TIME TO REFORM SECURITY TACTICS (1)
At every possible forum, I have never shied away from advocating the necessity for a surgical reformation of the Nigerian security services. The persistent socio-political upheavals in the country eventuating in the audacious 'in your face' attack on the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force have further accentuated the necessity for this belated action.
The reality of terrorism and other anti-state violence is the exploitation of the inherent weaknesses in the operational capacity of the security services in order to demean the authority and vitiate the legitimacy of the government of the day. A weak security infrastructure certainly means a weak government. What is not in doubt to those of us who study and analyse security organisations and intelligence operations globally is that the Nigerian security services especially the police are not fit for purpose. They are operationally deficient, institutionally weak and structurally decayed.
The ascendancy of the irredentist Boko Haram group with its nihilist approach to social and political questions has further defined the incapacity of the Nigerian security services to protect the citizens, infrastructure and assets of the country. This failure had of course become increasingly apparent to most discerning minds since the 1980s when variegated ethno-religious, political and social conflicts began to brake out intermittently across the country reaching its apogee with the declaration of war against the Nigerian state by different ethno-economic militant groups in the Niger-Delta.
The Boko Haram movement has further elevated and expanded the narrative of violence especially those of the ethno-religious kind to new frontiers hitherto unthought-of, what with the deliberate murder of Pastors, Policemen, Soldiers and innocent citizens including those who subscribe to their own faith. This defiant narrative has included the bombing of churches, barracks and places of entertainment deemed aberrant by the sect all in their malevolent quest to ensure the adoption of extreme 'talibanic' brand of sharia the like of which was imposed on poor Afghans by the Taliban in their short-lived rulership of that pitiful country.
I have in the course of study engaged many security officers and experts who propound that perhaps the major impediment to the efficiency of the Police Force lies in its limited manpower. I never weary to interrogate this enervated premise and dismiss it as profoundly flawed, a simple yet studious analysis of the different operations of the force whether proactive or reactive will show that its major problem like that of other security services in the country lies in the failure of intelligence; that inability to identify, infiltrate, recruit and gather actionable intelligence. There is just too much emphasis on the Powellian doctrine of overwhelming force, which in its self is not bad but only when you are working with good intelligence.
Intelligence work is serious work; it is strategic in nature requiring long-term investment including keeping sleeper agents in place for years. It is expensive requiring the recruitment of financially influenced agents and informants at the highest operational level of the target group, the Americans paid five million dollars to the Iraqi informant who identified Saddam Hussein' hiding place in Tikrit. Intelligence gathering is physically, emotionally and intellectually demanding, requiring self-service, disciple of the mind and utmost dedication from operational commanders and agent handlers like Soviet Intelligence Officer Colonel Rudolph Abel who ran the highly successful spy ring in New York that stole U.S atomic secrets which enabled the Soviet Union to build her own nuclear bomb. More than anything else, intelligence work exacts patriotism, the kind of patriotism that propelled Mossad Officer Eli Cohen to infiltrate the highest levels of the Syrian military and government where he developed close relationships with the political and military hierarchy and became the Chief Adviser to the Minister of Defense.
Time to reform security tactics (2)
The intelligence he gathered is alleged to have been a significant factor in Israel's success in the Six Day War. The Special Branch Department of the Nigerian Police was at its height a pretty good service nipping most threats to state security in the bud either at the planning stages or before they became operational. The Special Branch was so well entrenched and pervasive that it successfully infiltrated most social, political and religious organisations in the country including Town unions, Churches, mosques, political parties and groups of interest to the state. The assassination of Murtala Mohammed in 1975 was the excuse needed by the military to subjugate the Special Branch Department under the control of Military Intelligence. In 1976, the Department was excised out of the police and merged with elements of Military Intelligence to form the Nigerian Security Organisation under then Colonel Abdullahi Mohammed. This singular action debilitated the police of its ability to engage in serious security and political intelligence gathering. The NSO did not fare better either because the efficiency of the Special Branch officers were subsumed under the leadership of officers from the Directorate of Military intelligence. The result was a service that relied less on pain-staking detective work, worked blind most times such as the failure to detect the Maitasine rebellion and emphasized executive protection and the overwhelming use of force in reaction to national security threats.
Whether in Zaki-Biam, Odi, the Niger-Delta or in the Boko-Haram stronghold of Borno, a cursory look at the operational style of the security services would show that there is a distinct over-reliance on crushing force which at the end of the day serves no strategic purpose as the absence of good actionable intelligence only results in the destruction of local infrastructure by the security forces while the operational masterminds behind the assault on the state and its agents remain at large only to respond viciously o the state' brutal actions months or years later.
The Nigerian Police requires a total, comprehensive overhaul of its operational infrastructure, assets and style. There is an urgent need to re-invigorate the Intelligence and Investigative Bureaus of the police both at the national and local levels. There is need to return to the halcyon days of the Special Branch. The FIIB and the various SIIB's are manifestly deficient in handling political and security intelligence, I recommend that assets be deployed from the Department of State Services to manage the administrative functions and operational acvities of the FIIB and the SIIB's for a period of ten years to allow for the efficient capability of the Bureau to undertake security intelligence operations as well as train police officers attached to the Bureau to appreciate the nuances of political and security intelligence operations. This move will also encourage an environment that promotes investigative, operational style tempered with analytical curiosity which the police no doubt lack. I note however that the problem of encouraging intelligence analysis and imaginative, critical thinking is a problem all the security services in the country have as a result of their history and environment especially the military years which geared them towards internal security, criminal investigation, and anti-subversive activities.
Furthermore, there is an imperative to interrogate the method of appointing the leadership of the Nigerian police Force. The pertinent questions to ask include; must the Federal or state police chiefs be police officers? Can the ventilation and assimilation of new ideas and new paradigms on effective policing be guaranteed by someone who has been bureaucratized in the system for over thirty years? What is wrong with an officer of the National intelligence Agency or the Department of State Services or a serving or retired judge heading the police force? Wouldn't the adoption of external leadership from outside the police assist the force appreciate better he limitations in the way it operates, makes use of the product of its operations and in evaluating whether the operations themselves are really worthwhile. The questions are by no means exhaustive. I posit that the institutionalization of the leadership of the police within its calcified bureaucracy has done more harm than good.
In addition the Nigerian Police Force needs to be situated within the context of contemporary modern policing methods that emphasize the use of science and technology to reach acceptable judicial conclusions. At the last count, the force had only a sole forensic laboratory in Lagos that lacks the basic functionalities of a serious police lab. The Jonathan administration needs to ensure that each state police command owns its own forensic lab while extensive training of police officers in science based evidence gathering should be undertaken as a matter of urgent national importance.
With no coherent counter-terrorism strategy, there is need for the Office of the National Security Adviser and the office of the Coordinator on Counter-terrorism to adopt a strategy that places the assets and capabilities of the Military at the heart of this strategy in order to effectively confront the challenges posed by nihilist counter-state actors. The intelligence corps of the Army, Air Force and Navy has as a result of long years of military rule been better trained and better infrastructured to challenge counter-state activities.
Intelligence is the key to national security. It was strategic intelligence planning and operations that led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden and hundreds of Al-Qaeda operatives and commanders across the globe. It is proper intelligence that has allowed the state of Israel to terminate without prejudice those who threaten its survival. It is good intelligence not heavy handed response that will secure peace for Nigeria