By Rekpene Bassey
A gang of heavily armed militia struck last Sunday, 7 January 2024 around Dogon-Fili near Katari, along the Kaduna- Abuja highway at about 2130 hours. The armed criminals, kidnappers apparently, took with them about 30 victims. Available sources have it that about 58 people have so far been abducted around the Kaduna general area alone in the process of which 17 others were killed. The foregoing paints a gory picture of the growing security situation in the country.
As the specter of insecurity looms large over Nigeria, it poses a formidable challenge that demands immediate and comprehensive attention. From the pernicious activities of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West African Province in the North East to the armed Fulani militias and cattle rustlers in the North Central, down to the Independent People of Biafra in the South East, the nation grapples with a multifaceted security crisis. Even in the strategic regions of the oil-rich Niger Delta and the South West, incidents of kidnapping, vandalism, and serious crimes persist, casting a pervasive shadow of insecurity.
This unsettling reality extends even to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, once celebrated as a haven. Recent surges in violent crimes such as kidnapping, car snatching, armed robbery, ritual murders, and attacks by one-chance commercial vehicle operators have tarnished its reputation for safety. Disturbing incidents have been reported in areas like Abaji, Bwari, Kwali, and Kuje council areas, resulting in abductions and tragic loss of lives.
This alarming state of affairs is particularly unacceptable for Abuja, a city that serves as the political epicenter, the face of Nigeria, and the diplomatic hub hosting all embassies and high commissions in the country.
In light of these pressing challenges, a proactive and decisive approach is indispensable, calling for a radical rebranding of the nation’s security architecture. The following expanded and nuanced recommendations are proposed; beginning with a demonstration of strong political will.
Demonstrating political will involves not just rhetoric but tangible actions aligned with the constitutional mandate outlined in Section 14(2b) of the 1999 Constitution, which declares that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. This includes a commitment to decisive measures against insecurity.
In furtherance of any rebranding measure is the imperative of rechristening the Nigeria Police Force to the Nigeria Police Service. The essence of this is a reflection of the fact that the police represent the security face of the civil populace as first responders to internal security challenges. This is without disregard for the fact that they perform paramilitary duties. Renaming the Force to a Service is just the beginning. Decentralizing its operations is crucial for responsiveness, and the establishment of State Police is imperative to address localized crime effectively.
Another key step going forward is the need for community policing. Establishing robust community policing systems requires not only the deployment of personnel but also the fostering of community engagement, trust-building initiatives, and collaborative efforts between law enforcement and residents.
A comprehensive overhaul should not only focus on structural changes but also emphasize the democratization of police leadership. The proposal to elect officers from the rank of commissioners and above ensures a more inclusive and accountable leadership structure.
The transformation of recruitment processes should involve a shift towards merit-based selection, emphasizing qualifications and transparency. This move is significant in eliminating the shadows of nepotism and political favoritism.
It is also important to critically look at systemic inequality. Addressing inequality requires a concerted effort to entrench national values of equity, justice, and good conscience. This should encompass policy initiatives, legal reforms, and public awareness campaigns to foster a more just and inclusive society.
Modernizing the training methods in our security architecture should involve not only adapting to contemporary challenges but also instilling a culture of continuous learning and adaptability within the armed forces and security services.
No meaningful rebranding of our security architecture can occur without looking at the welfare of the members of our armed forces and security services. A comprehensive review of wages, remuneration, and incentives for service personnel should be undertaken, ensuring that they meet or exceed minimum global standards. This should include robust insurance coverage for those deployed in high-risk operations.
Acquiring and implementing cutting-edge structural measures and communication technology is indispensable for intelligence gathering. Adequate budgetary allocations are critical to ensuring the successful integration of these technologies into the existing security infrastructure.
A comprehensive review would entail taking a panoramic view of the polity from a sociological perspective. Tackling the root causes of insecurity involves not only acknowledging but actively addressing pervasive issues such as poverty, unemployment, and underemployment. A proposed Marshall Plan for the New Nigerian Youth should encompass targeted interventions, skill development initiatives, and comprehensive economic reforms.
In conclusion, the proposed rebranding of Nigeria’s security architecture signifies a strategic and urgent initiative to combat the escalating insecurity across the nation. This comprehensive approach not only addresses structural changes but also emphasises the need for a paradigm shift in mindset, governance, and societal values to create a more secure and resilient Nigeria. This blueprint seeks to pave the way for a safer, more prosperous future for all Nigerians.
Rekpene Bassey is the President of the African Council on Narcotics (ACON). He is also a Security and Drug Prevention Professional