Nigerian State and Conflict Deescalation
Increased divergence in researches on insurgency in the 21st century has reflected in the plethora of definitions and descriptions for this common security conundrum. I defer to the British Military’s doctrine, (a credible authority, given decades of experience suppressing series of insurrection in Ireland) hence position that Insurgency is an organized movement designed to through armed resistance and subversive activities overthrow a constituted government in any state (UK Min. Of Defence 2004: 4).
Contention with insurgency has become part of state security since the beginning of societal governance by groups supposedly striving for better governance on behalf of the general public. Tendencies for anti-state elements to challenge authority of ruling elites has been a major form of conflict in world history.
Biblical and other historical evidences has revealed the Roman Empire’s struggles against several insurgencies and coups. Jewish leaders led several putsches towards liberating Palestine from Roman rule in the period before and after Christ. In Africa, fight against colonialism between 1940 and 1965 set the pace for current ‘classical insurgencies’ designed to liberate African states thereby enabling independence. The central theme for classical insurgency could be traced to the Marxist revolutionist central theme “propagating a better system of governance than currently obtainable”.
Insurgencies are premised and driven on the belief in the idea for change from status quo. Given that people are always curious and willing to sacrifice current status towards embracing a newer concept, the human fixation on “change”, even grievous and harmful one at that has been the root of all anti-state conflict. Success of any rebellion has also been traced on the tactic popular supports. People drives and maintains insurgencies. Insurgents are like animals which always adapt to forest for cover and sustenance. Wining the popular supports through covert and overt spread of “new idea” has been consistent in most rebellions, hence the term “peoples’ revolution”.
The MI6 maintained in its Journals that; “every programmes; paramilitary, policing, military, political, intelligence gathering, legal, psychological, civil and media, employed by the state towards eliminating insurgency is termed ‘counterinsurgency’”. If this is true, then states need established institutions to provide proper response to insurgencies. Countering insurgencies should become more robust operation which should take full cognizance of the socio-political environment and other distinctive factors enhancing radicalization in the area. Mere deployment of the military with high morale is never enough in guerrilla warfare, the over 10 years engagement of the Taliban in Afghanistan by the mighty US Forces; the deplorable security situation in the failing Somalia despite years of combined military operation in Mogadishu; and, the Boko Haram insurgencies has revealed the inability of military might in counterterrorism operations.
Historical evidence according to the researches have revealed that military actions in countering insurgencies constitutes less than 20 percent of the efforts needed to eliminate a people oriented movement. Records shows that while policing and other political actions employed in the right proportion have been successful in ending insurgencies in conflicts like the IRA against the British government.
Challenges of proper foundations for most African states creation has been blamed on the growth of anti-state elements agitating for self-determination and ethnic nationals’ independence. Nigeria conflict patterns since advent of independence has been tailored to reflect agitations of minority ethnic groups’ self-determination struggles. The Niger Delta and Biafran Struggle which has been a common index in Nigerian state conflicts since 1966 has festered through the Civil War of 1967 to 1970 through apparent lack of proper means of interaction between state and constituent units in Nigeria.
Honourable Steve Gamey, former Ghanaian Minister for Labour and a major teacher of conflict management maintains that the level of violence in Africa today is driven by lack of conflict management institutions in the continent. He postulated that states without conflict management plan, will only have plans for counterinsurgency.
The Niger Delta conflict escalation since the eighties afforded the Nigerian state the opportunity to build and strengthen institutions to handle public agitations. Unfortunately, the state chose an elite securitization model, the use of instrument of blunt force –the Nigeria Armed Forces- to stem popular oppositions in Choba, Port Harcourt, Killing of Ken-Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni Eight, the Odi Massascre and other attacks on dissenting forces termed “anti-state elements” laid the foundations for growth of classical terror groups in the Niger Delta at the end of the twentieth century.
Classical insurgency was given a huge boast by the Nigerian government as the Nigeria law enforcement structure was practically taken over by a new military class robbing the state of the much needed development in policing, judicial processes and criminal jurisprudence. The use of military expeditionary forces in mediating conflicts became common feature after the Lt. Gideon Orkar Coup of 22nd July 1990 and by 2005, the Nigerian Army has operations in over 26 states of the 36 state federation.
While the military grew and expanded its areas of operations in internal security operations, the Nigeria Police Force roles were further depleted by the mutation of internal security operations in Nigeria and clumsily creating newer policing roles for other organizations without proper equipment and installed capabilities to perform such roles.
Changing roles for the Nigerian military by the state further expanded the national security imbroglio. Unfortunately, Ill-equipped and untrained in civil conflict mediation, the Nigerian Army adaptation to its new roles were challenged in all theater of operations due to traditional hatred for security forces honed from the public mistrust of the colonialists establishment of the Hausa Regiment in Lagos in the late nineteen century by Col. Lugard to form the bulk head of fight against pro-independent movements in the regions.
The apparent failure of the military institution in peacekeeping roles in Nigerian state was written by the general lack of trust and fear of the military by the Nigerian people. Counter Insurgency operations can only succeed if and when the people supports the state in its theater of operations. The Niger Delta operations which started in Bayelsa State with a Joint Task Force (JTF) in 1999 has continued to expand to include several other states in its eighteen years of existence.
Regrettably, these operations have succeeded in creating more opposition to the state than solving the militancy problem. From only 3 main militant groups in Bayelsa and Delta states in 1999, over 60 different camps were discovered at point of National Amnesty Programme introduction nine years later. Equally, crude oil illegal bunkering rose from a few hundred barrels per day in 1999 to a major economic drain of over 150,000bpd or a revenue loss of over $6 billion in 2015. The failure of military operations in Nigeria was hyped by the state’s introduction of a Niger Delta Amnesty Programme to mediate worsening security issues in Delta and attacks on the state major revenue earner.
While the state bob and weave amongst several conflicts from Jos, Saki-Biam, Southwest and Southeast regions, challenges on all state institutions multiplied, straining already battered and ill-prepared public institution to limit. The apparent result was the failure of these institutions as challenges and demands on them grew in leaps and bounds.
The growth of the Boko Haram insurgency since 2009, fall in international oil prices, an import dependent mono-product economy, a burgeoning youth population, double digits youth unemployment rate and a highly corrupt elites were a recipe for a falling state. Nigerian state institutions integrity unexpectedly fell and public trust plummeted in public domains at the turn of the century, radicalism equally grew as the youth demands a change from the old order.
As the economic situation worsen, the seam that holds the nation together continued to fail as ethnic nationalities switches to group protection mode. Ethnic self-determination became the new challenge on state authority as ethnic militias like the Biafran and Niger Delta autonomy calls become national issues again, threatening the weakened federation. Unfortunately, as the state economy worsens, and groups like hounds perceives weakness in state institutions, rebellions could expand as each group tries to preserve its own identity and champion personal goals irrespective of national needs.
Challenges facing a failing state are huge and most remain in the agitations from within, as groups become more interested in their survival at the expense of others in the state. The need to strengthen state institutions to enhance capacity in facing expanding demands by constituent units must be followed without shirking responsibilities to show the inherent capabilities of the state towards maintaining equity. Judicial reforms and a more independent judiciary become more important to maintain focus of the people on instant protection of cherished values by state and its organs.
Tolerance of the state institutions of security to be peacekeepers and not elite securitization organs with higher mandate than protecting the people should be discouraged. Security forces should be retrained to understand their roles in civil domains. Trigger happy security operatives have caused more national harms than good in recent past. A review of the current “Rules of Engagement” should be done by the legislature to reflect international standard and the deployment of security forces should be done with proper legislative supervision at all time.
All round policing and law enforcement system overhaul is required urgently in Nigeria, state internal security should and must be managed by policing institutions and not by the armed forces. The people always feels less threatened at police authority operations than when faced by the armed forces. Increasing internal security capacities can only be attained when the civil security operatives are allowed unfettered access to perform their duties. Domiciling local security operations in the army always weakens the national defense as it creates a military that is soft and not battle ready when called to action.
Policing private residences and hotels gates shouldn’t be the duties of an efficient military system. The deployment of military personnel in these points clearly shows the level of professionalism in Nigerian military and demeans the soldiers in the eyes of the public. All resources outlaid on military operations in conflict areas in Nigeria since the 1990’s cannot be counted as contributing to the development of internal security hence a colossal waste. These resources would have afforded the policing authorities the abilities to recruit, train and develop proper security operatives for the theater of operations as appropriate.
Lack of proper policies on security of homeland and defense of territorial integrity of Nigeria has become cloudy. The line between internal security and Nigerian defense are now blurred regardless of national constitutional provisions. Mediatisation of security operations has equally created a security class eager to discuss security issues in public domains without respect for confidentiality of investigation and personality of suspects. The hunger for public accolades has revealed barrage of information in public domain in Nigeria that not only increases perception of insecurity but aggravates the level of trust in the capacity of the security forces to provide adequate security.
As Nigeria prepares for worse economic scenario predicted for 2019, there are needs for proper prioritization of real need for security in Nigeria to face the growth in public agitations that are expected to follow the expected growth in hardship. The time to expand policing security capabilities through recruitment and training is now. The state must be ready to accommodate and manage public agitations instead of aggravating violent response. The army roles in civil engagement needed to be reanalyzed and realigned according to the 1999 constitution and deployment of forces properly checked. The state could ill afford costs resulting from several conflicts; hence there are needs for mustering all factors that might aggravate the already volatile situation.
God bless Nigeria.