Security chiefs should have been changed long ago —Colonel Nyiam

Colonel Tony Nyiam, who left the Nigerian Army in the 1990s, is known for his views on national issues. In this interview by KUNLE ODEREMI, he says the current strategy of President Muhammadu Buhari to end insecurity across the country begs the issue and also proffers the way forward.

AS a former military officer, what do think accounts for the state of insecurity in the country?

There are a number of causes of the worsening security situation in terms of an over-riding reason, as implied in your question. I shall say there is no fit-for-purpose social, political-economic structure.

So, the worsening insecurity in the country is inevitable if the President and Commander in Chief (C-in-C) of the Armed Forces continues to refuse to address the simple question: True federal democracy. This is an inquiry my humble self-made in my 2012 “Aide-Memoir for Makers of the Nigerian Constitution.” The topic, True Federal Democracy or Awaiting implosion, can, in fact, be the theme of this intervention, especially as the question, which is also the title of my 2012 book, has, by God’s grace, turned out to be prophetic in its quest. The practical experiences we have had since the launch of the book in 2012 have validated its findings.

So, for a holistic response to your question, my approaches will be threefold: First, the necessary short-term or immediate questions and answers, then, the medium and long-term concerns and resolutions. The long-term perspective that is strategic is what President Muhammadu Buhari has, for his self-interest, refused to contemplate. This is in spite of the reality on the ground, that without the address of the Nigerian national question, there can be no sustainable peace in Nigeria.

The injustices which the Hausa, the Yoruba, Igbo, the South-South and the Middle-Belt people are suffering under the existing social, political and economic structure remain a major cause of the worrisome insecurity.

The aspects of the over-riding reason for the prevalent insecurity: One, the existing Nigerian political-economy and associated social structures were designed more to serve the interests of the ethnic-colonialists in the midst of the Nigerian people. The expressions of the Nigeria political and economic structure captured in the extant Nigerian constitution are evidences of a structure not fit for a federal democracy purpose. The 1999 Constitution has been framed in such a way that it gives men and women of the North-West and North-East regions political power and access to the commonwealth of Nigeria. What is most troubling is that the unfair advantages or the short-changing of the people of the four other zones, the North-Central, South-West, South-South and the South-East, is aimed to be in perpetuity.

An example of a constitution not fit for purpose is the lack of constitutional provisions for making the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) independent. The result is a re-occurrence of nationwide rigging of elections and the consequent injustices have been creating an incubator of the national security challenges.


How do you mean?

There is a second factor, which is the lack of common vision of national interest and related vision of national security. What should have been the national interest of Nigeria is being undermined by the pursuit of the selfish interest of the internal colonial leaders. The divide-and-rule tactics of President Buhari’s paternal and maternal ethnicities is one such example. Three, there is obvious lack of sincerity of purpose in a number of the president’s conducts of governance. The evidence is the president’s continuous breach of the federal character principles in the 1999 Constitution. The nepotism is such that more than 75 per cent of the heads of the armed forces and other national security agencies are from the president’s geopolitical region.

Four, the Federal Government, under the president’s watch, indeed, breaches Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution, with the attendant causes of youth restiveness, particularly of the youths of the Middle-Belt, South-West, South-East and the South-South, who are victims of the breach. President Buhari’s condoning of the atrocities of his kinsmen have committed against the Hausa, the Middle-Belt, South-West and South-East people is clearly an abuse of the right to dignity of man. Section 34 (1) (b) states that “no person shall be held in slavery or servitude.” The president’s double standard in the condoning of the free movement of AK-47 rifle-armed Fulani in parts of Nigeria and the banning of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a double standard gone too far.

Six, Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, Sub-section (i) (b) provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” It is the constitutional authority for states and local governments to free themselves from the bondage of the servitude which makes them unable to provide for the security of the people of the federating units.

Seven, President Buhari’s refusal to allow for the devolution of policing powers to the states is a way of preventing the people of a state from participating in their government. Another provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) being contravened is Section 14 (1) (c) which states: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principle of democracy and social justice. As such, the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provision of the constitution.”


In other words, these perceived breaches by the president are largely responsible for the precarious state of security?

In terms of a medium-term perspective, there are causes of national security failures arising from the lack of capacity for the highest command and, in turn, higher management of national security crises.

The lack of capacity is as a result of the following: One, those in charge of the top echelons of the management of the nation’s national security have a limited understanding of what national security means and entails. The national security is seen only in terms of protection of the president, governors and other Very Important Personalities (VIPs) of government. Hence, for example, you have the State Security Service (SSS). National security entails social, political, economic and, of course, military security.

Two, there is, for instance, the long-standing ignorance of the necessity for human security. There is no provision for human security in the Nigerian leaders’ thinking or orientation and the resultant national security system, otherwise, there would have been the Nigerian public officials’ concern for food security, job security, health security, protection of the environment and the ordinary people’s welfare, and so on. These are what constitute the all-inclusive national security network that is fit-for-purpose. The office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) should have well-researched information.

Three is the belief that the use of military force alone can solve what are often social, political-economic problems. The use of hard power without accompanying such use with soft-power measures always ends up in a counter-productive way, particularly in an unconventional warfare setting we now find ourselves in. What the prevailing national security situation calls for is a carrot and stick approach so as to win the hearts and minds of the people. The lack of seriousness of the Federal Government on the provision of the means of livelihood for those they govern is a good example of the gaps in the present national security thinking.

Number four is that those in charge of the higher national security management are still suffering from the colonial mentality of sticking to a ‘forces of occupation’ approach, rather than dealing with internal security. Therefore, the Nigeria Police is called the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) instead of the Nigeria Police Service. Nearby Ghana follows the universal practice. This is why they have the Ghanaian Police Service (GPS), as a centra ised police system is common in only colonised nation-states.

The internal colonialists have ensured that Nigerians are ignorant of the universal federal democracy practice of policing being the function of federating units. In the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Australia, India, among others, the police service is squarely the responsibility of the state, province, or local government area.

The fifth issue is ignorance about changes in the nature of modern warfare which has resulted in Nigerian rulers’ non-recognition of the rise in the use of unconventional warfare strategies and tactics, particularly in the case where members of the higher management of national security are fixated with fighting only conventional armed forces. The upsurge of non-state armed men and women is also a threat the Nigerian military alone cannot contain, hence, the urgent need for Homeland Security forces made up of the residents of a state or local government area such as the part-time soldiers one finds in different US National Guards.


So, what kind of intervention would you like to see in the quest to arrest the wave of violent crimes in Nigeria?

There is the need for paramilitary forces that bridge the gap between the armed forces whose main task is defence against external threat and the police service, whose duty is to maintain law and order. This is essential, as the NPF is not trained in field craft which is

crucial for fighting in the bush, that is, outside built up areas.

Except for the small wing of the Mobile Police, the NPF remains Constables on Patrol (COPs) in towns and cities, and, to an extent, villages.

At the moment, there is lack of independent Nigerian National Security Think-Tanks. As I have for years been advocating, we are, without doubt, urgently in need of independent strategic think-tanks to contribute to the improvement of the nation’s National Security Policy and decision-making and actually thinking through a problem so as to arrive at the appropriate far-sighted vision. And strategy of how to address the challenges must always take the priority among the prime responsibilities of leadership. There is too much focus on knee-jerk reactions, that is, hastily conducted responses to what are often effects. This is instead of the execution of well thought-out plans of actions that address problems from their cause.

The National Security Think-Tanks we probably possess now are more of the Federal Government’s in-house study centres. The National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), the National Defence College (NDC) and the National War College that exist in Nigeria all suffer from the Nigerian factor of sycophancy. There is a need for a United Services Institute made up of essentially retired senior services officials from the armed forces, the police, the intelligence agencies, the Nigerian Foreign Service, as well as the strategic arms of the civil service.

From such services institute, we can begin to have research studies with informed intelligence. Can you imagine how useful such an independent National Security Think-Tank will be to the office of the NSA? The examples of ‘The Foreign Council’ in the USA, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the United Services Institute of India and others are there for us to learn from.

Also, there is backwardness in the use of technology so far in the system. Except for one or two innovative initiatives by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), there is nothing like a Military Industrial Complex (MIC) serving as a strategic back up to our national security architecture.

On this, we can also learn from India, Brazil, Egypt and South Africa. Seven, the current system is poor in cyber security, just as there is the urgent need for the establishment of ‘a Base Line’ for assessing the state of Nigeria’s national security. A long-term advocate of this has been a retired naval officer and a former participant in the US Office of the National Security Adviser’s training workshops, Captain Abel Mamuduaghan (retd). He has, for years, been calling attention to whoever cares to listen that the causes of many of the national security breaches are due, to some extent, to the lack of effective technologically backed up intelligence to enable the national security forces to act proactively. Coupled with this is the ease with which members of subversive groups move freely around the country without effective checks. This issue is at the heart of Nigeria’s national security challenges.

This is why I have learnt from Captain Mamuduaghan, even though much younger than my humble self, that the first item in the minimum base line is the establishment of a countrywide easily recognisable and functioning emergency response phone number such as the 911 in the United States.

The second item is to ensure that all commercial vehicles, both on land and water, are connected to identified, nationally-linked central control stations through wireless or radio network. The third is to establish a mobile vehicle, or driver license identification system.

There is equally the grossly inadequate manpower for the security and protection of the lives of the teeming population of Nigerians, about 200 million people.

The three comparable military powers in Africa – Egypt, Algeria and Ethiopia, each have over thrice as much personnel devoted to making their citizens safe and secure. Nigeria, which has twice the land size and population of Egypt, has less than 30 per cent of the manpower strength of the Egyptian Army. Egypt has, at least, three field armies compared to Nigeria, which is yet to have a full-fledged battlefield army formation.

A further evidence of this weakness in strength is a country with less than half of Nigeria’s population or Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Ethiopia that boasts of more than three battlefield army formations. All the foregoing medium-term challenges can be addressed in three years by a serious-minded higher management of national security.


What will you suggest as some practical steps the president should take to address the perceived lapses in the existing system?

As we speak, there is no in-house effective Aso Rock’s structure for the Commander-In-Chief to provide actual command of the armed forces.

The actions which the President and Commander-in-Chief needs to immediately carry out include the following: Address the lack of a functional system for the provision of the highest command and the higher management of Nigeria’s national security.

The president’s and his ministers’ role of determining national security or defence policy-making and the attendant policy directions have been usurped by the service chiefs whose primary duties should be the implementation of the policy directives. The attendant forms of abuse among the existing military hierarchy is as a result of the implied conflict of interests. Surely, one can see how corruption has weakened the capacity of the armed forces, especially of their bosses. The practice of good governance dictates that public officials responsible for policy making and seeing to the policy objective attainment are distinguished from those charged with the execution of the required plan of actions.

This is what makes the duty of an elected political official responsible for policy making different from the civil or public servants who carry out policy directives. The services chiefs fall under officials who execute their department’s political heads’ policy directives.

There is presently need for addressing problems arising from intelligence failures within the National Security Services, as a good number of the failure have contributed to the present level of insecurity in Nigeria. There is the challenge of the inability to access existing information held by various departments of government. This is information which should be timely accessed by the different segments of the security services.

There is no actual coordinator of real time actionable information, which are streaming in from the different arms of the Nigerian intelligence community. There has, in fact, been the long overdue need for the office of the coordinator of Joint Intelligence Agencies’ Operations. The proposed establishment would provide, in the words of the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Chief A. K. Horsfall, “a chain-linked” bottom-up and top-down nationwide coordination of the Intelligence agencies’ operations. If we had this proposed coordinator of intelligence agencies’ operations, President Muhammadu Buhari would have not, as the Commander-in-Chief, surprised us with his confession that he was shocked by the extent and persistence of the state of insecurity in his own North-West region.

I must say there is no fit-for-purpose C-in-C’s War Room or National Security Situation Reporting or Updating Room in the Villa. There are also no clear lines of higher national security management for the connectivity of leadership to the actual managers of national security crises and vice versa. In other words, there is a disconnect between the C-in-C and his operations theatre commander, for instance.

There is presently no effective national security Threat Assessment Group (TAG) which, informed by research studies of insecurity trends, assesses quarterly the national security challenges situation and suggests policy actions.

There is lack of what is called Psychological Operations (PsyOps) warfare expertise. This, in addition to the pointed out reasons for intelligence failures, have, to use Captain Mamuduaghan’s words, has given the various subversive groups an aura of invincibility which they are exploiting to good effect in all-out propaganda war to undermine the faith of the populace in the armed forces.


Shouldn’t the president relieve the services chiefs of their appointments so that all the ideas you have canvassed for can be achieved?

The change should have been done months ago. The president’s actions on this matter are unbecoming of a Commander-In-Chief of a disciplined armed forces. The president continuously breaches the Armed Forces Act. For instance, Section 09.08 of the Revised Armed Forces of Nigeria Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) for officers has been, specifically, breached. Let us, however, make it clear that changing the service chiefs would make some differences, but not the fundamental changes needed.

The fundamental changes needed can only come about from constitutional reforms and the updating of the highest command of which President Buhari is in charge, so that the Nigerian higher management of the national security is in accordance to the universally acceptable standard.

The retention of the service chiefs well over their services’ Run-out Day (ROD) and the period of their tenure in office has ruined the career of many outstanding military officers. By virtue of the 1999 Constitution, specifically Section 14 (1) (b) and (c), the proposed state security outfit has the right to bear arms like the Nigerian Civil Defence Service Corps (NCDSC). The right to bear arms is particularly necessary as the state security outfits are to be assigned the task of providing for homeland guard or security; to provide necessary paramilitary service to bridge the long gap between the military (armed) forces for defence primarily against external threats, on one side, and the police – a civilian law-enforcement agency on the other side.

On the avoidance of possible misuse of a state’s homeland security service, the management, funding, equipping, arming and the provision of logistics and human resources would come under the equivalent of a company board of director, the States Homeland Security Commission (SHSC). The SHSC should comprise the following: At the regional, the administrative control of the service needs to be tripartite. In other words, the regional members should be composed of a chairperson and the following percentage of membership. Thirty per cent of the membership from the federal; 30 per cent of the membership from the regional government; and 40 per cent of the membership from the state government.

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