Nigeria Secret Police: The problems in Domestic Intelligence
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The various entities that are concerned with domestic intelligence matters the State Security Service (SSS) especially are faced with unusual challenges in today's Nigeria. The State Secret Service and other national intelligence agencies in their
collective capacity, remain as the main eyes protecting various essential blind spots in our society as they relate to the safety and wellbeing of our citizens, everyone and everything representing the government's interest.
Currently, as a people, we have become a more security-conscious society and consequently very concerned about terrorist-related crimes, and this has contributed to the increasing demand for a better output from our intelligence, security and law enforcement agents.
In terms of technological weapons and equipment much progress has being made within these agencies with the arming of agents with powerful assault rifles. With the presence of and use of special security gadgets which include X-ray screeners for detecting bombs and other explosive devices; the use of armored cars as well as the use of other security protective devices for the protection of higher-up leaders in public areas.
Also available for these secret agencies are powerful means of communication to monitor criminal offences like terrorism and kidnapping. Yet the security and safety situations are at this time in despair and depressing to the extent that in the face of 'hard-knock' and fearleless attacks from the violent Islamic sect, members of the secret police, army and other security enforcers reportedly pick race in order to take cover, and protect their precious lives instead of containing the Boko Haram fighters. Unbelievable! and not surprising given the lack of support from the on looking public.
In the previous years, our nation's hush-hush police, special detectives or intelligence agents made the peoples' lives manageable, and gave them the feeling of being safe as evidenced in many of their good works.
These include the arrest of powerful terrorist like the Egyptian bomber Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq in the 1990s, the occasional interception of large hidden arms and ammunition coming into the country. Also, they continue to attempt to combat kidnapping offenses.
But in recent times the continued feverish environment of the nation and the all-out breakdown of internal security in the nation require a bottom up treatment and approach in regards to matters of intelligence-gathering, public safety, and of the full enforcement of domestic security laws.
The Nigerian culture is a very diverse one, and the traditional means of solving security problems in America, Israel or in Europe do not bode well fully in this country as evidenced in the current forces of violent change occurring in the nation.
Our nation's security detectives, operatives and agents helplessly find themselves facing these unusual forces of change which are constantly streaming from our multicultural, multilingual and multi-hardship environments.
To make the matter worse the increasingly poor confidence the government and the public appear to have about the work of many of our security and law enforcement agencies further make things appalling for these agencies and the nation. But here is the real dilemma for both the agencies and the entire society.
In the course of providing national security services and protection to the leadership, and the people of this country, our agents are faced with a society along with its communities and institutions known for their markedly conflicting customs, morals and taboos.
Thereby, making intelligence or police work unwarrantedly and extremely difficult, as well as complex anywhere and everywhere in the nation.
In a country of more than 150 million people there is no fully harmonized, integrated and manageable personal identity database in terms a national identification system. As such there is debate about who is who and no one really knows who is who.
This type of centralized identification system could make the work of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agents more effective in terms of personal identity and verification.
In spite of all the modern technologies, American or European technical support and advice being poured into our agencies, superimposing these goodies are the powerful but distracting influences coming from inside the web of cultural misunderstanding and ethnic antagonism among the people.
As such, hopelessness persists in terms of the epidemic proportions of violent extremism, domestic terrorism and dreadful killings and destruction of properties.
With every hardship, there is no ease for positive domestic intelligence work as the people remain grossly encased in abject poverty which is ravaging the body and mind of millions of Nigerians.
The security agencies become gloomily and grossly affected by these hopeless attitudes and helpless behaviors, and sometimes respond in the same manner.
As long as religion and ethnic divisions continue to prevail among our leaders and communities, it will be very difficult correcting the false image about intelligence work, and the agencies see this huge disunity as a source of heavy frustration to effectively policing the country.
In a society occupied with security needs but full of unsympathetic, critical, non-cooperating and uncomprehending groups these agencies find the demonstration and effectiveness of law enforcement very challenging.
In a society where different agencies share common interests and characteristics in terms of national security, intelligence, and safety; effective security work continue to undergo suffering due to naked rivalry and profound distrust. So what do we do? Actually nothing because these issues are awfully complex but we may try in the following ways.
Improvement on the work of security agencies could occur drastically if we can adequately begin to collects, analyzes, publish, and disseminates statistical information on criminal offenses, on law-violating behaviors, on criminal perpetrators, and on victims of crime. This type of current information will help provide a better statistical systems at all levels of criminal justice as well as provide technical avenues for agencies to develop their better trainings and capabilities.
In the government's war on terrorism our agents are now perceived by the public as abusing their power as a result of a method of profiling which could be coined with a divisive term 'Moving While Islamic' (MWI).
This method of ethnic and religious profiling, if truth be told is constitutionally wanting and Northerners the Muslims ones especially who bear the brunt of the profiling could see any intelligence or law enforcement worker as an enemy. So there is need for professional sensitivity in this area.
With the ongoing overwhelming security problems and the President's concern that terrorists have infiltrated the Presidency, military, and the legislature, it is time that major psychological operation units be created and manned by doctorate level forensic/clinical psychologists.
This type of sensitive service is essential as it could help reveal psychological conditions or characteristics like terrorist/authoritarian /extremist personality traits which may compromise an agent's ability to function effectively as security personnel.
In the face of all these challenges raised here, there is need to develop and plan communicational and cultural orientation services in the agencies for the people in order to begin to erect full-blown results-oriented organizational culture in intelligence and national security work.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D., is the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association (NPA).