Panacea for Nigeria’s Security Nightmares

President Buhari


As President Muhammadu Buhari shuttles abroad in search of solutions to the Boko Haram terrorism challenge, security experts recommend that federal government should adopt some a whole of government approach as panacea for resolving internal security problems in the country

| By Maureen Chigbo | Jun 29, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |

WHEN President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, he left no one in doubt about his intentions to end Nigeria’s internal security, IS, problems. First, he moved the military command headquarters to the Boko Haram hotbed in Maiduguri, Borno State. He followed up immediately with diplomatic shuttle to neigbouring countries of Chad and Niger, excluding Cameroun, one of the countries that have been collaborating with Nigeria to curb the Boko Haram insurgency. Buhari has also taken his case to the G-7 meeting in Germany recently to solicit help to end the Boko Haram insurgency which has claimed more than 15,000 lives and displaced more than one million people in the three Northern states of Nigeria namely Yobe, Adamawa and Borno since 2011.

Buhari’s latest security campaign was in South Africa at the Africa Union meeting last week, where he also made a case for support to Nigeria to tackle the Boko Haram menace. It is still too early to assess the positive impact of Buhari’s mission to unsettle Boko Haram. But what is obvious in recent weeks since he took over government of Nigeria is the escalation of Boko Haram bombings and maiming of citizens in the Northeastern part of Nigeria and its neigbhouring countries in particular Chad where there was a deadly attack by the terrorists last week.

Alex Badeh

Perhaps, in due course, the establishment of military command and control centre, MCCC, in Maiduguri will yield better result. As at now, a reconnaissance and an advance team for the establishment of Military Command and Control Centre, MCCC, were in Maiduguri and Yola, last week. Similarly, Kenneth Minimah, a lieutenant-general and chief of army staff and Adesola Amosu, an air vice-marshal and chief of air staff, were at the MCCC to commence operations Tuesday, June 9. The installations of hi-tech equipment, infrastructural development of the centre and posting of additional operations staff have also commenced and will be completed within 21 days when the MCCC would be fully operational.

With the establishment of the Centre, all strategic and operational decisions on the fight against terrorism and insurgency would emanate from the MCCC. “This will ensure faster response time; improve situational awareness and better coordination of all stakeholders,” according to a statement signed by Sani Kukasheka Usman, a colonel and acting director, Army Public Relations. The centre will also give the needed impetus that would ensure prosecution and successful conclusion of the war against terrorism. It will also provide the required interface between the Armed Forces of Nigeria and Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, to be deployed in the Lake Chad Basin area at the end of the month of July 2015.

The MNJFT also got a boost with the directive by Buhari to release $21 million out of the $100million Nigeria pledged to the MJTF fighting against Boko Haram insurgents to prosecute the conflict. Buhari who disclosed this at the 25th African Union, AU, summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Saturday, June 13, said the money would be released within one week.

The president, who chaired the Peace Security Council at the event, said he gave the directive based on the decision of the recent extraordinary summit of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin that $30million should be immediately made available to the MNJTF which is saddled with the responsibility of fighting Boko Haram. Buhari noted that Boko Haram had not only extended its reach beyond Nigeria’s neighbours, its activities were not limited to them because terrorism is a global phenomenon. He said the global nature of terror required all countries to act in partnership by waging war against agents of evil.

Kenneth Minimah

Buhari’s effort so far seems to be going the way of his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan and may not achieve the much desired result if it is heavily concentrated on the use of military alone to eradicate Nigeria’s internal security crisis. Some security documents which are in possession of Realnews magazine, which were prepared by security experts have all faulted the current strategy the government is using to fight Boko Haram. One of the documents entitled “Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Boko Haram: The Case for a Regional Strategy,” was written by Julia McQuaid and Patricio Asfura-Heim with contributions from Daniella Mak and Alexander Powell and approved by for the Jonathan Schroden, director, Center for Stability and Development Center for Strategic Studies. The document was prepared at the instance of the US Naval Forces which asked CNA Analysis and Solutions to recommend an approach for the United States government, USG, to counter Boko Haram.

According to the document, “the USG has been working with the government of Nigeria to defeat the group, but the two governments are taking divergent approaches and efforts to date have not been effective.” The document noted that the federal government “is taking a narrow counterterrorism approach that relies heavily on the military, whereas a broader whole-of-government approach is required. Due to the political dynamics in Nigeria, the USG has few ways to change the government of Nigeria, GoN’s approach to the conflict. We propose that the USG and other supporting partners focus on assisting Chad, Niger, and Cameroon to become increasingly able to prevent Boko Haram from taking root within their borders. While this would not dismantle Boko Haram in the near term, it could buy time for conditions in Nigeria to become more favorable to direct the US assistance.”

In 2014, the US Naval Forces Africa, NAVAF, was tasked to develop a supporting plan to the US Africa Command’s, AFRICOM, Gulf of Guinea campaign plan. In this role, the command requested that the CNA conduct a study and recommend a way forward for the USG in its efforts to counter Boko Haram. The results of the study are intended for the AFRICOM and its subordinate commands, but are applicable to all the USG entities that contribute resources to countering Boko Haram. The major findings of the report after a rigorous conflict assessment, concluded that Boko Haram is a locally based revolutionary insurgent group which utilises subversion, guerilla tactics, and terrorism to achieve its goals. Its fundamental objective is to replace the existing political order by overthrowing the secular Nigerian state and replacing it with an Islamic government. “Our assessment ruled out the idea that Nigeria is currently in a state of civil war. It also invalidated the notion that Boko Haram is a Nigerian branch of another international terrorist organisation, such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM. “Because Boko Haram is an insurgent group which is sustained by localised grievances and conflict dynamics, we argue that a starting point for devising an effective response should follow the tenets of a counterinsurgency, COIN, strategy,” the document said.

Adesola Amosu

“To implement a comprehensive COIN strategy, the GoN would need to significantly alter its current approach. But, given current political, social, and economic conditions in Nigeria, to include endemic corruption, the GoN is unlikely to shift its approach. In an effort to convince Abuja to undertake a whole-of-government (or COIN) approach to the conflict in northeast Nigeria, the USG has used various levers to apply pressure on Abuja. This has not yielded significant results.

“The USG could ramp up efforts to pressure the GoN, but this route is problematic for two reasons. First, the GoN is most likely resistant to the types of incentives and conditions the USG is willing to apply. Second, while the two governments have had disagreements concerning Boko Haram, the broader U.S.-Nigeria partnership is productive on multiple other fronts. Applying additional pressure could put successes in those areas at risk. Since attempting to coerce/convince the current Nigerian government to change its approach to solving the Boko Haram conflict is unlikely to produce the result the USG is seeking, we put forth an alternative approach for the USG to consider—one that does not rely on the GoN alone,” the document said.

The CNA recommended that instead of depending on the GoN to counter Boko Haram, the USG should consider taking a coordinated, multinational approach that places Nigeria’s neighbors – Chad, Niger, and Cameroon – in a more central role. This effort would also be supported by other international partners, such as France, the African Union, AU, and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.

“In this approach, the USG and its partners would recognise the mounting threat from Boko Haram to the broader region and, in response, adopt a primary short-term objective of preventing the spread of Boko Haram. The USG would maintain the long term objective of dismantling the group but recognise that doing so would require the GoN to be a fully engaged, proactive partner – which it currently is not. As a result, the USG would continue to support Nigeria, but would limit its assistance to those areas that are most productive, eliminating those that are not having success.


“In terms of promoting a regional multinational force, the USG and its partners should include Nigeria in these efforts but remain realistic about whether Abuja will follow through on any promises it makes. In order for the GoN to genuinely follow through with a COIN-based approach to the conflict, conditions within Nigeria would need to change significantly. Our proposed containment strategy allows the USG to contribute to stopping the spread of the conflict in the short term, while buying time until the political conditions in Abuja shift in such a way that the GoN becomes a genuine partner in dismantling the group,” it said.

According to the document, “It is possible that after the 2015 elections, the GoN could change its approach to the conflict. If President Goodluck Jonathan were to win another term, he would no longer be focused on campaigning and might feel more secure taking the required steps to resolve the conflict. There is also a chance that if his opponent Muhammadu Buhari were to win, he would attempt to follow through on his promises to end the conflict – although how he would do so remains to be seen. Therefore, we recommend that the USG revisit its Boko Haram strategy six to 12 months after the elections, to determine whether the GoN is more willing to counter the group in a way that achieves results.

“This report is the final product of a multi-step research project focused on understanding Boko Haram in Nigeria and how best to counter the group. The overall project was sponsored by the U.S. Naval Forces Africa, NAVAF. As requested by NAVAF, the results of the study are intended for its higher headquarters, U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, since AFRICOM is responsible for directing U.S. military activities in Africa, and coordinating them with the U.S. interagency. As a result, we believe our findings have relevance for any USG entity contributing to countering Boko Haram.”.

Similarly, KO Ukandu, a lieutenant-colonel and directing Staff, Department of Land Warfare, in his report entitled: “The Whole-of-Government Approach to Managing Internal security Threat in Nigeria” posits that the institutionalisation of the WoG approach to manage IS threat in Nigeria has several advantages over the current regime. For one, it would ensure threats are handled in a comprehensive manner. The advantages include, comprehensive planning and analysis, efficient use of resources, less use of Kinetic effect on the population and improve security among several others. The disadvantages of the whole of government, WoG, approach are that it leads to group think phenomenon and jeopardise the impartiality of some institutions. The whole-of-government approach means a comprehensive involvement of Armed Forces, government departments (in charge of other instruments of national power like culture, judiciary, and politics and economy) to contribute to the necessary long term recovery process with regard to a particular internal security crisis.

Alani Akinrinade

On the impediments, Ukandu writes that the application of the WoG approach in Nigeria would face several challenges. Some of the impediments include, lack of difference in institutional culture, interagency rivalry, lack of unity of effort and lack of experience and training in interagency missions among others. He advocates several strategies for the adoption of the WoG approach to the IS crisis management. To give WoG legal backing, the National Assembly, NASS, needs to make laws specifically authorising MDAs that are involved with the IS crisis management to work in a WoG approach. Additionally, appropriation needs to be made for a dedicated pool of funds for WoG IS crisis management.

Additionally, to have a firm structure to operate on, it is, therefore, necessary for the NSC to designate appropriate lead agency for the various phases of the IS crisis. To ensure permanence of the WoG, the president of the FRN as the chairman of the NSC need to issue a presidential directive establishing an ISTF, with an interagency team, to manage IS threats in Nigeria. Lastly, to build adequate a number of personnel with WoG knowledge, the FGN needs to authorise the NUC to develop graduate level IS crisis management curriculum for various educational and professional tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

Stating the short and long options for adopting a WoG approach to internal security crisis management in Nigeria, Ukandu says Nigeria like most countries of Africa is still at the rudimentary stage of nation building, having functioned as independent state for just above half a century. The citizens are still indecisive between loyalty to the state and allegiance to various religious and tribal groupings. Consequently, the institutions of state are still developing and sometimes have varied aspirations depending on who is its head. Consequently, adopting the WoG approach needs to be a gradual process. This is necessary to ensure proper generational and institutional preparation.

In the short term, rather than immediately compelling the agencies to immediately work under one command during the IS crisis, they could coordinate their activities in a collaborative manner. This they could be by having liaison officers sent to each others’ HQs. For starters, Ukandu is of the view that those appointed for the liaison need to have some knowledge of other agencies. For an instance, some personnel of the MOD, SSS, FRSC, NDLEA, NSCDC and NP have participated in joint and combined training at AFCSC in the past. They could form the bulk of the interagency coordinating staff in the short term. Most personnel of essential government ministries and departments would need to be trained in the WoG in the long run.

President Buhari in a meeting with the service chiefs
President Buhari in a meeting with the service chiefs

“Eventually, the capacity of personnel of all ministries, department and agencies need to be built in the WoG to IS operations. It could take up to 10 years to build cadre of public servants at all levels with quality experience and training in this. The Civil Service School, NIPSS, NDC, AFCSC and ASCON need to be empowered by the FGN through the NUC to develop graduate level curriculum for WoG to IS crisis management. All MDA, particularly, the non military and paramilitary government departments need to invest in the professional education and training of all their personnel. It is noted that in most of these ministries, regular training of all personnel is an exception rather than the norm. Perhaps, with the completion of the civil service school, this would be addressed,” he said.

“Having, built a critical mass of public servants with capacity to conduct the IS operations in an interagency environment, the next step would be the issue of legislative and political direction during IS crisis. A framework for dealing with IS threats in a comprehensive manner can only emanate from the highest national security organ, the Presidency. When IS threats that occur which overwhelm the NP, the presidential directive for its mitigation need to be comprehensive and detailed in the framework of the WoG approach. All ministries concerned with political, legal, economic, social and military contributions to managing the crisis are highlighted by name and lead agencies for each phase of crisis continuum mentioned. This would set the stage for an IS operations with a unified goal and end state.” According to him, “it is the national security strategy and periodic presidential directives that would do this and the task force or commission with adequate operational and legal powers would implement.”

President Buhari during the G7 meeting
President Buhari during the G7 meeting

Ukandu recommended that the federal government “should adopt the WoG approach to the IS crisis management. It should tie financial and career incentives of strategic leaders of MDAs to WoG approach work culture and attitude. The federal government should authorise MOD to train and exchange liaison staff with all MDAs relevant to IS crisis management in Nigeria. Also, he recommended that “NASS should make laws specifically authorising MDAs, particularly MOD, MOFA, MOI, NP, SSS, MOW and MOH to work in a WoG approach during IS crisis.” According to him, the president should issue a presidential directive establishing an ISTF, with an interagency team, to manage IS threats in Nigeria.; authorise Nigeria University Commission, NUC, to develop graduate level IS crisis management curriculum for various educational and professional tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

Whatever President Buhari decides to do to end Boko Haram terrorism and solve other internal security crisis in the country, which has militated against Nigeria’s leadership role in Africa, he will do well to remember the words of General Alani Akinrinade (retired). Akinrinade on Thursday at a seminar organised by the Gwarzo Institute of Security Studies, in Kaduna said: “Militarily solutions may not the be all and end all of the Boko Haram insurrection.”

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