ANALYSIS: Intelligence failure compounding insecurity in Nigeria

AREWA AGENDA – Virtually all parts of Nigeria are currently battling with one form of insecurity or the other with various crimes going on, largely unabated.

Despite attempts by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to curb the rising criminalities and killings across the country, the nation’s security apparatus appears to be overwhelmed with criminals having a field day killing, maiming and extorting their victims.

The police, poorly funded and motivated, and the military, which is fighting a decade-long insurgency in the North-east, appear to be at the end of their wits on how to curtail the downward spiral in security.

Swathes of the North-west have, virtually, been taken over by rampaging bandits who kidnap for ransom and kill victims who cannot pay for their freedom.

The North-central is not free from the deadly assaults by these bandits, and kidnap gangs who now operate freely in parts of Niger, Kogi and Nasarawa and are making inroads into the Federal Capital Territory.

The North-east is yet to experience peace as Boko Haram insurgents are in a deadly battle of supremacy daily with the nation’s military in a bid to carve out an Islamic state.

Now largely ‘degraded’ as stated by federal officials, and focusing more on soft targets and solitary military formations, the insurgents still carry out attacks in a bid to terrorise the numerous communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

The activities of criminals hiding under the banner of herders have also become a source of worry for those who live in the South-west, South-east and South-south. This has been linked to the age-long herders-farmers clashes, but security experts believe that criminals, displaced insurgents and ex-fighters from other troubled African nations, may have infiltrated the ranks of the once peaceful herding community to perpetrate crimes and violence across the nation.

The South-east is also battling the activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, who are seeking separation from the Nigerian State.

At least 10 police officers were killed and six police stations burnt down in two regions of Nigeria within two weeks, a PREMIUM TIMES review of newspaper and police reports showed recently.

The attacks occurred in the South-east and South-south regions between February 23 and March 9.

Gloomy records

At present, Nigeria is regarded as one of the most dangerous places to live in. The 2020 Global Terrorism Index identified it specifically as the third most affected by terrorism.

Also, the Nigeria Security Tracker documented 2,769 violent deaths recorded between February 2020 and February 2021 in just one northern state

Kidnappings carried out by various armed groups increased in the past five years. A recent report noted that over $18 million was paid as ransoms for victims abducted between 2011 and 2020.

Kidnapping scourge

Nigeria’s present security woes appear worse due to sporadic attacks by bandits on schools and the abduction of school children, and other vulnerable persons. This has sent shivers down the spines of state governors across the North.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the mass kidnapping of schoolchildren in Nigeria in the last seven years appears to be the new goldmine for criminals today. This is especially a result of the huge cash the government and individuals reportedly pay for the release of victims.

As a result of the attacks on schools, over 618 schools have been closed in recent months by states in the north adding to the already worsening out-of-school children Nigeria faces.

Downward spiral

The Terrorism index in Nigeria 2011-2019 outlines how political, economic, and social grievances are the major pegs for violence and deaths in Africa’s most populous nation.

It says, inter alia, that ‘’several militant groups are active in the country, leading to attacks to both civil and military targets’’.

‘’Boko Haram is the deadliest terrorist group, an affiliate of the Islamic State. Over the years, the terrorism index in Nigeria experienced an increase. As of 2019, the indicator stood at 8.31. The index measures the direct and indirect impact of terrorism on a scale from 0 (no impact) to 10 (highest impact). Despite a decrease compared to the previous five years, Nigeria is (still) one of the countries with the highest terrorism threat levels in the world.’’

In 2019, Nigerian recorded the second largest number of deaths related to terrorism worldwide.

The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program, also paints a gloomy picture.

‘’Different groups in Nigeria resort to violence. The militant Islamist movement Boko Haram is active in northern Nigeria. Violence among ethnic groups, farmers, and herdsmen sometimes acquires religious overtones. A new generation of Niger Delta militants threatens war against the state. Government soldiers kill civilians indiscriminately. Police are notorious for extrajudicial murder(s).’’

Intelligence gaps

Experts opine that Nigeria’s poor intelligence gathering processes have crippled its ability to nip crime, violence and killings in the bud as done in more advanced climes.

Many of the crimes committed and violence recorded could have been averted if Nigeria had a virile intelligence network and there is greater collaboration, not rivalry, among the government units tasked with providing intelligence and security, say some of these experts.

‘’The truth is that if the obvious lack of actionable intelligence is properly addressed among all the security, intelligence agencies and the military, then insecurity would have been solved 50%,’’ said Timothy Avele, the Chief Executive Officer of Agent-X Security Ltd. ‘’From the president down the ladder of the leadership of various security agencies and the military, all acknowledged this thorny issue of lack of actionable intelligence.’’

‘’The problem I see there is that while everyone wants intelligence, sadly, no one wants to invest in its acquisition. Imagine the military top leadership asking villagers to provide intelligence. Intelligence could only be produced by trained intelligence analysts. Sadly, the entire police force has less than 70 trained modern analysts, the military less than 100,’’ he said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

‘’The intelligence network is apparently not working. The security architecture is obviously inadequate to secure the country. A centralised security architecture cannot secure a country as large as this. It is even against a federal arrangement,’’ said Azeez Olaniyan, a professor at the department of Political Science, Federal University Oye Ekiti.

Oladayo Olujuwon, an academic, described intelligence as the product resulting from the collection, collation, evaluation, analysis, integration, and interpretation of collected information.

‘’Governments try to protect three things regarding intelligence gathering: their intelligence personnel, their intelligence facilities & resources and their intelligence operations,’’ he said.

‘’Collecting intelligence to build up a detailed knowledge of threats to the country is at the heart of secret service work. Security intelligence (SI) is the information relevant to protecting an organisation (nation) from external and inside threats as well as the processes, policies and tools designed to gather and analyse that information. People tend to associate intelligence with crime prevention; meaning probably that the availability of timely intelligence can prevent the occurrence of crime.’’

Other security experts believe that if the three major outfits tasked with providing intelligence cover for security operations in the country: the Nigeria Police Force, the State Security Service and the National Intelligence Agency, were virile and united, the pervasive insecurity would be greatly curbed.

In his paper, ‘Solving Security Challenges in Nigeria Through Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance,’ an academic, Ashaolu Oluwadiya, says the dearth of intelligence gathering capabilities will continue to stall Nigeria’s search for a lasting solution to insecurity.

‘’Nigeria has not come of age. The Nigeria Police do not possess the required skill to secure a crime scene, conduct efficient evidence-gathering procedures such as lifting fingerprints from the crime scene, have no credible criminal database, cannot use forensic science in solving crime, and so on.

‘’Until recently, we could not trace a criminal using his mobile phone records. Policemen are barely literate. Their educational requirement is not high, and it has become the last resort to school drop-outs who probably had no other options in life. The kind of training they receive is abysmal.

‘’There is also a huge level of corruption within the ranks of the Force. People do not trust them, neither do they respect them. And for the other intelligence agencies such as the SSS, people deal with them with suspicions…,’’ he wrote.

An ex-military general, who asked that his name should not be used in the report, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that while the intelligence capabilities of the country could be strengthened, the challenges are much deeper than portrayed.

‘’The challenge of insecurity is beyond laying blames on the military of allied security organisations. Pensioners are owed salaries across the states and their concerns are not being addressed. It is the children of these and the readily available army of unemployed youth who have increased since the return to democratic governance that provides ready fodder for those who are behind insecurity,’’ he said.

He said the increasing number of young people who are ‘hopeless’ amidst narrowing economic opportunities needs to be addressed first to solve Nigeria’s security challenges.

‘’There is a limit to what the military can do. We need an all-society approach that involves the re-orientation of everyone, the leaders, the led and security outfits,” the retired general said.

Intelligence units

Nigeria, like other countries across the globe, does not lack relevant outfits tasked with providing intelligence. The Nigerian police have the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) and the Federal Investigations and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB).

The FCID conducts investigations and prosecutes complex crimes within and outside the nation. The FIIB carries out intelligence gathering and surveillance to aid other police units.

The SSS (also known as DSS), formed in 1986, operates under the presidency and answers directly to the National Security Adviser (NSA). It manages domestic intelligence and ensures the national security of the country is not compromised.

The SSS is also empowered to eliminate ‘national threats’ and provide security for top government officials and visiting dignitaries.

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA), also under the NSA, is charged with gathering international intelligence. Established also in 1986, it is responsible for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. It collates external intelligence aimed at protecting Nigeria’s security interests outside its shores.

There is also the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) established in 1986 to provide an efficient system of obtaining military intelligence for the Armed Forces.

The NSA, Babagana Monguno; defence spokesperson, Nwachukwu Onyema, and Force spokesperson, Frank Mba, did not respond to calls and messages seeking reactions to the report.

‘‘It is not correct to conclude that the government and/or security agencies lack intelligence capabilities,’’ Peter Afunanya, the spokesperson of the SS said in a response to comments. ‘’Security challenges have become global without the exception of any particular country. We are committed to the safety of life and property and call on the media to play a positive role in ensuring peaceful coexistence in our country, Nigeria.’’

NSA Babagana Monguno: Poised to battle terrorism through a new approach. Picture credit: PM News

Lessons from another clime

The Heritage Foundation, in 2013, said it tracked 60 terror plots against the U. S., foiled largely by American intelligence outfits, since 9/11.

The foundation said the victories were attributable to ‘’the Bush-era policies of enhanced information sharing/collaboration and intelligence gathering’’.

It also advised that for any government to win the war against crime and violence, ‘’it must ensure a proactive approach to halting terrorism; maintain essential counterterrorism tools; break down silos of information; streamline the domestic counterterrorism system, and fully implement a strategy to counter violent extremism’’.

Way forward

Mr Avele of the Agent-X Security Ltd says citizens should be encouraged to provide intelligence information and not intelligence.

‘’Secondly, human and modern electronics/cyber-intelligence operations cost good money,’’ he said.

‘’Some solutions I want to proffer include, recruitment and training of both law-enforcement and civilian personnel to fill the void in good intelligence analysts. Money should be made available for modern intelligence-gathering equipment, cyberwarfare capabilities and personnel, especially analysts training.

‘’Current intelligence agencies should be reorganised and restructured (NIA, DSS, DIA, FIB etc) to meet modern-day intelligence operations. Most personnel of these agencies do not have basic computer and internet knowledge, not to talk of intelligence software etc.

‘’A new combined intelligence agency majoring in open-source and cyber warfare should urgently be established and equipped. I believe if all these are critically looked at holistically and applied, insecurity will be reduced to the barest minimum.’’

Also, the ex-military general who asked not to be named noted some measures the government must explore to address the mounting security challenges.

‘’The government needs to equip all the (intelligence) agencies more with the necessary tools and gadgets they need to do their work,’’ he said. ‘’The police and SSS, especially have to be empowered to focus so that we can limit the ‘constabulary’ duties the military currently carries out while assisting sister agencies.’’

To address the inter-agency rivalry, which he said has worsened the situation, he said: ‘’efforts must be made to unify the agencies so they can share intelligence. To reduce the struggle for relevance that usually attends achievements, they (agencies) can rely on an agency like the National Orientation Agency or information ministry to publicise any strides they make to address the clamour to be the one to take the glory for any achievement.’’

Above all, he added, there is a need for the re-orientation of the mindsets of all Nigerians.

‘’Although insecurity is a global phenomenon, other advanced climes have learnt to repose confidence and strengthen their institutions rather than individuals. We must begin to do this. When Nigerian leaders begin to subdue their ambitions and strive for nationhood, we would begin to see the security agencies follow suit. We must also ensure that our reward system is not subjective…’’

‘‘To address insecurity in this country, there must be a decentralised security network. We need a localised arrangement. The state must be everywhere. Let the local people be constituted into local security network. They are better placed to secure their territory,’’ added Mr Olaniyan, the security expert.

By Tosin Omoniyi

Arewa Agenda is a publication of young writers and journalists from Northern Nigeria geared towards peaceful coexistence and national development through positive narratives.

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