Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He now works for a leading airline in Nigeria. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.
National Security Situation: The increased use of the Nigerian military to carry out constabulary duties has created an undue strain on the armed forces and left it unable to focus on its core functions. This strain has coincided with a continued diminishing of Nigeria’s internal security.
Date Originally Written: January 1, 2020.
Date Originally Published: March 8, 2021.
Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes that the roles of the various armed services of the Nigerian state have become unnecessarily blurred by the willingness of political leaders to deploy force (too often deadly) for roles best served by other levers of governance.
Background: Over two decades after Nigeria returned to democratic rule, the military has continued to play an outsized role in governance at the highest levels. The election and appointment of former military and security personnel into political positions has stifled alternative voices and catalyzed despotic tendencies, even in politicians without regimented backgrounds. The continued deployment of the military in scenarios better served by other agencies has left it unable to deal with the insurgencies ravaging the North-West, North East, and Middle-Belt geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
Significance: There is a pressing need to reinvigorate other branches of law enforcement and security in Nigeria. Too often, political leaders authorize the deployment of military force as quick fixes to problems better solved by the long term application of legal, political, and social interventions, or other avenues of conflict resolution. These military deployments have lacked oversight and often resulted in human rights violations against Nigerians living in the crisis areas.
Option #1: The Nigerian Government bans the use of the military in Internal Security Operations.
Risk: This option risks forcing the government to rely on inappropriate or insufficient resources domiciled in law enforcement or other internal security organizations to deal with violent events. As was seen during the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, unforeseen situations may require capabilities that only the military can provide. Considering Nigeria’s current internal security crises, there will be the need for a transition period for current security operations to be transferred from the military to the civilian side of government. Considering the length of some of these operations, the transfer may be messy and cause serious operational deficiencies that malign actors may exploit to wreak havoc. The resultant transfer of heavy weapons to civilian law enforcement and security agencies, with their continued lack of accountability and history of corruption and human rights violations, will only exacerbate the lack of trust from the larger society
Gain: The removal of the option of military force to resolve internal security challenges will force the political class to invest in the manning, training and equipping of those agencies who are primarily tasked with securing the nation from within. This option will also incentivize proactive confrontation of violent and fringe groups before they manifest as major challenges to the peace of the nation. This option will also encourage the deployment of other forces of persuasion in dealing with issues. By freeing the nation’s armed forces of their local constabulary obligations, they are freed to focus on external threats from the near abroad.
Option #2: The Nigerian Government imposes reporting requirements on the deployment of the military for internal security operations. Also, the military must answer to predefined civil authorities and agencies for the duration of their engagement.
Risk: In this option, politicians unwilling to meet additional requirements before deploying troops will simply refuse to call on military assistance when it is appropriate. This option may also exacerbate the inter-service rivalries between the various armed services that have often turned deadly. Also, the current lack of accountability that pervades governance in Nigeria means that these requirements will likely simply be ignored without repercussion.
Gain: Nigerian Government Officials will have to publicly justify their deployment of military force and may face potential repercussions for their choices in the national security sphere. This option also provides a framework for nongovernment security analysts and commentators to examine the decision-making processes of government in the civilian sphere.
Option #3: The Nigerian Government bans serving and retired personnel of the armed services from holding executive political positions over armed agencies.
Risk: This option will be very radical and risk alienating very powerful members of the political class. Political leaders without military or paramilitary experience lose a unique insight into the thinking and abilities of the military and how they can contribute in times of extreme national emergency. This blanket ban will rob former military officers with the requisite qualities from serving in these positions.
Gain: The military has, directly and indirectly, continued to exert a very powerful influence over the direction of Nigeria’s security. This option goes beyond the U.S. National Security Act of 1947, which requires a waiver for former military officers separated by less than seven years from service in certain positions. This option ensures that those who are appointed to oversee armed agencies can face political accountability for their actions. This option will make politicians less willing to deploy military might without justification.
Option #4: The Nigerian Government creates legislation setting out clear limits for when and how military force can deploy in internal security operations.
Risk: The ambiguity that will result from possibly poorly worded legislation will only intensify the friction between the military and various security agencies. A lack of institutional robustness means that career military personnel, law enforcement agents, and civil servants are unable to prevent political leaders who wish to simply ignore the provisions of such legislation. This option may also lead to a situation where unanswered jurisdictional questions will create cracks to be exploited by malevolent actors who wish to keep their activities below a level that will allow the authorization of more forceful response from the government.
Gain: This legislation will force the various nonmilitary agencies to scrutinize their capabilities and work towards shoring up any deficiencies. This option will provide another incentive for political leaders to expend the political capital required to pursue non-violent solutions to situations. Option #4 allows the military to begin to transfer the burden of continuous internal deployments and begin to rest and refit to tackle challenges more appropriate to its abilities.
Other Comments: None.
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