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Nigerians need reorientation on security agencies’ roles

The gruesome murder of four officers and 13 soldiers of the 181 Amphibious Battalion of the Nigerian Army (NA) in Okuama community in Ughelli South…

The gruesome murder of four officers and 13 soldiers of the 181 Amphibious Battalion of the Nigerian Army (NA) in Okuama community in Ughelli South LGA of Delta State which drew widespread condemnation brought to the fore the unfortunate attacks on the nation’s defence and security forces.

More worrisome is the fact that it has become a recurring issue. On August 18, 2023, 36 soldiers were killed in an ambush by bandits. On March 24, 2020, at least 50 soldiers were killed in an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe State. In August, 2021, bandits attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, killing some soldiers. In July, last year, 17 soldiers were killed by bandits in a Zamfara community, and on July 3, 2022, about 30 Nigerian soldiers were killed in an ambush after a mine attack in Shiroro, Niger State.

The killing of security operatives demoralises their comrades in arms. After all, they also are parents, husbands, brothers, uncles and cousins. Each death diminishes the agency concerned, and it negatively impacts on families as it breeds orphans, widows and widowers.

Lost in the killings is the fact that the personnel were carrying out constitutional roles. Section 217 to Section 220 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended) puts the military squarely in the frontline of national defence, acting as guarantor of territorial integrity and other core interests of the nation. This includes defending the country from external attacks, deterring or attacking potential enemies and preservation of the territory, people, culture and the national security of the nation. And they successfully carried out their assignments creditably in the past, especially during the civil war, the defence of the Bakassi Peninsula against Cameroon between 1981 and 2001. And in 1983, the 3rd Armoured Division (3 Div) ejected Chadian forces that invaded and occupied 19 islands on Lake Chad in Nigerian territory. The defence and security forces have also successfully contained several internal insurrections and crises.

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But the regularity of the attacks on their personnel shows that the defence and security forces are not getting enough encouragement and support from citizens, especially as they confront threats posed by non-state actors: terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements.

We, at Daily Trust, believe that the defence and other security agencies need public support. After all, these agencies, led by the military, are part of the components of Nigeria’s tangible and intangible power.

A strong and virile military is a credible and tangible addition to a nation’s power, and the place of the Armed Forces of Nigeria as a key instrument of national power is cast in stone. This is because apart from its contributions to national peace and stability, the military has won numerous accolades at international and regional levels for peace keeping and enforcement.

It is true that the frequency and wide deployment in civilian spaces across the country has amplified civil-military conflicts, obscuring the fact that the military is part of the solution and remains one of the few institutions committed to the country’s unity.

In addition, although Nigeria transitioned to democracy over 24 years ago, the consequences of decisions made by prior military dictatorships still influence the perception of Nigerians. Indeed, the military and paramilitary agencies are being negatively affected by the divisive and incendiary arguments in the polity.

But the propensity for insensitive bloodshed by those profiteering from illegalities should not obscure the fact that the military and other security agencies require the crucial cooperation of the citizens for the success of internal security operations.

Therefore, there must be deliberate comprehensive public and expert dialogues to re-orient Nigerians on the need to support the defence and security agents as they are the only route to ending Nigeria’s security challenges.

There must also be re-orientation of officers and men, especially of the police, as a presidential committee report on police reform bluntly stated that the police were “saddled with a very large number of unqualified, undertrained and ill-equipped officers and men, many of whose suitability to wear the respected uniform of the force is in doubt.”

Most importantly, the National Orientation Agency (NOA), alongside the Ministry of Defence and Defence Headquarters (Army, Navy and Air Force), should spearhead a campaign for Nigerians to understand and support the nation’s security agencies in their arduous task of securing the nation.

And to further earn the confidence and support of citizens, the military and other security agencies should take proactive measures to ensure prompt response to security challenges. They must step up their game and ensure a safe society for all well-meaning Nigerians.