As the nation prepares for 2019 election, internal security remains one of the greatest tasks before security agencies in the country. TARKAA DAVID takes a look at the expected roles of security agencies during the elections.
The 2019 general elections is less than three months away and the expectations from international community and the Nigerians remain high. Many consider the election as a critical point in the history of nation’s nascent democracy, based on the relevance of Nigeria amongst comity of nations.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has slated the general elections for 16 February, 2019. So far, 91 political parties will be participating in the elections; the tussle according to pundits will be basically between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the nation’s major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Tension is already high with the duo throwing jabs at each other. Just like the 2015 general elections, prophets of doom prophesy massive rigging and attendant violence and possible disintegration of Nigeria; the nation should prove these prophets wrong again.
Already Nigeria has been faced with many security challenges threatening its territorial integrity ranging from Boko Haram Terrorists and recently the Herdsmen/Farmers’ clashes and armed banditry amongst others.
The security of electoral materials, INEC officials and press remains vital in these elections; hence there is need for an effective coordination of security agencies.
Just recently, security operatives in the country raised the alarm of plans by some groups to disrupt the processes leading to the 2019 elections. The evil plan, according to security agencies, was for the groups to create a stalemate.
The Department of State Services (DSS), also identified insecurity as a major threat to the 2019 general election in the country. The DSS made this submission at a presentation made before the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the Current Security Infrastructure in Nigeria headed by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan.
The secret service raised the alarm over the bleak outlook of the 2019 general election with all the hate speeches and insecurity prevailing in the polity.
Similarly, the chief of army staff, Lt General Yusuf Buratai, on his part, identified the country’s major security challenges to include Boko Haram threats, militancy, cultism, secessionist and extremist groups, inter-ethnic, religious and communal violence.
Buratai was also said to have identified impediments to combating internal security challenges to include absence of governance and ungoverned space, inadequate intelligence information sharing mechanisms among security agencies, inadequate resourcing of security agencies, administration of criminal justice system, porous borders and poor border controls, poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities and cultural and social impediments.
With these challenges and identified problems, it is glaring that there are clear indications of challenges and hurdles the nation’s security agencies must combat to ensure hitch free polls. Hence, the urgency and importance or developing and employing security measures so as to prevent, contain or control factors that trigger disorder and violence during elections. A positive approach basically ensures neutrality of security agencies.
The global terrorism index ranked the Fulani Herdsmen the fourth most dangerous group in the world. This means that they are in the axis of evil with Boko Haram, Isis, and al-Shabab.
The herdsmen have reportedly killed more than 2000 persons in the last two years and still counting.
The January killings in Benue State drew outrage, most Nigerians calling on the federal government to designate the herdsmen a terrorist organisation.
Observers of the polity are of the view that killings by herdsmen may make or mar President Buhari ‘s chances in 2019. The thinking is that it seems President Buhari is towing the same line with former President Goodluck Jonathan who treated Boko Haram with kid gloves and paid dearly for it.
Although, President Muhammadu Buhari, the APC flagbearer, has been accused of treating the herdsmen with kid’s gloves, an allegation the presidency has come out several times to refute, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, had said such killings by herdsmen predated the Buhari administration.
He, however, affirmed that ensuring the security of lives and property of the citizens is the responsibility of government, noting that the present administration is determined to fulfill this obligation.
He said, “Something that is disturbing that I have heard about it is linking those developments to the fact that a Fulani man is president and so, he is brooking such kind of evil acts. I think that is very unkind. And I will try to back my position with statistics.’’
In response to this myriad of security challenges, the various security agencies have been tasked on several occasions to step up their game and nip the problems in the bud.
First is to shift from being reactive in the face of security threats to being proactive, gathering intelligence and arresting perpetrators before they strike.
Though it remains the responsibility of the Nigerian Police to enforce civil laws, due to their lack of man power and equipment, sister agencies are often dragged into calm most domestic unrest thereby most times doing more harm than good regarding human rights of the citizens.
The military, in a bid to enforce civil authority gets exposed to issues of right abuses, many believe the allegations come due to the fact that military personnel are not trained to enforce civil authority but to be brutal in the face of incursions.
Only recently, the Office of the National Security Adviser raised the alarm about disgruntled politicians stockpiling arms against the 2019 election.
The security chiefs reportedly raised concerns over the possible breakdown of law and order before, during and after the 2019 general election.
Col Tukur Gusau, the public relations officer to the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, disclosed this in a statement issued at the end of the meeting.
According to the statement, the meeting with the President started by discussing the general overview of the security situation in the country as it relates to the conduct of the forthcoming 2019 general election.
The meeting was said to have recommended the deployment of security agencies in states to enable the elections to be conducted peacefully and to further douse tension created by the outcomes of the political parties’ primaries and some desperate persons to sabotage the electoral process.
“The meeting also discussed an attempt to put pressure on the electoral body by some notable personalities through demonstrations which were brought under control by combined efforts of security agencies to avoid being hijacked by hoodlums and bandits.
“Another area of security concern includes post-election violence, as desperate politicians may whip up ethno-religious sentiments to create a security situation in the country.
“Also of concern is the proliferation and stockpiling of weapons by some disgruntled elements with a desire to take the law into their own hands at the slightest opportunity.
“The council called for the concerted efforts of all security agencies to ensure that 2019 elections are hitch-free and the need for continuous sensitisation of the public by the National Orientation Agency and regular meetings of relevant stakeholders including the Independent National Electoral Commission, international/ local observers and the media ahead of the elections.”
Those who attended the meeting with the president included the minister; National Security Adviser, Babangana Monguno; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar; and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, among others.
The meeting was held a few days after Boko Haram insurgents killed a midwife with the International Committee of the Red Cross,
Though the disclosure has been made there has not been any recorded success made to recover these weapons, weapons in the hands of non-state actors will only drift us to a position of anarchy if not checked.
Since security operatives are aware of the gathering storm against the coming election, it is expected that issues of dishonesty and lack of trust for the nation’s security apparatus be check to build trust between both parties and not a show of force.