A former military administrator of Kano and Benue states, Colonel Aminu Isah Kontagora (retd), has underscored the need for massive recruitment of personnel into the Nigeria Police Force, the Department of State Service (DSS) and the Nigerian Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to address the security challenges in the country. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, he said the security architecture of the country needs some fresh ideas to be effective.
One major issue in the country now is the challenge of insecurity. What new measures can the president put in place to bring an end to the menace when sworn in on May 29?
It is very unfortunate that we have reached this present situation as a country. The indicators have been there for a very long time and the measures taken were not adequate to curtail the menace of insecurity in the country. It is on record that we are more psychologically defeated now with insecurity than we have ever been as a nation. We are afraid of being kidnapped or falling into the trap of bandits.
The non-state actors are dictating the pace for the state currently, which is an unfortunate situation. But all hope is not yet lost because I know the security agencies are doing their best. With more support from the Federal Government and the Nigerian people, they will turn the table around. We have never witnessed a situation where there are too many battlefields for the armed forces. It has been too demanding for the armed forces.
It offers an opportunity to restrategise the security system in the country. There are shortcomings here and there. But I believe it is time to end the blame-game and face the challenge facing Nigerians. It is very bad. I hope people will muster courage to go to their farms during this farming season. What you read on pages of newspapers is just about maybe five to 10 per cent of what is happening in the villages and rural areas. It is that bad.
So, we hope there will be a new strategy. We have not seen one yet. But we hope a new strategy will emerge to face the challenge.
What kind of strategy do you think they can bring on board?
The security system needs some fresh ideas. The current leadership has tried their best. I commend their efforts. But if we shall not continue in the same doldrums, let’s bring some fresh ideas. I advise Mr President to also throw in some fresh ideas into how to combat the insurgency situation.
There are very talented people in the armed forces and I have confidence that they can face the challenge squarely. But the strategy needs to be looked into.
What kind of support do you think they need from people and the Federal Government?
I am talking about support in terms of arms, information, intelligence, equipment and manpower by allowing them to do massive recruitment, especially the police. We are under-policed, so most of these events degenerate before they are detected. We need massive recruitment into the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Service (DSS). We have to do that massive recruitment with proper training so that most of these crises could have been tamed at the initial stages. But because there is a big vacuum in the deployment of most of these security agencies, it escalates before we know what is happening. So, taking pre-emptive measures slightly becomes a problem. They are always left to be fighting the aftermath of the crises by trying to contain them. If you are trying to contain a crisis in Sokoto, another battlefield is opening in Kaduna. Tomorrow, you hear a shootout again in Benue. Two days later, you hear again from Plateau. Then, they say Boko Haram is about moving into Borno. You can see that the dynamics must equally change.
Can we really police the entire country as criminals operate freely in villages at local government areas?
A local government of about 200,000 has a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) with 30 or 50 policemen, for instance. The DSS in the same local government has 15 personnel. What can they do? So the shortage of manpower is real and massive. Even the drug agency requires similar attention as people don’t know its importance. Most of these crimes are propelled by drugs. The NDLEA is poorly staffed. I don’t think they have up to 10 personnel in a local government. And you want them to contain drug abuse in a local government. I don’t think you are being fair to them. You have criminals acting after getting high and you don’t have enough information to contain them. So, they (security agencies) are left to be fighting the aftermath.
To enhance the overall security of the country, there are agencies of government that need to be well equipped and well trained. In internal security matters, the armed forces are called as a last resort. But due to some shortages and weaknesses, you can see that the armed forces are almost the first to respond, which is wrong.
The security agencies, if well equipped, trained and staffed, can help contain most of the crises.