TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

Mitigating Insecurity in Nigeria through Cutting-Edge Technology

Click for Full Image Size

Whenever national security is mentioned what expectedly comes to mind is rule of law or effective maintenance of law and order. But although majority of people consider great military might as the pivot of national security, scholars believe otherwise. In fact, besides military power, political security (fundamental human rights), economic security, environmental security, energy and natural resources security, cyber security and empowerment of women are all now considered as integral and complementary for national security. So, as we tie all that together, national security could be defined as:

an all-encompassing condition in which individual citizens live in freedom, peace and safety; participate fully in the process of governance; enjoy the protection of fundamental rights; have access to resources and the basic necessities of life; and inhabit an environment which is not detrimental to their health and well-being (South Africa White Paper on Defence, 1996).

Benchmarked against those ideals, is national security not becoming a mirage for many countries, including Nigeria? And should that surprise anybody? Outside the pure sciences, outcomes predicated on flirting human nature or the behavioral sciences will always vary over place and time.

Therefore, security challenges have and will continue to be part of human existence. Yes; although good governance is the first line of defence and a preemptive strike against insecurity, it is a well-known fact that even egalitarian societies have security worries. Is that not why among other security measures, gigantic perimeter fences like the Great Wall of China surrounded ancient cities? And why today, surveillance cameras among other security gadgetry are competing for space on the streets and skies of advanced democracies like Britain, U.S., France, Canada, etc.?

However, I concur that in recent history, there is no parallel to this time when talk of security consciousness or awareness has gained so much currency. On the face of security threats escalating both in sophistication and scale, nations are continually cautioning nationals and residents alike: 'be security conscious' or 'be vigilant'. Also, outright travel bans to certain places have become frequent like a recent one by the U.S. against a continental hotel down this street (Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way, Maryland, Lagos State) - a ban which our amiable governor - His Excellency Gov. Raji Fashola, SAN could fault only on protocols.

All that confirms a rising tide in insecurity requiring mitigating measures or security plans with all-time relevance. For that to happen, periodic monitoring for variations in all factors impinging on our security is more than ever an imperative. So, let us pinpoint the very factors fueling insecurity in Nigeria. These factors which have both national and global origins include: regional economic integrations, lax post-cold war borders/proliferation in small arms; contradictions of globalization, commercialization/convergence of technologies; orphaned insurgencies struggling for survival; fall of dictatorships and weak or failing states; crime pliant technological innovations; viral effect of sensational crime reportage; bad governance/identity politicking and finally; country specific socio-economic problems.

Of all, the external factors are more to blame than prevalent internal factors within the borders of individual countries. That is because relative security subsisted until the historic technological innovations and radical changes in global politics that ushered in great socio-economic opportunities along with corresponding challenges for both national and global security. Below is a quick run-down on the how and the why:

1. Regional Economic Integrations, Lax Post-Cold War Borders and Proliferation in Small Arms - While integration of the world by science and technology is virtual, the end of the Cold War between capitalist and communist nations literally broke both natural and artificial barriers to free trade and movement of nationals of the world. However, it is not cheering news all the way. Criminals are latching on the new found freedom of movement and association to step up their own activities across porous international borders. For instance, trafficking in small arms is reaching for the sky with rising violent crimes as the consequence. Countries sharing borders with others who are either at war or just emerging from war are worst hit. As recent as September 7, 2012 the UN stunned the world with a revelation of over 850 million illegal small arms being in wrong hands across the world. Although nations have pledged to combat small arms trafficking, how far they succeed is uncertain because trade in small arms is the mainstay of many economies besides the hurdle of official bureaucracy. So, for some time to come small arms would continue to slip through porous international borders to fuel armed violence globally.

2. Contradictions of Globalization, Commercialization and Convergence of Technologies - Globalization expands markets for goods and services but not the benefits, across international borders. As industrialized countries leverage on their capacity to compete globally, more of their citizens are employed and even the unemployed enjoy handsome social welfare packages made possible by trade surpluses. Yet, those egalitarian societies still covertly or overtly discourage overpopulation. But a mono-product economy like Nigeria is doing the opposite by basing statutory allocations to tiers of government on population census figures.

Besides, Nigeria is encouraging overpopulation even as government enterprises are being privatized or commercialized and technologies keep converging with computerization or automation drastically cutting labour requirements in industry and commerce. And as corroborated by Mr. Steve Wozniak - Apple Inc. co-founder, companies are being forced to routinely go for acquisitions or mergers to survive; needless to add that thousands of jobs are being wiped away in the process. That partially explains the rising crime wave as many unemployed are taking to anything, including crime to survive harsh economic realities. That is the more reason we must pray hard no bandwagon effect follows the reported U.S' dumping of our crude oil for shale gas? Otherwise, the security consequences are better imagined than witnessed, given our over-dependence on oil exports to the neglect of other possible foreign exchange earners.

3. Orphaned Insurgencies Struggling for Survival - The statecraft of sponsoring armed insurgencies or rebel groups by a sovereign state against another for political reasons was notably used during the Cold War. And in the forefront were the U.S. and the former USSR - the exponents of capitalism and communism respectively who used proxy militant groups to defend their ideologies across the globe. But those sponsored insurgencies were swiftly abandoned to an uncertain future after the cold war. And while some of them reintegrated into civil society to survive, others quickly adapted - visiting violence on their civil populace as old habits hardly die. So, it is no surprise that here in Nigeria, political thugs abandoned by politicians after elections continue to take to crime to survive.

4. Fall of Dictatorships and Weak or Failing States - After the Cold War and much later, the 'Arab Spring', the fall of dictatorships in many countries either gave way or is giving way to weak and in some cases failing states with attendant security problems. Except in countries like Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, etc. where an orgy of violence was successfully arrested, the state of insecurity in others is cancerous to regional security with relaxed post-cold war borders facilitating free movement. For instance, with insurgents overrunning Mosul last week just after earlier annexing Faluja both in Iraq, there is fear for regional security in the Persian Gulf. Nearer home, there is now a consensus among Western African governments that the Boko Haram insurgency could fester along their common coast if all hands are not on deck to see off the insurgency.

5. Crime Pliant Technological Innovations - The huge benefits of advances in information and communications technology are not in doubt. However, besides legitimate uses, criminals are using technologies to facilitate as well as shield their activities from the prying eyes of law enforcement agencies. With computers, cell phones and the Internet, criminals are now capable of obtaining, processing and protecting information almost without trail for law enforcement purposes. Aside monetary value of losses in technology facilitated violent crimes, enormity of the recently reported $575 billion global loss to cybercrime involving identity thefts and denials of service, shows why cyber security is now imperative for national security. Yet, due to our rotation and zoning polity that is turning public service to personal service, Nigeria is one of those countries developing goose pimples over adopting proactive measures to filter both telecommunication and cyber traffics.

6. Viral Effect of Sensational Crime Reportage - The profound integration of the world by technology and revolutionary global politics is witnessing a corresponding rise in the speed at which happenings in any region of the world spread and impact others. With the cell phone, proliferation of 24-hour television news networks and the Internet, happenings in any country spread quickly around the world. Besides all that, sensational reportage by both the print and electronic media is not helping matters either as the criminally minded are emboldened to replicate happenings in other lands in their own environments. That is why there are now grassroot terrorists who think globally and act locally especially where governments are neither representative nor responsive. However, to curb all that the government should take a cue from advanced democracies instead of reminding us of the inglorious military era.

7. Bad Governance and Identity Politicking - According to Frederick Douglass:

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that the society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, persons nor property will be safe.

In some countries, bad governance is giving room for self-styled messiahs to lash onto popular sentiments to organize insurgencies into which hitherto law-abiding citizens flock in desperation for economic salvation. And because of insurgents' broader plans to radically change their societies, violence is becoming perennial in many countries. Insurgents' uncompromising attitude and penchant for linking local conflicts to larger struggles cannot but be volatile in pluralistic societies including Nigeria.

I am not giving a separate subhead to country-specific socio-economic factors because they are better discussed relative to their global counterparts. And as you would agree, attempt has been made to do just that all along. However, towards the end of this discourse, there would be a summarizer on how country specific socio-economic problems engender insecurity.

Meanwhile, with the foregoing, it is becoming more difficult to predict how many individual or organized criminals are planning attacks in a country. And more than ever before, criminals and law enforcement agencies are locked in a mouse and cat game. As security measures are implemented to counter known criminal tactics, criminals adapt in response and the cycle starts all over again. I think Nigeria is witnessing that right now. For tactical advantages, insurgents are holding onto 276 teenage Nigerians as human shields while maximizing their comparative advantage in suicide bombing. Thus, the insurgents are aiming to blunt the edge of our counterinsurgency as we expectedly hibernate between focusing on hostage rescue and halting their bombing sorties.

Generally, given the present scenario of rising and overwhelming security threats across the globe, raising national security budgets is not only difficult but appears to be attracting no proportional security or reduction in crime. In fact, between national security budgets and the rising tide in crime, there is an ever-widening gap; a gap that can be bridged only by judicious deployment of scarce resources in the war against crime. And there can only be more rational responses to crime problems by using technology to proactively deter, detect and delay criminal activities thought to pose future threats rather than simply reacting to reported security breaches.

Apart from the magnitude of present day crimes, their potential for mass destruction is another justification for using technology to facilitate law and order. For instance, it is more sensible to mitigate terrorist activities by proactive as opposed to reactive measures. After all, criminals are already seizing the initiative by employing technology. Devastating terrorist attacks are all outcomes of good intelligence gathering and networking even over far flung distances by terrorists using technology. Is that not why the numerical strength of a security agency is now out of the question even with armies complementing police in their constitutional role of law and order maintenance in some countries including Nigeria? Besides, we all know that the essence of technology is all about achieving much more than humanly possible.

So, it is no big deal that security is now largely technology driven in many countries. For instance, at entrances to public places and strategic roads, occupied passenger vehicle scanners are now used to facilitate security checks of motor vehicles for concealed bombs, biological weapons and firearms. That is how concealed weapons of mass destruction are now deciphered from safe distances and alerts triggered for appropriate security responses in many countries of the world. By the same token, law-abiding motorists awaiting security checks are spared the risk of being cheap targets of intentional or inadvertent terrorist attacks. As well, a society is saved traffic gridlocks triggered by manual security checks which disrupt socio-economic life in Nigeria's cosmopolitan cities. Also, to neutralize criminals' technology conferred anonymity and exclusivity of surprise, technology is now largely used by many countries for security intelligence gathering, preempting crimes, busting those that are on-going while facilitating investigations of the negligible few that succeed. All that come with proven advantages of being proactive, accurate and transparent to assuage suspicion from all divides whether ethnic, religious or political like in a pluralistic society as Nigeria.

But of course, even with emphasis on technology, the presence of security personnel is still imperative to serve as a common thread linking together all the layers of a security architecture. For instance, patrols, checkpoints, supervision of electronic access control, analyzing of feeds from surveillance cameras and responses to alarms are all most appropriately handed by human beings. So, introduction of technology is only to optimize human capability.

At this juncture, given all the enviable potentials of a technology driven national security architecture, perhaps the question right now is: Why is Nigeria lagging behind in using technology to mitigate insecurity? After all, Nigeria is affected by the same global factors as every other country. And the sophistication and frequency of security infractions witnessed in this country are concrete proofs that all the bases of national security including monopoly of lawful violence, political security, economic security, environmental security, energy/natural resources security, cyber security and empowerment of women are getting eroded. In all this, the point is clear.

While it is true that some global factors expose all nations to similar security threats, all are not equally vulnerable. This is because of what individual countries are either doing or not doing about their national security. As some countries are taking proactive mitigating measures, others are docile about emerging global security threats which naturally impinge on their national security. That is why national security challenges partially occasioned by global factors are harsher on some countries than others. And that was predicted a decade ago by the US National Intelligence Council in a security document titled Mapping the Global Future 2020. I quote:

The governing capacity of states, however, will determine whether and to what extent conflicts actually occur. Those states unable both to satisfy the expectations of their peoples and to resolve or quell conflicting demands among them are likely to encounter the most severe and most frequent outbreaks of violence. Leadership will remain the ultimate wild card, which, even in the least promising circumstances, could make a huge, positive difference. Although countries with poor leadership will find it harder not to fail, those with good leadership that promotes order, institutions, and conflict resolution will at least have a chance of progressing.

That should summarize how country-specific socio-economic conditions either aggravate or minimize security problems. Obviously, nothing but the peculiar nature of our federalism is to blame for our lagging behind other countries in deploying technology among other measures, to fight insecurity. That point has earlier been made in 'Distorted Federalism and Pervasive Insecurity' ran by The Guardian consecutively on 17th and 18th March, 2013. So, while I will not bother you here by repeating those views of mine on the adverse security consequences of our type of federalism, you would agree that security wise, we have not progressed from where Mr. Ogbonna O. Onovo - an I.G. of Police left us in 2010 when he lamented and I quote:

An occasion where we are fighting almost bare-handed and given the strong political, economic, social, cultural and other problems, that make policing so frustrating in our country, we can only still give our best. And I say to all officers who have had to lay down their lives in the line of duty, may God accept your souls in perfect peace. Amen. May your sacrifices not be in vain (Nigerian Compass, 14th September 2010).

Four years down the road, talk of criminals being better equipped than all our law enforcement agents put together is becoming a consensus. Those under siege cannot hope to hold out against criminals for only a few minutes before the national security apparatus responds like in other countries; and the implication is clear. Right now, and in the foreseeable future, individual and corporate security measures cannot simply be the last layer of Nigeria's national security architecture like outside the shores of this country. In fact, internal security measures must be the very building blocks for Nigeria's national security. Individual and corporate security measures must be as robust as the security environment dictates in various parts of this country. After all, is that not the essence of self-defense or internal security arrangements - ability to hold out against criminals until help comes from either law enforcement agents or a registered security outfit? And as ever, our efforts at self-defence should (a) deter criminals (b) detect crime - providing warning before probable attacks for help to be summoned (c) delay assailants and (d) prepare for any inevitable assault in a constructive manner. That must be the case as we expect the Nigeria of our dreams, although self-defence measures will always be necessary even in the best of places.

Being a Lecture delivered on 19th June, 2014 at the ASIS International Chapter 206 Lagos Business Meeting

Held at Fusion Hall, Planet One Hospitality, No. 3 - 5, Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way, Maryland, Lagos State by Mr. Uwaya

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of John Uwaya and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by John Uwaya