INSECURITY: Between Citizenship Lethargy and Governmental Irresponsibility

#OganeniguKillings Property razed by suspected fulani terrorists in Oganenigu, Dekina LGA. (PHOTO CREDIT: IgalaProject)

By Atayi Babs

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr it was, who in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”) said “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing. This saying aptly captures the Nigerian experience as every experienced public analyst will readily agree that for the past ten years, the issues we have been writing and talking about, have basically remained the same. Very soon, there may not be cogent reasons to write new articles on the state of Nigeria as all there is to be written have been published with the country not getting any better, even with regime changes. The piece below was written in 2011 and in the light of the recurrent challenges we are faced with today viz violence, insecurity and terrorism in the hands of Boko haram terrorists and their increasingly notorious kin, the fulani herdsmen, i cannot but bring it up on the front burner once again.

As the country Nigeria cascades further down the lane of terrorist perplexity and organised chaos, not a few have expressed the hope that perhaps, the pathway to durable peace and security interconnects with the route to active and responsive citizenship. Along this line, the notion is held that citizens must not only complement the efforts of government but must also go beyond the rudimentary and provide useful, intelligent and accurate information required to halt terrorism. This view runs on the heels of the fact that terrorists are human beings who live in the society with neighbours, family and friends hence their ghostly garb must be unveiled by a responsive and responsible citizenry. Any default from the above is considered as lethargical and irresponsive.

Trite as the above may appear, the proponents of this view appear to gloss over the Hobbesian wavelength of reasoning that it is for the avoidance of a state of nature where human life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” that the idea of statehood was built. It is believed that the absence of political order and law leads to unlimited natural freedoms, which include the “right to all things” and thus the freedom to plunder, rape, and murder as terrorists are wont to do.

To avoid this, free men contract with each other to establish state institutions through a social contract in which they all gain security in return for subjecting themselves to its sovereignty. The central assertion of social contract approach is that law and political order are not natural, but are instead human creations. The social contract and the political order it creates are simply the means towards an end — the benefit of the individuals involved — and legitimate only to the extent that they fulfill their part of the agreement.

According to Hobbes, citizens are not obligated to submit to the government when it is too weak to act effectively to suppress factionalism and civil unrest. According to other social contract theorists, citizens can withdraw their obligation to obey or change the leadership, through elections or other means including, when necessary, violence, when the government fails to secure their natural rights or satisfy the best interest of society.

It therefore follows that when citizens fulfill their own part of the agreement by paying taxes and obeying all relevant laws necessary for the maintenance of law and order, the government has no option than to keep its side of the social contract, which comes with the security of lives and property. To expect one part to stretch beyond its limits in the contract is an open invitation to anarchy, which is sadly the case in Nigeria.

To avoid the descent to lawlessness, the crafters of the Nigerian constitution, with foresight, penned the following in section 2b: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. The same constitution (as defective as it is) mandates the President of Nigeria and the state Governors to swear on oath that “they will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that they will discharge their duties to the best of their ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and that they will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and that they will devote themselves to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria.

Based on the aforementioned, it becomes evident that the task of preventing the wanton destruction of the lives and property in Nigeria since 2009 lies on the government and its agents. It therefore becomes a thing of gross irresponsibility on the part of government for it to statutorily expect the citizenry who do not have access to security vote of any sort, to complement and go beyond it’s ineffective efforts at intelligence gathering. Also, accusing hapless citizens of lethargy for not doing what is constitutionally beyond their purview must be denounced for what it is, a gross misnomer.

Besides, government and its agents haven’t displayed the necessary bite in the fight against terrorism as statements credited to the President in recent times further befuddle the citizenry. The President openly declared in Ibadan in 2010 that “we know those that are sponsoring the bomb explosions in the country and we will soon fish them out in due course…we are compiling their names for arrest soon.” The President also rushed to the hasty defence of a millitant, illegal and criminal organisation (MEND) after they claimed responsibility for the Independence Day bombing in 2010.

There is no gainsaying the fact that not a few bombing disasters would have been averted in the country if proactive actions were taken since October 1 2010. A peep into the objectives and operational procedure of the Nigerian Department for State Security (DSS), Directorate of Military intelligence (DMI), Naval, Air and Army Intelligence Corps would reveal government’s complacency in the deployment of its full capacity on the menace.

The truth remains that efforts have been made in other climes by governments and appreciable successes have been recorded in the global war on terror. US for instance may have not won the war on terror but it has succeeded in protecting its citizens from domestic terrorism after the 9/11 through pragmatic actions marshalled by their government (not the citizenry). After 9/11, actions such as the integration and strengthening of all security intels which led to the Department of Homeland security, introduction of Homeland security and counter-terrorism as courses in American universities, financial autonomy for homeland security, increased public awareness and enlightenment, ubiquitous deployment of security intelligences across the 50 states and the establishment of National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) with the objective of “Leading the nation’s effort to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing that information with partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort”.

These and other actions were taken by the Bush administration and sustained by Obama and America is better for it, even the threat of a repeat attack on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 did not materialise. Coming to Nigeria, one cannot but ask, how many Nigerian universities have introduced courses on domestic terrorism, counter-terrorism or Conflict resolution at first and second-degree levels? Apart from what University of Jos is doing and planning to do through its Conflict Resolution Centre, how many government-funded agencies have demonstrated appreciable interest in funding researches and academic programmes aimed at proffering workable solutions out of this conundrum? Talk about the lunatic display of doing the same thing all the time and expecting different results. How integrated are our DSS, DMI and Police? Kidnappings brought to the fore, the latent competitive jealousies between these lackluster agencies so much that Mossad had to be brought in to unravel the kidnap of four Nigerian journalists in Abia!

What effort has been made by our government with a view to centralising and coordinating its witless attempt at counter-terrorism? On the 3rd of January 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan announced that he will appoint a special adviser on terrorism. He also announced a series of anti-terrorism initiatives on Monday as he intends to regain control after a wave of attacks in the last week of 2010 rocked the country. The announcement came after Jonathan held emergency talks with his security chiefs that concluded that the Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve attacks were “acts of terror carried out by criminal elements within our midst.” “Mr. President in the next one week is to appoint a special adviser on terrorism,” then presidential spokesman Ima Niboro said. “Mr. President is going to work with the National Assembly to ensure the speedy passage of the anti-terrorism bill that is before the assembly. “Niboro also said four new presidential committees would be launched, including a group working on controlling explosives and another to promote public security awareness.

The announcement was made on the day a policeman was shot dead in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, the latest in a string of violent attacks in Northeastern Nigeria days after unidentified arsonists burnt a church in the northern Nigerian city where Islamist militants burnt two churches and killed six worshippers on Christmas Eve.

To enhance security, the government said it would install CCTV cameras in public areas. (this was not done until Police HQ was bombed in June 2011 and the contracts were awarded only for the contractor to install substandard CCTV cameras and when he was questioned, he identified the top brass in the NPF and the Police Affairs ministry who collected kickbacks that mortgaged the essence of the contract).

A special presidential taskforce would also be established to control the circulation of explosives, while licensed weapons would be inspected regularly to check on their use. Shortly after, Amb Waziri was appointed as presidential Adviser and Coordinator of the Counter-terrorism and terrorism assumed a higher gear in Nigeria. Shortly after again, Jonathan wrote to the NASS asking for an increase in the salaries of his Security aides particularly the ijaw-born Gen Owoeye Azazi, who according to Jonathan, is a highly distinguished military tactician with his acquisition of FSS, MSS, DSS, PSC+ all in a record time, was doing so much with so little a salary.

After all these, the spate of bombings even assumed a frighteningly apocalyptic dimension as the battle was now taken to the doorsteps of the president with the Police HQ bombing. The President, after inspecting the Police headquarters wreckage remarked wryly “if the bombers have their way, they will even bomb me”. With the foregoing, it would be unjustifiably reprehensible to blame the citizenry for this sad turn of events.

Whilst not excusing the wives, parents and friends of these bombers and kidnappers for not doing the needful, their decision not come forward with information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of this menace must be respected. Stories abound of Nigerians who take valuable information on bombers to Nigeria’s security agencies only to end up being harassed and persecuted to the point of being paraded before newsmen as suspected terrorists.

A swift glance at workable and working strategies adopted by other countries before their leadership asked the citizenry to contribute their quota to the sustainability of the war on terror would suffice.

In France the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire or Department of Territorial Surveillance (DST) serves the same function as MI5 does in England. The central difference between the two organizations is that MI5 has some oversight, while DST does not. DST’s two primary terrorism concerns seem to be the Armed Islamic Fighting Group (GIA) and the Salafist Preaching and Combat Group (SPCG).

This is in large part because “the main danger confronting the country is that from international terrorist groups, especially emanating from Islamist militants based in former French colonies such as Algeria and other Maghreb Countries”.As such the DST’s three central missions are counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, and “protection of France’s economic and scientific infrastructure”, a responsibility it shares with the Economic Security and Protection of National Assets Department.

DST relies on several means of acquiring the needed intelligence to do its job. Amongst these tactics are the use of informers, “community sourced information provided by the general community”, monitoring activities of “immigrants entering France”, and “foreign sourced data” that is provided by the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), the French equivalent of MI6.

For example, DST capably uses its “extensive network of informers” or individuals who may have been planted within the French Muslim Community. In many cases, these sources of HUMINT are “convicted terrorist felons who have gained amnesty in exchange for cooperating with police and the security services”. As such these individuals can get access to people, places and sources of information that the police or intelligence authorities cannot. This information then goes into the Vigipirate program, France’s “basic structure” for their counter-terrorism program. Community-sourced information comes from the relationship between the DST and community leaders. Further measures taken to keep the local populace informed include “integrated media campaigns explaining the purpose of counter-terrorism measures and why they are being directed against certain groups”.

The DST’s monitoring activities can be classified as attempts to make sure that those entering France are doing it for appropriate (non-criminal) reasons. To guarantee this, France mandates that “all non-citizens are required to carry an Identity card” and that “French nationals running hotels and guest houses must inform the authorities of arrival and departure of any immigrants to who they provide lodging”. Finally, France’s “raw intelligence data feed[s] directly into domestic threat assessments and associated programs for physical protection and hardening”.

The DST, like many of its foreign counterparts, is not allowed to arrest people; hence, when it discovers a threat, it collaborates with “two main agencies in conducting surveillance over immigrant communities and formulating vulnerability risk assessments for general terrorist mitigation purposes”. As mentioned previously, the DST has no entity or individual overseeing it for accountability. As such, some of its critics have argued that its carte blanche authority is a problem and oversight of its activities should be provided.

The Canadian intelligence has some key similarities, but also a few interesting differences with other national intelligence organizations. In Canada, the internal intelligence agency is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or CSIS. The CSIS, like others, is in charge of information pertaining to domestic intelligence threats and similar to its counterparts in that it has no arresting authority, however, the similarities stop there. Because Canada is not a target of terrorist attacks so much as a source for recruitment, fund-raising, and a safe haven, the tasks that the CSIS undertake are vastly different from what the MI5 or the DST might be required to handle.

As such Canada’s central terrorist problem largely relates to “spillover effects of overseas conflicts” and as such Canada continues “to act as a highly important hub of political, financial, and logistical support”. The CSIS is split into three main areas: a threat assessment unit which “prepares and disseminates time-sensitive evaluations about the scope of immediacy of terrorist threats posed by groups and individuals in Canada”, case officers, who “conduct interviews within local communities to explain the work of intelligence services, as well as to assess the likelihood of violence taking place”, and finally providing input to the “enforcement information index”.

The CSIS places considerable importance on maintaining an efficient working relationship with police, largely because the agency has no arresting powers of its own. As far as oversight is concerned, the CSIS reports to the Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), and the Executive Directorate of the Inspector General (EDIG) who reports to the solicitor general.

The two central obligations of these organizations are “carrying out audits of CSIS, and investigating complaints made against the service’s officers”. Canada takes these precautions due to the fact that “over the past decade, terrorists linked to Hamas, Hezbollah, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the GIA, al-Qaeda, PIRA, The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Babbar Khalsa, and the Dash mesh regiment” have been known to enter Canada “generally posing as refugees-to engage in various front and organizational support activities”.

Australia’s internal security agency is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Australia has not traditionally been a target of terrorist attacks. However, with the governments’ recent support of the United States in the War on Terror and its intervention in East Timor it has become a target to Islamic extremists, specifically Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian affiliate of Al-Qaeda. The ASIO “has no powers of arrest”, but does have a limited ability to “detain and question” a suspect “before a prescribed authority”. Additionally, the agency “collects and receives raw intelligence from a variety of sources”, including by relying “more heavily on community-based information”, and “open-source information together with data gleaned from search, entry, and surveillance operations from an important adjunct to HUMINT” (human intelligence).

To assure the surrounding community of its intentions, the ASIO “has moved to provide greater clarity about the legality, propriety, and effectiveness of the agency’s work”; the success of this effort has been demonstrated by greater information provided by the Australian populace. “More than 5,000 voluntary submissions to ASIO in 2002” were received “responding to the government’s call for a public that is “alert but not alarmed”. Oversight of the ASIO is conducted through the attorney-general’s Inspector-General office of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), with “external security performed through the Parliamentary Joint Committee (PJC)”.

IGIS oversight includes a vast amount of information including but not limited to “operational cases and files”, “official use of alternative documentation”, and access to and use of financial information obtained from the Australian taxation office and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre”. The terrorist threat to Australia is not as serious as the one to the United States, the UK, and France, but it is rising, and it appears that the Australians are not only aware of this rising threat that Islamists pose, but are taking measures to ensure that these threats are adequately addressed in both the law enforcement arena and the military arena with its involvement in the war on terror.

Both the United States and the European Union have produced counter-terrorism strategies, but note the contrasts in their respective documents. The American strategy has four main components:
Defeat terrorist organizations of global reach;
Deny further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists;
Diminish underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit;
Defend the homeland and extend defenses abroad.

The European Union’s Counter-terrorism Strategy also has four main components:

Prevent people turning to terrorism by tackling root causes;
Protect citizens and infrastructure;
Pursue and investigate terrorists and bring them to justice;
Respond (prepare) to manage and minimize consequences of an attack.

On the whole, both strategies lay emphasis on fighting terrorism to a standstill and bringing them to justice while minimising the effects of their attacks on the populace. None of the above finds its truest expression in the Nigerian experience thus far and until concrete efforts are strategically made with an eye on zero-tolerance for terrorism of any hue, governmental irresponsibility must not be misconstrued or decorated on the altar of citizenship lethargy.

Atayi Babs © 2011


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