall be promptly handed over to the Police for arraignment and prosecution. If a threat exceeds the powers of the police, then the threat could be escalated to the military.
Vigilance group members should receive a salary of N10, 000 per month for their services. These men and women should have hunters among them, armed with shotguns to provide firepower.
You might want to consider it as Citizens on Patrol (CoP). The benefit is that it will eliminate the phenomenon of ungoverned spaces in the country. The stipend for the vigilance group should be sourced from the security votes of the governors.
What do you make of Gen. Danjuma’s statement?
The statement was intended as a wake-up call to the citizens and the governments. It sought to dispel false hopes by citizens that the security threat would be solved miraculously. The General told his kinsmen that the solution to the problem of incessant herders’ violence laid with them.
I don’t agree that the statement was an invitation to anarchy. The statement was actually meant to avert further bloodshed. The self-defence doctrine is rooted in the right to life of the citizen.
How true are his allegations?
Nigerians are being slaughtered quite frequently by armed herder militia, who claim that they have a right to graze on colonial grazing routes. In 2017, herder militia killed about 700 persons. Most of these killings occurred in Lau Council of Taraba State, Agatu Guma and Logo Councils of Benue State, Nimbo in Enugu State and others. So, the allegation of mass murder is correct.
The second allegation is that some military personnel are not neutral and they assist the aggressors. This is a glittering generalisation. It is only in a few known cases that service members would misbehave. The military is the strength of the nation and protects Nigerians against Boko Haram insurgents, ISIS in West Africa, Camerounian gendarmes, Don Waney, the kidnapper and mass murderer and sundry anarchists in this country. In fact, the Nigerian service member is over-worked and under-appreciated.
Clearly, the allegations against wrongdoing by service members should be investigated and errant members purged to restore full trust in the impartiality and incorruptibility of the military.
Military personnel are human beings and all human beings are subject to bias. Subjectivity by military personnel are sociological facts that are subsumed by inter-subjectivity and thus become objective. A service personnel whose wife is from Taraba State would feel some affinity with that state.
However, he knows that whatever decision he makes will be reviewed by his superiors. So, he would try to be objective.
The point here is that the integrity and capacity of the leadership of the military as an institution is what we can count on to reduce bias.
How seriously should the allegations be taken?
I don’t think that any right-thinking person would dismiss Danjuma’s words casually. President Muhammadu Buhari recently visited Benue, Taraba and Zamfara states on condolence visits because of the carnage that had occurred in those states.
Buhari served as the consoler-in-chief. If there had not been mass murders in those states, the President wouldn’t have undertaken the tour. His visit to the most affected states enabled him see first-hand, the level of devastation that took place during the attacks.
Danjuma raised an important alarm. It behooves the government to listen.
What is your take on criminal activities in the country?
It is too much! Nigeria has more than its fair share of violent crimes and terrorism. The crime control agencies and counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism officials must work hard to address the security challenges.
Nigerians are now openly questioning why the government is unable or unwilling to keep its part of the social contract, where government guarantees us security and welfare in exchange for our obedience.
I observe a lot of intellectual incapacity and laziness on the part of many government officials. The political elite must redefine their mission to be “service” rather than “progress” or “power.” Our leaders must commit to serve us and do so indeed. Nigeria can then achieve its potential for greatness.
I remember then General Muhammadu Buhari’s interview with Kaye Whiteman of West Africa Magazine in 1984. When he was asked to sum up his mission as a military head of state, he answered “service.”
Do all these not support the calls for state Police?
I support vigilantism, but I am opposed to state Police, which I see as an attempt by unscrupulous politicians to acquire more coercive powers with which to hound their opponents to hell.
We have many quasi-state police agencies in Lagos State, including LASTMA, KAI, Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps, Neighborhood Watch, and so on. State Police will lead to the speedy destruction of Nigeria, as we know it. Pride goeth before a fall.