Environment: A critical factor to internal security

ENVIRONMENT defined, the concept and the totality of the constituent  element of the environment which is the land, water, air the forest, the  ocean and all that makes life meaningful to man, and every other living thing.

The environment has its sociological definition and attributes as  well as psychological attribute, we also have the built environment within  the urban and rural divide. The social element of the environment as a  corollary of health safety and security cannot be overemphasized as this  relates to cultural beliefs of the people, the style and standard of living as well as the myth and mythology of life which influence behavioural  pattern of the people, this brings us to Maslow hierarchy of needs which  encompasses security, food, shelter, Physiological, Safety, sociological,  esteem and self-actualization.

A society in its abstract and physical form is a subset of the environment within the demographical strata. Hence, it is widely  believed that man is a product of its environment or rather, environment  makes a man.

It therefore, follows that there must be a conducive environment for  man to have access to the hierarchy of needs within the spectrum of  completing prism of needs. Thus, an overcrowded environment may be  a breeding ground for slums as well as crime, which brings us to the  nexus between environment and security. On the other hand, a rural  environment though might be a safe haven for social ethos and positive  influence of natural well being occasional by being far from the maddening crowd, however it is not uncommon to have or to experience  occasional or lingering outburst of communal strife based on territorial  heritage, hence, this is the main reason we have occasional skirmishes  in the rural areas during Egungun (masquerades) festival, with the  tendency to transform into full scale communal disturbance. This not  withstanding, the rural areas or rural communities do enjoy the  opportunity to identify strange elements in their midst because of the relatively small/low population, with this background let us have a  conceptual definition of security.

Security, according to Wikipedia, is a freedom from or resilience  against, potential harm of other unwanted coercive change) from  external forces. Beneficiaries of security may be persons and social  groups, objects and Institutions, ecosystems and any other entity or  phenomenon vulnerable to unwanted change by its environment.

Security mostly refers to protection from hostile forces, but is has a  wide range of other senses for example, as the absence of harm (e.g.  freedom from want); as the presence of an essential good (e.g. food  security); as resilience against potential damage or harm e.g. security  foundations); foundations); as secrecy (e.g. a secure telephone line); as  containment (e.g. a secure room or cell); and as a state of mind, e.g.  emotional security). The term is also used to refer to acts and systems  whose purpose may be to provide security (e.g. security forces; cyber  security systems; security camera) all of which are related to scanning of  the environment to ensure safety and security.


Global concern for internal security

The desire to ensure a more secure world encouraged the United  Nations to set up a high level panel on “Threat challenges and change”  which submitted the reports of findings in 2005, this report was captioned “A more secure world-Our shared responsibility”, which  highlights or recognizes the fact that in this 21st Century “more than ever  before, no state can stand wholly alone. The report asserts that collective strategies, collective institutions and a sense of collective  responsibility are indispensable. The case for collective security today  rests on three basic pillars. Today’s threats recognize no national  boundaries, are connected, and must be addressed at the global and  regional as well as national level. This brings us to the issue of internal  security and environment. No state, no matter how powerful, can by its  own efforts alone make itself invulnerable to today’s threats. And it  cannot be assumed that every state will always be able, or willing to  meet its responsibility to protect its own peoples and not to harm its  neighbours. It is therefore highlighted in the report what constitute  threats without boundaries as follows:

(i) Today, more than ever before, threats are inter related and a  threat to one is a threat to all. The mutual vulnerability of weak  and strong has never been clearer.

(ii) Global economic integration means that a major terrorist attack  anywhere in the developed world would have devastating  consequences for the well-being of millions of people.

(iii) Every threat to international security today enlarges the risk of  other threats. Nuclear proliferation by states increases the  availability of the material and technology necessary for a terrorist to acquire a nuclear weapon. The ability of non-state actors to traffic in nuclear material and technology is aided by  ineffective state control of borders and transit through weak  states.

(iv) International terrorist groups prey on weak states for sanctuary.

Their recruitment is aided by grievances nurtured by poverty,  foreign occupation and the absence of human rights  democracy; by religious and other intolerance; and by civil  violence-a witch’s brew common to those areas where civil  war and regional conflict intersect. In recent years, terrorists have helped to finance their activities and moved large sums of  money by gaining access to such valuable commodities as  drugs in countries beset by civil war. This is evident in the  activities of the ISIS group vis-a-vis Boko Haram.

(v) Poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation and war feed one another in a deadly cycle. Poverty (as measured by  per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is strongly associated with the outbreak of civil war. Such diseases as malaria and  HIV/AIDS continue to cause large numbers of deaths and  reinforce poverty. Disease and poverty, in turn, are connected  to environmental degradation; climate change exacerbates the  occurrence of such infectious disease as malaria and dengue  fever. Environmental stress, caused by large populations and  shortages of land and other natural resources, can contribute to  civil violence.

(vi) Transnational organised crime facilitates many of the most  serious threats to international peace and security. Corruption,  illicit trade and money laundering contribute to state weakness,  impede economic growth and undermine democracy. These  activities thus create a permissive environment for civil conflict.

The prospect of organised criminal groups providing nuclear,  radiological, chemical and biological weapon to terrorists is particularly  worrying. Increasing drug trade partly accounts for rapidly increasing  levels of HIV/AIDS infections, especially in Eastern Europe and parts of  Asia. And organized criminal activities undermine peace building efforts  and fuel many civil wars through illicit trade in conflict commodities and  small arms.

While a lonely environment can engender a psychological feeling of  insecurity, an overcrowded environment could also lead to civil strife  and occasional burst of civil disturbance especially in communities which  are beehives of social miscreants. It is not far-fetched that in the police  or security circles, we do have some areas known as hot spots/dark  spots, in places such as Mushin, Palmgrove, Ajegunle, Massamasa in  Lagos, Nigeria. In overseas countries like UK we have in South London,  Peckham, Brixton etc, with similar peculiarities, and also the red light  districts, city centres where cinema and gambling houses are located,  etc. In the US there are also areas commonly referred to as downtown,  Harlem, ghettos, etc, where crime is prevalent, with gangsterism. This is  why security operatives are usually concentrated in such areas with all  apparatus of early warning systems for detecting and monitoring crime.

Coming to the issue of environment, countries are legitimately concerned with military security and economic security. However,  ecologists point out that all economies were supported by the earth’s natural capital. According to environmental expert Norman Myers, “If a nation’s environmental foundations are degraded or depleted, its  economy may well decline, its social fabric deteriorate, and its political  structure become destabilized as growing members of people seek to  sustain themselves from declining resource stocks.” Thus, national  security is no longer about fighting forces and weaponry alone. It relates  increasingly to watersheds, croplands, forests, genetic resources,  climate, grazing lands as in the case of Fulani herdsmen and other  factors that, taken together are as crucial to a nation’s security as are  military factors.

Proponents of the view call for all countries to make environmental  security a major focus of diplomacy and government policy at all levels.

This would be implemented by having a council of advisers made up of  highly qualified experts in environmental, economic and military security  who integrate all three security concerns in making major decisions.

The limits of self-protection

Just as there is a limit for individual self-protection, no state, no  matter how powerful, can by its own efforts alone make itself  invulnerable to today’s threats. Every State requires the cooperation of  other states to make itself secure. It is in every state’s interest,  accordingly, to cooperate with other states to address their most  pressing threats, because doing so will maximize the chances of  reciprocal cooperation to address its own threat priorities.

  1. Take, as one example, the threat of nuclear terrorism. Experts estimate that terrorists with 50 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU), an amount that would fit into six one-litre milk cartons, need only  smuggle it across borders in order to create an improvised nuclear  device that could level a medium-size city. Border controls will not  provide adequate defense against this threat. To overcome the threat of  nuclear terrorism requires the cooperation of states, strong and weak, to  clean up stockpiles of HEU, better protect shipping containers at ports and agree on new rules regulating the enrichment of uranium.

Cooperation in the sharing of intelligence by States is essential for  stopping terrorism.

  1. Similarly, in order to stop organised crime states must cooperate to fight moneylaundering, trafficking in drugs and persons, corruption.

International collective security institutions diminish the security of every  region and State.

  1. The most robust defence against the possible terrorist use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons would seek to control dangerous materials, deter and capture terrorists, and address the  broader threats that increase the risk of terrorist action. Civil war,  disease, the likelihood of state collapse and facilitate the spread of  organized crime, thus also increasing the risk of terrorism and  proliferation due to weak states and weak collective capacity to exercise  the rule of law. Preventing mass-casualty terrorism requires a deep  engagement to strengthen collective security systems, ameliorate  poverty, combat extremism, end the grievances that flow from war,  tackle the spread of infectious disease and fight organized crime.
  2. Thus all states have an interest in forging a new comprehensive collective security system that will commit all of them to act cooperatively in the face of a broad array of threats.


1• History teaches us all too clearly that it cannot be assumed that  every State will always be able, or willing, to meet its responsibilities to  protect its own people and avoid harming its neiqhbours. And in those  circumstances, the principles of collective security mean that some  portion of those responsibilities should be taken up by the international  community, acting in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations  and the Universal Declaration’ of Human Rights, to help build the  necessary capacity or supply the necessary protection, as the case may  be.

  1. What we seek to protect reflects what we value, and this is common to every state, country or community.


To be credible and sustainable a collective security system must  be effective, efficient and equitable. In all these respects, the multilateral  system as we now know it, in responding to the major security threats  which the world has confronted in recent decades, has shown that it can  perform. But it must be strengthened to perform better.


Whether by reducing the demand for nuclear weapons, mediating inter-State conflict or  ending civil wars, collective security institutions have made critical contributions to the  maintenance of international peace and security, although those contributions are often  denigrated, both by those who would have the institutions do more and by those who would  have them do less. For this reason proactive measures should normally be deployed for  maintaining security through institutional and structural means.  It is instructive to note that security operatives which include Defence, Police and other  “pararnlntary institutions are often deployed for territorial coverage at National States levels.


In line with the essence of Environment as a critical factor to internal security, it is instructive  to consider the proposition of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for citizen Police, who aptly stated  that “it stands to good reason that it is not likely for others to know the nooks and crannies of  a community than the residents of the particular community (i.e. the environment), over time”  stating further that “The elements and components underlying life and living are ever  dynamic and increasingly complex. We are now at the stage in our national affairs as a  nation that the issue of people policing should be put in the front burner”.

It is also noteworthy that proponents of State Police have always come up with the notion that it is more effective to maintain security in Nigeria through State Police because of the  afore mentioned fact of familiarization with the environment. In this regard, Ogbeni  Aregbesola opined that “the best arrangement is to federalize policing instead of present  centralized arrangement In line with federal principles, we must have state and local  government police. It is curious that we have state laws and even local government edicts, it  comes to good reason therefore that they should have their own policing outfits. This is how  restructuring should affect the police.” However, the effectiveness of this proposition appears  subjective to the opponents of State police who believe that State Police might become a  tool for witch-huntinq of political opponents.

From the foregoing, it can be safely concluded that Environment is a critical factor in internal  Security which is a shared responsibility.

Mr Fatoberu delivered this paper at the Senior Executive Course of Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru.