There have been divergent views as regards the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the recent presidential approval, permitting it to bear arms. CHRISTIANA ESEBONU writes that while some think it is a step in the right direction, others are saying that the time is not ripe enough for the Civil Defenders to bear arms.
Controversies have continued to greet the recent efforts to recognise the credible contributions of the Civil Defence Corps to national development and the decision by President Goodluck Jonathan and his Counterparts in the National Assembly, to grant approval to the Corps, permitting it to implement the provisions of its amended Act 2007, which empowers it to bear arms.
However, over five hundred personnel of the NSCDC who will form the nucleus of the Civil Defence Armed Squad, were in the last three months subjected to intensive training in arms and weapons handling at the Prisons Armed Squad College, Imo State, in order to help the Corps expand its operations.
This arms empowerment for the Corps, basically aimed at paving way for the organisation to contribute its quota was also extended to about 800 personnel at the Prisons Armed Squad, Kaduna, for general knowledge in arms bearing to also enable security beef-up in the country, given the unfolding trend of insecurity in the country.
It is no longer news that security of lives and property is a sine qua non for enduring progress and development of any nation. In other words, the concept of development can only be complete against the backdrop of peace of mind of the average citizens in a particular country or society.
In Nigeria, the security situation in recent time has become precarious, posing serious challenges to the survival of the nation as well as her fledgling polity. Aside conventional crimes which happen on a daily basis across the country, the new dimension of security threats posed by the vicious Boko Haram sect has continued to task government’s capability to contain security crisis and provide a clement environment necessary for development.
It is probably against this backdrop and the seeming proclivity of government security institutions to rise to the challenges of combating nefarious crimes in the country, that the present day government took the timely decision to empower the Civil Defence Corps.
While Some critics described President Jonathan’s action as a genuine mistake and blamed him for failing to realize that the time is not ripe enough for the Civil Defenders to bear arms, others were of the view that, the output and input of any proactive security organisation depended immensely on how equipped it was and thus, maintained that the crux of the matter is performance.
Some security expert who are in support of the decision said, the Corps have performed wonderfully well in the course of delivering on its mandates, hence, the official recognition and constitutional mandate to carry out some paramilitary functions, and as such, the corps should be armed in view of the hazardous nature of its operations.
Barrister Maureen Ibekwe argued that since it became a full-fledge paramilitary, the Corps, has been able to put an end to the activities of vandals of oil pipes, petroleum products, telecoms cables and other government properties.
Barrister Samuel Obiora on his part, posited that they were not being sympathetic to the idea of arming NSCDC as claimed by the opposition, but where solely behind the idea that the Corps armed to handle conflict and riots, given the fact also that insecurity and other nefarious crimes have become the order of the day, a challenge that cannot be nipped by a single security agency as already shown with the spate of bombings so far recorded in the country.
Another lawmaker, Barrister Jack Agbo has this to say; ‘With the soaring security challenges that confront Nigeria across the board, I strongly associate myself with the call to fully integrate the NSCDC with the country’s traditional security infrastructure.
“To this extent, I also fully agree with President Goodluck Jonathan’s approval that its personnel begin to bear arms. My position in this respect is fairly understandable. How would unarmed security personnel confront an armed and violent criminal? It just does not add up. With an evidently increased role in the country’s security, it is only natural that the Civil Defence Corps should be properly kitted to play that role.
“Of course, public apprehension about another security outfit bearing arms is understandable. Most of the existing armed security organisations, especially the police, have sometimes left in their wake a bitter experience for the citizens – such experiences as when citizens are shot for mere N20 at checkpoints or just gunned down on account of ‘accidental discharge’. Sometimes, weapons of unscrupulous police personnel find their way into the hands of criminals. These and many others are real concerns. But in my view, it is not just arms or guns for the NSCDC, but proper training both in arms handling civil etiquette.
“As their name implies, Civil Defence must combine the professionalism of a security outfit with the civil ethos of profound respect for the rights of citizens. In this way, it will justify the confidence reposed in it by some people and allay the justified fears, clearly expressed by others.
“As a body, it has over the years, since its establishment, discharged its duty creditably, complementing sister security organisations in the duty of managing our security concerns. However, there is a general understanding that our security challenges have grown wider in scope.”
Agbo added that, “Transitional economies and polities carry unique baggage of social tension which manifests in deviant behaviour like violent crimes, social, political and religious bodies expressing themselves in extra-legal ways and measures. While all these tendencies cannot all be contained, proactive security measures especially intelligence gathering can nip the worst of their outcomes in the bud”.
Describing the decision as too hasty, Mr. Edmund Uwazirike of Conscience Nigeria who, cited what he described as a show of shame exhibited by the Civil Defenders, when what was supposed to be a friendly match between Manchester United Football Club and Portsmouth Football Club both of England in preparation of the 2010/2011 premiership season at the national stadium Abuja, turned a nightmare to many spectators because of the uncomplimentary activities of the members of NSCDC.
The security expert who however acknowledged that the NSCDC started well pointed out that unfolding events indicates that their image is fast degenerating. “Already, officers and men of the Corps dented their image, portrayed the organisation in bad light as well as an enemy to some Nigerians, especially those that witnessed what happened during the football encounter.”
For him, there are no bases to rank the men of the NSCDC as equals with other para military outfits such as Police, Customs, Immigration, prison warders and Federal Road Safety Corps.
The analyst explained that the logic is that, if the police that is occasionally trained, still kill innocent people through accidental discharge, then the bearing of arms by the NSCDC implies putting too many weapons in the wrong hands to circulate in Nigerian and loss of life, because they are not civil and trained enough in the handling of arms.
It is a known fact that our dear nation is faced with several threats, including terrorist bombings, kidnapping, armed banditry, militancy and small arms proliferation, and as such there is a need for all and sundry to give their unalloyed support to the men and officers of the Corps to boost their moral for proper service delivery.
This is because, insecurity in Nigeria has assumed an alarming rate that it requires deeper reflections on how to confront the menace rather than condemning efforts aimed at curbing it. The threats to security at this stage are obviously ‘real’ and not perceived or imagined needing a constructive and proactive approach.
To this end, it is therefore worth appealing that, in the process of deeper reflection, for our great country to get it right, we must consider a clear departure from the usual condemnation and criticisms and focus more on welcoming and appreciating good and result oriented measures
This to the best of my knowledge would invariably reduce the effect of the sustained demoralized security agency under democratic governance. While we need to focus on applauding good motives, recent insecurity events have raised serious concerns about the handicapped nature or inadequate security personnel to match the teaming dubious criminal groups.
In the contemporary age of high technology and sophisticated surveillance devices, matching adequate and well equipped personnel with timely information still remains relevant. It is believed that our intelligence prowess could be enhanced if we have security agents that are not exposed to dangers (well equipped). Thus, the open ended question which provokes deeper reflection includes; Does our security agencies collaborate on intelligence gathering, and do we have credible intelligence operatives and security agencies that have not being compromised?
NSCDC is a para-military agency of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is commissioned to provide measures against threat and other forms of attack or disaster against the nation and its citizenry. The corps is statutorily empowered by lay Act No. 2 of 2003 and amended by Act 6 of 4th June 2007.
The Corps is empowered to among other things, institute legal proceedings for or on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against any person or persons suspected to have committed an offence.
Contacted, the Corps Public Relations Officer, Mr Okeh Emmanuel declined to comment, saying his organisation would do so at the appropriate time.