The Security Question

The daily dispatches of news on the security situation in recent times must have seemed like a particularly repetitive exercise in déjà vu: the insurgency in the North East, banditry in the North West, herders/farmers’ clash in the North Central, to kidnapping, armed robbery, youth militancy and vandalism in the Southern region. They read like battle honours in a regimental war memorial.

The Police are, by the Police Act, Cap P19 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, saddled with the responsibility of addressing the situation through the enforcement of orderliness and restoration of public order in the country. Yet, the operational difficulties of the police are laid bare by a cocktail of issues, not least funding, poor welfare resulting in poor motivation, lack of adequate tools and equipment. There are also structural issues, including manpower and its depleting numbers relative to the growing population, contrary to the United Nations Standard requirements of 400 to 1 ratio.

The state of affairs has, clearly, exacerbated concerns about the security question, with the din of the drums of insecurity steadily, but almost imperceptibly, becoming louder; the threats getting worse; the atrocities more brutal; and the impact more corrosive. Quite apart from the incessant loss of lives and property, the economy has also taken a hit, in terms of local and foreign direct investments.

Thus, whilst the COVID – 19 pandemic may have contributed to the contraction of the economy by 6.1 per cent year-on-year, as per the August report by the National Bureau of Statistics, the frightening insecurity in the country has, equally, contributed to the economic downturn. There is, therefore, the need to re-examine the country’s security system, with a view to sustaining its socio-economic and political development.

Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, clearly signposts the Police as the only Police force in Nigeria, and forbids the establishment of any other Police force in the country. Yet there are always things to be found in any structure that can be criticized, and things which could be done better. The debate on the desirability of state police is gathering pace and would, in the longer term, require constitutional amendment. In the short to medium term, however, there would be the need to address the security question by opening up the entire security structure to include its localisation.

Security, broadly, relates to the protection of citizens from exposure to danger or harm which, sadly, has not been the case. The rising tide of insecurity has, therefore, led to the increasing need for the localisation of security through the establishment of security outfits by organisations and several states, with some collapsing into regional outfits. There are, for example, the “Shege-ka-Fasa”, established by a coalition of Northern Groups in the North; the Western Nigeria Security Network, Amotekun, in the South West, with the South-South and South East regions making moves to establish theirs.

The increasing push for the localisation of security, it is noted, is in response to the truism that when a tribe is under attack, the wagons instinctively draw into a circle. The moves are seen as concerted efforts to address local security concerns and strengthen the security architecture in the country, with a view to protecting lives and properties in their localities.

Being locals, the security outfits are endowed not only with the knowledge of their terrain; the hide out of criminals and the mode of their operations; but also the skills and capabilities to nip criminal activities in the bud before their implementation. This is contrary to the modus of the police which, given the limited knowledge of their area of operation deals, more often, with the effects of crimes after the impact has been unleashed on communities.

Further, the localisation of security through the establishment of security outfits by states, and the pulling of resources at regional levels, would enhance the position of state governors as Chief Security Officers of their states. The accountability and transparency in the appropriation of revenue by the State Houses of Assembly would be enhanced, through its channelling to equip and maintain local security outfits.

There would also need to be, moving forward, the erection of appropriate collaborative mechanism between the local security outfits, the police and other security agencies. There is, clearly, no single stroke that will slay this enemy of insecurity; no one repost will take out the problems of insecurity. More co-operations would therefore be needed, not less; more understanding, not less. Compromises, which are usually easier than bold gestures, would be needed, to achieve the ultimate goal.

Finally, a criminal database system, based on the Entity Relationship (ER) model, would need to be created to aid in solving insecurity issues. Such a move would help in the individual description of persons and form the basis for the sharing of ideas and information between local security outfits, the police and other security agencies.

Adequate safeguards would however be needed so as to prevent the abuse of the use of such data. There are presently no statutory instrument on Data Privacy and Protection in Nigeria. Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, guarantees the right to privacy, but its application is limited to homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications of citizens.

There is also the 2019 Nigeria Protection Regulation, the only major law regulating and controlling the use of data in Nigeria, which is only a subsidiary legislation. There would therefore need to be, as part of the reform process, the enactment of a specific statute to regulate Data Privacy and Protection in Nigeria.

Efforts must now be made to look outside the tramlines to formulate a clear road map to address the security question. By dealing with the insecurity situation step by small step, as we have done, to some extent, we have forgot to think about what Nigeria should be in 10, 20 or 50 years time. We must now try to fix the roof while the sun is shining.


Kesiena Igho Oghoghorie, Nigerian Law School, Enugu Campus
15th September, 2020