EDIFYING ELUCIDATIONS BY OKEY IKECHUKWU
Let us suppose that the Department of State Services (DSS), or the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), for instance, uncovers plans by some individuals to commit a crime against the Nigerian State; like smuggling one million guns into the country. The spook agency will share such Intel with the relevant sister agencies, for them to play their statutory roles. It is then for the sister agencies to swing into action with the intelligence provided, lay ambush where necessary and apprehend the criminals concerned.
But some of the sister military, security and paramilitary agencies may find themselves unable to act. This may be because of lack of equipment/personnel or logistics, or even other operational challenges; including some personnel of the agency(ies) working out an “accommodation plan” with the criminals, which may not serve the national interest. The problem would then not be “failure of intelligence;” but failure (or inability) to act on intelligence.
As observed on this page on February 8, 2021, with the title ‘To Help the New Service Chiefs’ “If you give a man a job, you must also give him the tools and enabling environment to perform the job. It is only then that you can reasonably demand, and expect, good results. An expert without tools, and who also does not have the enabling environment to perform, will only have his hard-earned reputation ruined. Thus, when an expert is given a task he would have ordinarily performed very well, but is not given what he needs for the job, he will achieve nothing commendable. Also, for an expert to succeed, whatever he needs must be given to him on time, in the right measure and to the degree required. For instance, the most brilliant and experienced car mechanic or Maintenance Officer will not be able to change a single spark plug in a car if you just announce his appointment, read out his resume and then send him into the workshop without a tool kit. He will be a disaster. The same thing will happen if you send a great war general to the battlefield with nothing but his reputation as a great war general. Modern warfare is not traditional wrestling.”
This singular fact is often lost on many people who express rather strong views on national security issues these days. We have more than ample reports of political office holders describing failure to use available intelligence wrongly. And since no security agency that finds its offerings not being properly utilized by other arms of the nation’s security architecture can go public on the matter, we are muddying national discourse by uninformed commentary. To announce that intelligence is not being utilised is to subvert wider national interests and; advertise national vulnerabilities. The cascade of calamities confronting the nation on various fronts today is more due to the progressive incapacitating of the state’s instruments of coercion and defence, than unavailability of actionable intelligence.
These problems are far more pronounced in the Northern parts of the country, where wide expanses of land are under the relentless attack of bandits, rampaging insurgents and cold-blooded terrorists. Communities and neighbourhoods are being laid waste on a regular basis, even as kidnappers are cheerfully patrolling the length and breadth of the country. Information about all of this, which can aid preemptive action, is often available. But the police is ill-equipped and the soldiers are now spread too thin. This has created a thriving industry of ransom takers, with criminal herdsmen; who are actually armed smugglers from outside the country. These criminals are the ones giving generations of Nigerian herders, who have lived peacefully within and around many host communities for decades, a bad name.
The IPOB situation in the South-east is moving up its octave every week. There is continued decimation of police personnel, police stations and the torching of offices of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC). It is not getting any better, in terms of genuine stability of community life in most of the troubled areas in the country. And it is against the background of all of this that you find the oft-glibly mouthed claim that the solution is to change the nation’s security architecture, “in order to remedy” the failure of intelligence. Utter bunkum!
Concerning the question of security architecture, there is probably no subject on which greater nonsense has been uttered in the last few years. Yes, there are security challenges of various kinds.
Yes, our soldiers, both officers and men, have sometimes been worsted by better equipped insurgents and other opportunistic miscreants. Yes, many political office holders have stridently called for a review of the national security architecture. But what do they, individually and collectively, mean by the term? They are all now aboard the ferry boat of those repeating what they have heard others say, on the mistaken assumption that they are thereby contributing to national discourse and helping proffer solutions to a serious national problem. The bubble goes burst when you ask any one what he understands, or means, by “security architecture.” This includes governors, some of whom are actually remiss in the simple matter of holding regular security meetings. It does not occur to them that the Security Architecture of a nation refers to the network of policies, institutions, personnel, activities and processes that work together to secure and safeguard good governance and the environment. This includes, and primarily revolves around, everything put in place to ensure a stable polity – including traditional rulers and local government chairmen.
A nation’s security architecture is not just the police, the military, the intelligence services and paramilitary organisations. These agencies have their statutory functions and also leverage each other’s capacities and work in concert. But the security architecture encompasses whatever is done, or left undone, by the state to ensure that there are no breaches that could impact negatively on the safety of life and property of citizens is involved. That is why “food security” is a key issue in all international conversations about national security today. Defence, and strategies for Defence in times of war, is not security architecture.
Several stories emerged concerning the initial shooting expedition around Owerri, which reportedly lasted for hours unchallenged. Because a nearby military formation was accused of complicity, being that it did not intervene while it all lasted, the rumour gained currency that the shooting was all orchestrated from Abuja. When I personally contacted the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru on the matter, and he agreed to a no-holds-barred meeting in his office, I was sure the truth would come out. He was forthright in his answers and explained how and why the defaulting officer was swiftly removed within hours of the incident and investigated; up to the point of being issued with a Letter of Displeasure by the High command. A still mildly enraged Attahiru said during our meeting: “How can anyone allow such a thing to even start, not to think of it going on for hours, on the professionally shameful claim that his perimeter was not under threat? The reason you are there in the first place is to protect the civilian population and maintain law and order, for goodness sake!”
Attahiru’s assertions rang true in every way, but I still sought and obtained further confirmation. Yes, everything he said was true. The steps taken with regard to the officer in particular went even much further than what he told me in his office. That raised a problem he also expressed concern about, namely, that we should be worried about something dangerous going on in the South-east and all over the country and which may claim a lot of lives if state governors and local communities do not show greater seriousness in security matters – and in their own survival. It is confirmed that the governor of Imo State, for instance, got ample intelligence reports before the first shooting incident. Stakeholders were also alerted and briefed by security agencies that members of IPOB had concluded plans to attack offices of the INEC in Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, Imo and Abia states.
The Intel included such details as the fact that it should be expected between late hours of May 14 and the early hours of May 15, 2021. The attack was said to be in continuation of series of steps evolved by IPOB to ensure electoral activities would not take place in the “Old Eastern Region.” Details of other locations targeted for various forms of disruptive activities included Igbanke, Auchi, Ibillo, Ekpoma, Uruekpe, Uromi, Ubiaja, Okpella, Ewohim, among others. It is also on record that the Abia State Government confirmed that it uncovered plots by yet to be identified hoodlums to carry out an attack in the state. So, we are not talking about failure of intelligence as such. Failure to act (and/or act decisively in the right way and to the right degree) based on available intelligence is the issue.
Is it true that the recent wave of violent attacks on security buildings and personnel in the South East and parts of the South-south is show that it is not? IPOB recently accused the South-east governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some traditional rulers in the zone of compiling the names of those they perceive as dissidents for arrest and incarceration by the federal government. True or not, this narrative has created division and mistrust. Public perception of the Igbo political leadership as saboteurs is growing among a growing population that has no capacity for strategic engagement at the leadership level. The attacks targeting security facilities and personnel in places like Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, especially in the Bakassi area, suggest a deliberate ploy to ensure untrammeled access to the southern part of Cameroon – and to the sea. Has the same thing not been happening in 5he north, for years now?
The question of what we actually do with the Intel provided by the nation’s intelligence services remains unaddressed. There was ample intelligence before the kidnap of the Chibok girls. The recent events in Niger State, and in many other states of the federation, have not been purely due to lack of intelligence. We were getting “repentant” Boko Haram members for years, but we got no indication of where to find Shekau, their leader. We cannot keep calling for peace without admitting that the IPOB narrative, like the narrative of radicalization in the north, finds resonance with a deprived population. The talk about “failure of intelligence” is now threadbare, even as our military and paramilitary agencies are yet to be equipped and primed to perform optimally. The lives of committed officers and men matter.
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