The President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Chairman/Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, has declared that the structure of Nigeria’s national security as designed and currently structured cannot meet the challenges of the current realities, with the wave of kidnapping, terrorism and general insecurity.
Obaigbena, who spoke yesterday at the opening of a five-day seminar organised by the Army’s Department of Civil-Military Affairs held at the 2 Division, Odogbo, Ibadan, said the country’s security infrastructure is for a world that once was and was not in tune with the emerging threats and enemies.
The event was the maiden interactive session on Civil Society Organisations: Military Relations in Nigeria under the theme: “Consolidating Civil-Military Relations for Improved national security”, organised by Maj. Gen. Bola Koleoso, Chief of Civil-Military Affairs, Army Headquarters, Abuja.
The NPAN president’s assessment of Nigeria’s security apparatus came just as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, revealed that the Nigerian Army had commenced the recruitment of 9,000 soldiers as part of efforts to contain the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country.
In his paper titled “The military, the media and the civil society: Consolidating on the synergy on national security interest”, Obaigbena said: “For instance, the armed forces were built around the doctrine of conventional warfare where there is clearly defined enemy and defined geography.
“But the wars of today have no clearly defined enemies, as they are built around individuals, guerillas and terrorists who can cause maximum damage with a backpack full of explosives or a truck with a surface-to-air missile (SAM), or even a handheld SAM mounted on the shoulder.
“With this, they terrorise all around, blending with civilian communities across the board.”
On the growing spectre of kidnapping, Obaigbena said: “Following that are the kidnappers who seize with reckless abandon making it impossible to go from Auchi to Ore or any where in country without fear of being kidnapped.”
He wondered how many Nigerians can travel by car without the fear of being kidnapped, “so much so that hapless citizens in buses are being hacked down by kidnappers and what not.”
The NPAN president stressed that the entire security system and apparatus were in need of a fundamental overhaul in all facets.
“Our entire security system and apparatus are in need of a fundamental overhaul in doctrine, personnel and training,” he said.
Obaigbena saluted the army for announcing that it had commenced the recruitment of new solders, but said that with current engagements in peacekeeping from Mali to Sudan and across the world, as well as internal insurgency, 9,000 recruits are wholly inadequate, adding: “The army could do with at least 90,000 more and counting, much less the police which need much more.”
He said for a country whose population was destined to reach 200 million by 2020, “our security forces are grossly inadequate for the roles we want them to play and the emergent new threats and enemies, which is often insurgents and militants from within our borders.
“Therefore if indeed we need a national conversation, that conversation should be about our national security, the doctrine, purpose and funding thereof.”
Given current inadequacies in Nigeria’s security infrastructure, Obaigbena was of the view that those advocating for state police were clamouring for a structure that the police are unprepared to take on.
“There are those clamouring for state police, but I am not sure if the state police will be fit for purpose at this time. What we need however is the decentralisation of the command and control of policing from Abuja to the communities where they can be accountable.”
Obaignena hailed the experiment with the Borno Youth Vigilante groups which have been responsible for working with the military to bring about peace in the Maiduguri metropolitan area, to the extent that since the declaration of emergency rule, there had been no attack in the Borno State capital.
He said this was made possible because of the collaborative effort between the security forces and the youth vigilantes.
“What this showed is that if we involved local communities in policing and security, we are bound to be more successful in rooting out insurgents and militants. But the military must first win the trust of the community to engender such cooperation,” he stressed.
Obaigbena urged the military to work more closely with community-based vigilante volunteers, as the Borno case had clearly demonstrated that there is a role for civil society, community leaders and youth groups in the design and formulation of the new security apparatus.
On the media and the military, the NPAN president said the media was ready, willing and able to work with the military at all times as long as it has the right access to the right information, adding: “Media practitioners are as loyal as military officers.”
In his remarks, Ihejirika, who was represented by Maj. Gen. John Ewansiha, said in its efforts aimed at curbing the criminal activities of the Boko Haram insurgents, particularly in the northern parts of the country, as well surmounting the security challenges bedeviling the nation, the army had commenced recruitment of 9,000 soldiers in its various training institutions.
According to him, “This is with a view to meeting the desired end state in terms of personnel, equipment, morale and training.”
Ihejirika asked Nigerians not despair or lose hope in the ability of the military to bring the Boko Haram insurgency to an end.
Also speaking at the event, the host and Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi called on the military to partner the media on the insurgency ravaging the northern part of the country.
He said the relationship would make nationalism the major consideration in reporting of the insurgency.
Ajimobi, who expressed concern over what he called unfavourable and unpleasant media opinions and news reporting, which he said had affected military morale and operations, said a partnership between the two would change this tone of reporting.
Consequently, he stressed the urgent need for a definition of the relationship between the military and the media as a sub-set of the civil public.
According to him, the relationship between the military and the media had become necessary, as it would lead to training journalists on constructive and nationalistic news reporting.
“The media stands to play a very great role in the process of dialogue between the military and civil society on civil-military relations. Since the advent of these insurgents, there is no doubt that some unfavourable and unpleasant media opinions and news reporting have affected military morale and even operations.
“That is why the relationship between the military and the media will lead to training media practitioners on constructive and nationalistic news reporting.
“Apart from the fact that knowledge of the precarious nature of the insurgency would shape media reportage of the bloodletting from a national perspective, rather than a sensational one, dialoguing with the media would make its practitioners see security issues from their proper perspective, rather than the usual journalistic quest for bad stories that are good stories.
“This will effectively tame influences of judgment on the insurgency which are most times driven by ethnicity, religion, inaccuracy and plain mischief,” he said.
In attendance at the event were many senior officers from the army, navy, air force, as well as civil society organisations, trade unions, traditional rulers, politicians and media executives, among others.
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