It is time to rethink our national security architecture. The current security architecture in place today was created by the military and largely upheld by the 1999 constitution. The Nigerian Police was the first security agency created by the colonial government in 1820 to maintain internal security in the protectorates. For most part of the colonial period they performed conventional police functions and supported the prisons, immigration and customs. The Nigerian Army dates to 1863 when the local force known as Glover Hausas was organised to mount punitive expedition by Lt. Glover. These two forces defined the security system put in place by the colonial administration with the sole aim of protecting its interest and controlling the colonised people of Nigeria. That goal was largely achieved as the British suppressed and colonised the Nigerian people successfully while extracting natural resources peacefully.
Independence and civil war led to the growth and expansion of the Police and the Military. Particularly the military era saw to the end of native authority policing system and the emergence of a national police force. The Nigeria Army expansion and growth was inspired by the civil war and the need to quell future secessionist tendencies. By 1976 the special branch of the Nigerian Police metamorphosed to the National Security Organisation, which was primarily a reaction to the Col. Dimka failed coup that killed General Murtala Mohammed. Decree 16 of 1976 created the Nigeria Security Organisation (NSO) with the mandate to work for “the prevention and detection of any crime against the security of Nigeria; b) the protection and preservation of all classified matter concerning or relating to the security of Nigeria; and c) such other purposes, whether within or without Nigeria, as the Head of the Federal Military Government may deem necessary with a view to securing the maintenance of the security of Nigeria”
From the mandate, we can deduce that the NSO was primarily a regime protector designed by the military to checkmate regime change. By the time General Buhari was overthrown the NSO had become a gestapo police enforcing regime mandate. The security architecture designed by General Babangida was primarily to dismantle the NSO and respond to the growing complexity of regime protection and national security needs that was fast changing. The remapping of the security architecture led to the promulgation of National Security Agencies Decree 19 of 1986 which unbundled the NSO and created the State Security Service, National Intelligence Agency and Defence Intelligence Agency. The Decree listed their responsibilities as follows: General duties of the National Security Agencies
“The Defence Intelligence Agency shall be charged with responsibility for-the prevention and detection of crime of a military nature against the security of Nigeria; the protection and preservation of all military classified matters concerning the security of Nigeria, both within and outside Nigeria; such other responsibilities affecting defence intelligence of a military nature, both within and outside Nigeria, as the President, or the Chief of Defence Staff, as the case may be, may deem necessary.
“The National Intelligence Agency shall be charged with responsibility for- the general maintenance of the security of Nigeria outside Nigeria, concerning matters that are not related to military issues; and such other responsibilities affecting national intelligence outside Nigeria as the National Defence Council or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.
“The State Security Service shall be charged with responsibility for- the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.”
The 1986 reform of the security agencies was in line with the character of the Gen. Babangida regime which was bold in thinking and reform minded. The security architecture of that time was a direct response to the challenges of that time and served its purpose for many years. At the dawn of democracy, the agencies worked well in protecting the nascent democracy and helped it to navigate the rough waters of governance.
By 2003 the first signs of stress arising from the Niger Delta agitations and militancy began to rear its head. The rise, growth and mutation of the militant groups appeared to have caught our security services napping as they held the nation at the jugular. It led to President Obasanjo having meeting with militants at the Presidential villa advertising the helplessness of our security agencies. President Yar’ Adua had to cobble together an Amnesty program to contain the embarrassing situation of weak state capacity.
In 2010 Boko Haram rose to national consciousness with the killing of the leader of the sect and the subsequent terror unleashed by the group. Again, the growth, evolution, radicalisation and militarisation of the sect caught the national security system pants down. The war this time unlike the Niger Delta agitation, found manure in religious fundamentalism that could not be placated with an amnesty. The story of Boko Haram and its terror machine is well known but the lessons of its emergence and sustained war machine needs interrogation.
The take is that the security architecture designed in 1986 and the institutional framework created by the 1999 constitution are totally inadequate for today’s security challenges. The trajectory of crime, national security challenges and cross-border crimes cannot be understood and dealt with by yesterday’s institutions. A redefinition of our concept of security in line with new trends and mutants is sorely needed.
The event of the past few years that has placed Nigeria high on the Global Terror Index and consumed more souls than September 11 requires a national enquiry. The rise of kidnapping, criminal herdsmen, pipeline vandalism and armed militancy requires that we remap our security network to reflect the complexity of the situation. A remapping of our security system will require new definitions, new regulatory and institutional framework and new personnel recruitment and training strategy. The experience of Niger Delta militants, Boko Haram, kidnappers, cross border herdsmen and marauders clearly indicate either the absence of intelligence or failure to act.
Next week I will share my thoughts on the possible pathways to redefine and remap our security architecture to reflect the needs and challenges of the 21st century.