Home Columinists The “Ninth” National Assembly and Insecurity in Nigeria

The “Ninth” National Assembly and Insecurity in Nigeria

Ody Ajike Esq. FCBA | Lawyer and National Security Practitioner | 08057779000

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Nigeria is a multi-ethnic Country with an estimated population of over 200 million people located in habitable and inhabitable areas of the Country. According to 2009 figures by World Population Review, Nigeria ranks 7th in the list of, most populous countries in the world.  It comprises about 250 ethnic nationalities, 371 diverse cultural tribes and three predominant religions (Christianity, Islam and Traditional religion).

The National Assembly is vested with valid powers as regards to making laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation of Nigeria. This is encapsulated in Section 4 (2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). It will not be necessary to review the steps taken by the National Assembly as it relates to making laws for peace, order and good government because it is very extensive. Contemporary events in the World has transformed security from its State-centric characterization to the protection of the individual, living within the State and his freedoms from fear and want. Therefore, the rim of this conversation will concern how the focus of this dignified legislature should make laws to address the root causes of human insecurity, economic and social disruptions and violent conflicts in Nigeria.  These causes of insecurity in Nigeria arealso rooted internally in our legislative, governance, socio-economic and development frameworks. Our national security threats further, exposes our domestic socio-economic vulnerabilities. It is a notable fact that, economic development is basically a key security value and it is vital for the advancement of other national goals, aspirations and collective prosperity. This is because security revolves around the protection of interdependent values. Adequate protection of these interdependent values requires an effective and proactive legislature to prevent insecurity becoming the common heritage of Nigerians and a psychosocial factor.

The Nigerian Government after securing our political independence in 1960, has expended enormous fiscal, materiel and human resources fighting insecurity. Nevertheless, we have continued to witness a rapid rise in traditional and new forms of insecurity, threats and violent conflicts. These has led to the destruction of lives and properties with concomitant economic and social disruptions, social disintegration, fragmentation and polarization. The security challenges  ranges from terrorism and insurgency, transnational crimes, Pastoralist/farmers conflicts, separatist agitations, ethno-religious crises, armed banditry, proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW), religious fundamentalism and extremism, kidnapping for ransom, illegal migrations, environmental degradation and corruption. Most of these national security threats outlined above and currently experienced are horrific novelties in Nigeria. According toOyebode, “Nigeria seemed immune to terrorist activities in the past but has lost its innocence through terrorism masterminded by local dissident forces like Boko Haram”.

There is a proliferation in contemporary definitions of what it means to be secure because, security 

Means different things to different people due to its centrality in many moral, social, economic and political problems in the society. Security could invariably denote a psychological condition as regards to the concept of fear, a system of defence, a physical state of being and even much more. According to Booth, “Security is a fundamental human value. It is a condition of feeling or being safe from threats”. Booth, further defines radical insecurity as “being synonymous with a person’s struggle for survival as a biological organism, whether the source of that insecurity is fear of hunger or the threat of imminent injury and death in a violent conflict”. Security is then a fact of human existence. The pivotal characteristics of security, makes it a critical rational value for every human being in the society because social and economic life cannot be achieved by its absence. The primary role of the National Assembly is to make laws for peace, order and good government. This means the protection of the citizens against threats and the dangers posed by natural and malicious threats, neoliberal economic policies, and threats from terrorists, insurgents, armed bandits, governments, as well as personal risk of ill health and unemployment. The contemporary global security complexion has changed and there are new threats.  These new forms of threats and insecurity are interrelated in a complex dimension. There exist a nexus between neoliberal economic policies and insecurity, between weak legislative and legal structures with violence and socio-economic disruptions. However, the national assembly must play its primary role for peace, order and good government. How can the National Assembly make laws and partake in policies and strategies for roll back, mitigation and containment of these national security threats to achieve security? 

First, the National Assembly should engage a new and credible approach, by ascertaining the roots causes of insecurity in Nigeria. An identification of the root causes will certainly be critical in developing solutions towards making Nigeria safe and secure for the people. What has led to terrorism appeal and insurgency in the North West?  What has led to separatist agitation in the South East? What has led to resource conflict and agitations in the South South? What has led to armed banditry, proliferation of SALW, Kidnapping for ransom in the North West? It will be right to identify the root causes of all these national security threats. We can identify root factors likepoverty, hunger, and primitive local economies, lack of social, service and physical infrastructure, corruption, poor education, unemployment and religious extremism. From these catalogue of negative factors, the National Assembly can begin by making laws to address these factors for sustainable peace, order and good government. The National Assembly must also identify the vices of military metaphysics and escalation commitments which has been the outlook and strategy of our government. Military metaphysics entails the belief that, military or hard power can be a solution for all security challenges while escalation commitments means the idea of continuing the implementation of military or hard power despite its inability to cure the evils of terrorism, insurgency or violent insecurity. It is within the purview of the National Assembly to encourage our security agencies and the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) to discontinue these measures and adopt socioeconomic and political tools to cure the root causes of insecurity in Nigeria. It is absolutely impossible to address contemporary security issues in Conflict areas with only one element of national power because, no single element is sufficient to address insecurity. This is called the fallacy of a single factor. Military force or hard power may be necessary but not sufficient for achieving real security. This is because, follow up operations after neutralizing terrorist attacks or threats is to mitigate the vulnerabilities of human security which the military is not equipped to handle. Security agents and agencies should be competent neutral professionals but politicization of security has destroyed the internal fabrics of the security agencies. It is difficult if not impossible, to achieve internal security equilibrium with coercive force alone without asking questions about poverty, hunger, unemployment, poor technology, weak infrastructural base, weak economy, exclusion, deprivation, lack of access to education and health care. Our internal security challenges are basically socio-economic and requires an amalgamation of security and development policies for peace and stability. 

Second, the National Assembly must liaise with the Executive branch of Government to increase investments in education and health care services. Increasing investments in education and health care services includes increased access to these forms of social infrastructure. Education will bring knowledge and equip the people with valuable skills to provide service infrastructure to the real sector. Knowledge, as we well know can be multiplied effectively over a long period of time at no cost. The education we should be concerned with is education with a technical bias. Health care services will provide a safety net for the poor and vulnerable in our societies. Currently, Nigeria is still funding education and health care at levels below internationally acceptable standards. To achieve these, we require a dedicated and national outlook by the members of the National Assembly through law making and oversight functions to formulate, escalate and implement these measures as a sustainable approach towards reducing conflicts and terrorism appeal by our teeming youthful population.

Third, the National Assembly holds the power of the purse of the federation. The National Assembly should liaise with the Executive and turn Nigeria into a huge work site for renewal of our primitive, dilapidated and nonexistent physical infrastructural base. This measure will also lead many inhabitable areas to become accessible, governable and enjoy presence of government. A lot of locations in Nigeria are safe havens or sanctuaries for criminals and criminal gangs. More so, an effective border administration should be put in place through institutional reenactment of establishment laws for effective border management agency. Our porous borders are the tulips for transnational crimes and illegal weapons transfers of SALW. This must be addressed through measured laws creating an effective border control management agency. 

Fourth, the committees of the National Assembly responsible for the Military and Intelligence institutions in Nigeria must be allowed to participate effectively in policy and strategy formulation and constructive oversight of national security policies and strategies. These committees should be organized to formulate a National Security Policy Act for Nigeria. This Policy will encapsulate the views of all ethnic nationalities and postulate an indigenous definition of security. It is important to state that even the Nigeria National Security Strategy 2014 did not define security. This Policy will also define our core values as a heterogeneous society.  It is apt to state that the core values of the government and the core values of the people are different and divergent. A cohesive approach towards these issues is absolutely necessary. There is an obvious disconnect between the expectations of citizens and government action. Security is the preservation of cherished values. From available data collected and analyzed, a higher frequency of respondents cherish Freedom, Peace and Stability as core values. These are not controversial. People want to live in a state of freedom from fear and want, desire peace and stability so that they can flourish in their human chances. Contrary to these expectations, the Government protects most, the Unity of the Country to maintain its territorial integrity and sovereignty. There is an obvious disconnect between expectations. The Government is still pursuing a State-centric idea of security while the people desire emancipatory rights to improve their human and capital development.

Fifth, fighting insurgency and other violent conflicts in an era of economic downturn is very challenging to any Government. It is my opinion that our immediate threats as a Country are not religion and ethnicity but rather economic. Economic development is the panache for religious and ethnic harmony in every society. The National Assembly should focus on laws to guarantee our economic independence, economic modernization and distributed economic growth across board. The Legislature should ensure that through law making, the people are pacified with prosperity and well-being. This remains the cardinal principle and objective of every legislature elected by the people.

Finally, Nigeria’s Internal Security Management has largely been ineffective in reducing the level of the pervasive threats to individuals and the State. Several factors account for this level of insecurity ranging from poor intelligence gathering techniques, unemployment, politicization of security, absence of technology, ethnicity, heightened religious consciousness, poverty, exclusion, poor interagency collaboration, chronic hunger, weak economy, lack of efficient mix of all elements of national power, use of the armed forces for internal security despite the changing norms in the legitimate use of armed force, lack of adequate logistic equipment for the Police, corruption and governance inadequacy. The National Assembly should adopt these factors as priority areas for legislative attention. A bulk of these challenges can be cured through legislation while some can be corrected through the Oversight functions of the National Assembly and the members having a national outlook on issues concerning the security of the people and the Country.

Furthermore, there is need for the National Assembly to enact a law for the establishment of a Peace building infrastructure comprising credible citizens across geopolitical zones for reconciliation, mediation, conciliation and preventive diplomacy. There is also the need for the National Assembly to re-enact the law establishing the National Orientation Agency to effectively propagate integrated campaigns on collective national values, national consciousness, national identity and national resilience for social integration, cohesion, inclusiveness and social justice. The campaign for social justice must begin at the level of deliberate change in government policies regarding exclusion.  It is imperative to note that the linkage between national resilience and national security is deeply rooted in the individual’s perception and attitudes towards State institutions and leadership. An institutionalized punishment mechanism against terrorists and other violators of human rights should be enhanced through the establishment of a Human Rights and Terrorism Court. This punishment infrastructure will ensure that offenders do not profit from lawlessness and conflicts. Government should securitize internal security by establishing a Ministry of Internal Security as a coordinating Ministry for all instruments of internal security. Government should establish a specialized Border Agency for effective border management, to restore the integrity of our porous borders and societies. Illegal migration is less visible in the short term but it disrupts ethno-religious balance in weak communities, supports trans-border crimes and aids illegal weapons transfer especially SALW which fuels internal insecurity.

These national security challenges are not insurmountable. It requires a new and credible approach especially by the legislature and the time is now.

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