Insecurity in Nigeria: A menace to national development, by Femi Falana
In the last five years, the federal government earmarked not less that N5 trillion for the defence of the territorial integrity and internal security of the nation. The various state governments equally allocated hundreds of billions of Naira on law and order. In fact, individual citizens and communities paid levies and salaries to young men and women engaged to secure them and their properties. In spite of the huge funds spent on security, it is common knowledge that the country is currently grappling with the menace of kidnapping, hostage taking, terrorism and armed robbery being carried out by disenchanted youths.
It is our contention that life and property cannot be secured in any country without the provision of adequate welfare for the generality of the people. I will conclude this piece by calling on Nigerians to demand for full compliance with all welfare legislations including the appropriation laws of the Federal, State and Local Governments to ensure that the national economy is managed in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare of the people of Nigeria.
The Concept of National Security
For several years after independence, the central pillar of Nigerian national security was the safeguarding of the “sovereign, independence and territorial integrity of the State”. A former Inspector-General of Police once stated that “national security entails the measures, facilities and systems put in place by a nation to secure its citizens and resources from danger and the risk of infiltration, sabotage, subversion or theft etc.” To a group of civil society organisations the term ‘national security’ implies “the absence of threat to life, property and socio-economic well being of the people”. This view tallies with Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution which states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
With respect to the economic well being of the people, the Constitution has also imposed a duty on the State to guarantee “the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice, and equality of status and opportunity.” To this effect, the State shall direct its policies towards ensuring that “the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good” and that “the economic system is not operated in such manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group.”
Although it shall be the duty of every organ of the Government to conform to, observe and apply the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, their violations by the government and its officials are not justiciable. But the Appropriation Laws which require the government to create jobs, reduce poverty and provide infrastructural facilities for the society are violated as budgets are partially implemented, while public funds are diverted and cornered by a few public officers.
In order to ensure good governance and public accountability, the State is under an obligation to abolish “all corrupt practices and abuse of power.” Apart from the duty imposed on all citizens to “render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order,” it is the obligation of the mass media to “uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.” To eradicate illiteracy and ignorance Government shall, as and when practicable provide “(a) free compulsory and universal primary education; (b) free secondary education; (c) free university education and (d) free adult literacy programme.” It is also the duty of the State to protect children, young persons and – the aged against any form of exploitation whatsoever and against moral or material neglect.
Although it shall be the duty of every organ of the Government to conform to, observe and apply the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, their violations by the government and its officials are not justiciable. But the Appropriation Laws which require the government to create jobs, reduce poverty and provide infrastructural facilities for the society are violated as budgets are partially implemented, while public funds are diverted and cornered by a few public officers. Those who engage in such crimes against the people are treated like sacred cows by law enforcement agencies. Radical political parties and progressive civil society groups which pressurise the government to meet its obligation to the people are classified as “security risks” by security agencies and targeted for harassment.
The concept of security has shifted over time, with emphasis on the welfare of the people. The new conception of security is rooted firmly in the ideal of freedom and the right of the people to basic fundamental rights. It has been said that “The value of the concept of human security is that it helps to focus squarely on human beings and to realise that traditional concerns for the security of the state, and for security against external or internal threats, cannot be viewed as ends in themselves but rather as means that must be judged according to whether and to what extent they contribute to (or indeed detract from) the interests of human beings.” The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 recognises the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance.
Democracy and National Security
The word ‘demos’, referring to people, has as its specific context people living in a community. Democracy is a means to achieve good governance, never an end in itself. What is important is to put human beings living in communities at the heart of the process, particularly women, children, physically challenged persons and other vulnerable groups in the society. We associate counting votes with democracy but there are so many ways to structure a voting system which can lead to very different outcomes. Democracy should always be structured to facilitate good governance, never to make it harder.
Notwithstanding the crisis of global capitalism, many governments have bailed out industries in order to save the jobs of their citizens. Election campaigns in such countries are centred on how to improve the economy with a view to guaranteeing the security and welfare of the populace. But in Nigeria, most members of the political class, for want of ideas, deliberately set out to engage in divide et impera tactics and to promote backward ideas like zoning, religion, ethnicity and other primordial agenda. In the process, issues of poverty, unemployment, insecurity of life and property, infrastructural decay etc. are conveniently swept under the carpet. Regrettably, the media have played into the hands of these reactionary forces by giving them undeserved publicity. The ongoing crisis in the National Assembly is about the sharing of positions, whereas the Nigerian people who voted for change are asking for a legislative programme that will tackle corruption, unemployment, insecurity etc.
Security must be reduced to its absolute minimum — what I call a democratic conception of national security. The use of extraordinary measures in the name of national security for any other purpose should therefore be discouraged. Nigeria’s national security institutions must be effectively regulated and made accountable.
Furthermore, the Nigerian government should be made to comply fully with its national and international legal obligations to uphold the economic, social and cultural rights of citizens, in order to ensure security through the crucial protection of human rights and the rule of law. The government must demonstrate the commitment in deed and not merely in words to respect the rights and freedoms of citizens and to promote their welfare. In particular, the government should re-commit itself to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals as a means of addressing underdevelopment and preventing the marginalisation of many in the country. There is also the need for a strong and effective mechanism within the National Assembly to oversee executive action, including when they vote on the budget and monitor its implementation, to ensure that a balance is struck between national security, human security and individual freedoms, and to avert any threats to democracy.
Security must be reduced to its absolute minimum — what I call a democratic conception of national security. The use of extraordinary measures in the name of national security for any other purpose should therefore be discouraged. Nigeria’s national security institutions must be effectively regulated and made accountable. The government must adopt broad-ranging measures geared to develop an effective institution with an appropriate organisational culture for a democratic society, as well as the direct and mandatory involvement of the National Assembly in after-the-fact review. In the final analysis, it is essential to place further legal limitations on government’s use of special national security measures.
Management of National Security by security Agencies
Following the dissolution of the National Security Organisation (NSO) in 1986, three national security agencies were established i.e the State Security Service, the Defence Intelligence Agency and the National Intelligence Agency. Section 2 of the Act provides that the Defence Intelligence Agency shall be charged with the responsibility for the prevention and detection of crimes of a military nature against the security of Nigeria, while the National Intelligence Agency is concerned with the general maintenance of the security of Nigeria outside Nigeria, concerning matters that are not related to military issues. The duty of the State Security Service is the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.
Other agencies of the State in charge of the maintenance of law and order include the police, armed forces, customs, immigration and prisons. Realising that the law enforcement agencies are ill-equipped to fight certain criminal activities in the society, a number of specialised agencies have also been established by the State. They include the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the National Food, Drug and Administration Council (NAFDAC) etc. …the security of the government in power is always equated with national security
It is pertinent to note that each of these agencies may be conferred with other responsibilities affecting national security as the President may deem necessary. The Inspector-General of Police is required to take lawful directives from the President from time to time. In the exercise of such enormous powers in the recent past, the President gave illegal directives which have been religiously enforced by the Police and security agencies.
Since the security of the government in power is always equated with national security, the police and security agencies have concentrated their attention on monitoring the activities of human rights activists and opposition figures in the country. Coupled with that is the refusal of the government to equip the police and the armed forces. Hence, they have been unable to stop kidnapping, hostage taking, religious riots, civil disturbances and other violent crimes which have continued to threaten national security.
National Security, Human Rights and Rule of Law
In Nigeria, there is continuing tension between national security and the respect for human rights. While human rights and the rule of law are concerned with limitations on state power, national security, by contrast, is intertwined with the assertion of state power. The result of this has often been the marginalisation of human rights in the name of national security by successive governments. The subordination of human rights to national security has been a permanent feature of Nigeria’s political history. More than anything else, high level official corruption (and associated human rights violations) poses a major threat to national security, human security and individual human rights in Nigeria.
As recent experience has shown, it is problematic to place the security of the state entirely above the interests of individual citizens. Placing security concerns in direct opposition to human rights creates a false dichotomy. Each is essential for ensuring that a society is both “free” and “secure.” Privileging one over the other can have unintended negative consequences. It is therefore important for Nigeria to strive to nurture the synergies between the two, and to incorporate human rights into national security strategies.
I recognise that it can be difficult to find a balance between ensuring national security on the one hand, and preserving human rights and the rule of law on the other. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that both security and human rights can fully coexist and are absolutely necessary to prevent the breakdown of law and order. The interdependence between national security, human security, individual freedoms and democracy cannot be over-stressed. In democratic societies, human rights are at the core of national security itself. I posit that the purpose of national security should be to protect democracy and enhance democratic principles.
Larger and longer term considerations are often set aside as politician concentrate on winning the next elections. A democratic system which creates a good balance between the short term and the long term, and between the individual and the community, will be better able to achieve respect for human rights and security.
I must make this additional point: Nigeria’s democracy must strive to meet three objectives of ensuring the rule of law; striking a balance between the short term and the long term, and between the individual and the community; and protecting the rights of minority groups. I will explain very briefly each of these objectives. First, the rule of law. Good Governance requires the rule of law. Having good laws on the statue books is not enough. Laws must be implemented and enforced fairly and consistently in a transparent way or they risk becoming dead letters or, worse, instruments of oppression. There must therefore be some separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Furthermore, corruption is a long standing problem that has to be combated.
Second, a balance must be struck between the short term and the long term, and between the interest of the individual and the interest of the community. Electoral politics put pressure on governments to respond quickly to the needs of voters. Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen pointed out that famines in India have become a phenomenon of the colonial past because Indian politicians today know they would be thrown out of office if they did not respond quickly to food shortage. All this is good but the problem with electoral politics is that the time horizon of political leaders shortens and pandering to the demands of special interest groups may be unavoidable. Larger and longer term considerations are often set aside as politician concentrate on winning the next elections. A democratic system which creates a good balance between the short term and the long term, and between the individual and the community, will be better able to achieve respect for human rights and security. Third, we must protect the rights of minority groups. No country on earth is homogeneous. Nigeria must be very sensitive to the protection of minority rights.
National security must be reduced to its absolute minimum — what I call a democratic conception of national security. The use of extraordinary measures in the name of national security for any other purpose should therefore be discouraged. Nigeria’s national security institutions must be effectively regulated and made accountable. The government must adopt broad-ranging measures geared to develop an effective institution with an appropriate organisational culture for a democratic society, as well as the direct and mandatory involvement of the National Assembly in after-the-fact review. In the final analysis, it is essential to place further legal limitations on government’s use of special national security measures.
Sending armed troops to invade communities under the pretext of looking for criminal suspects is a subversion of national security. During the military invasions of Odi in Bayelsa state, Zaki Biam in Benue state and Gbaramotu in Delta state, scores of law abiding citizens were killed, while properties worth several billions of Naira were destroyed. Following the three separate suits filed by the affected communities, the federal high court awarded about N200 billion damages against the federal government. I have also recently confirmed from the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, that not less than N25 billion damages have been awarded against the police on account of illegal arrests and detention, as well as extra-judicial killing of citizens. Such violations of the fundamental rights of citizens will not cease unless the military and police personnel indicted by the courts are sanctioned.
Subversion of National Security by the Government
Through executive lawlessness and abuse of office, highly placed public officers engage in the subversion of national security. The connivance of the State and its officials in endangering political stability in the country may be reviewed in the light of some issues of the moment. Permit me to examine some of them:
i. Boko Haram And Ethno-Religious Riots
A few years ago, some northern governors introduced the Sharia criminal justice system to their States. In Zamfara State, a man had his right hand amputated for stealing a cow valued at N15,000.00. Influenced by the official pronouncements of state governors, the Boko Haram sect and other groups were encouraged to promote Sharia as a way of life. But unknown to them the “sharia” pronounced by the governors was a political move to hoodwink the people. While the impoverished masses of northern Nigeria were being subjected to harsh sentences prescribed by the Sharia, some governors and other public officers engaged in large scale looting of the public treasury and other heinous crimes. One of the governors involved in the politicisation of the Sharia is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC for the alleged theft of the sum of N30 billion.
Another governor colluded with the police to wipe out the leaders of Boko Haram in a bid to cover up his involvement in the emergence of the satanic group. The leaders of the group who were arrested by the army and handed over to the police for trial were extra-judicially killed. It was at that juncture that the sect pronounced fatwa on the governor and declared a war on the State. The EFCC has concluded arrangements to charge the governor to court for money laundering, corruption and allied offences. Therefore, Mr. J. Gadzama, a former Director-General of SSS can be said to have hit the nail on the head when he alluded to the grand looting of the treasury by political leaders as the primary cause of sectarian riots in the northern part of the country.
I am not unaware of the diversionary tactics of some governors and legislators who have prescribed the death penalty as panacea to violent crimes in the country. With respect, the crime situation in Nigeria is on the rise due to the failure to address the crisis of poverty, unemployment and the lack of political will on the part of the Government to prevent crimes. Armed robbery is on the increase, even though hundreds of young people who were convicted for the offence of armed robbery have been executed in line with the provisions of the law.
The late jurist, Dr. Akinola Aguda once warned the nation to desist from prescribing the death penalty for armed robbery. It was his view that: “Brutal punishments escalate brutal crimes, and brutal crimes escalate brutal punishments thus creating a never-ending spiral of brutalisation of the whole society. Countries with the least incidents of brutal crimes which at the same time provide greater peace and stability in government, satisfaction and contentment to their common citizenry are those with the minimum level of unemployment, and with good social welfare programme.”
ii. Special Treatment for Influential Crooks
The EFCC is currently prosecuting some influential criminal suspects including ex-governors. Upon arraignment, the suspects are briefly detained in EFCC custody before they are admitted to bail by trial courts. However, those who are accused of petty stealing and poverty related offences are regularly held in prison custody while awaiting trial that may last for several years. At the end of such prolonged trial they are convicted and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour, whereas those who loot the treasury to the tune of several billions are asked to pay light fines in questionable plea bargaining convictions.
Recently, an influential lady was convicted and ordered to forfeit funds and assets worth N190 billion. Her 6-month jail term was ordered by the trial court to be spent in a private hospital. Nigerians who are crying foul should not lose sight of the case of Siemens, which has continued to corner juicy contracts after its indictment by a German Court. Ditto for Julius Berger whose criminal involvement in the Halliburton scandal has not had any adverse effect on its businesses in Nigeria. No doubt, the blatant manipulation of the criminal justice system has exposed the hypocrisy of a neo-colonial state that is fighting corruption under the rule of law. In addition to the erosion of confidence in the judicial system it has continued to subvert law and order in the country.
iii. Extortion of Applicants by the Government
About four years ago, the Nigeria Police Force was reported to have made over N2 billion from the “application fees” paid by young men and women who applied to join the police. The Federal Road Safety Commission hurriedly joined in the exploitation of unemployed graduates. Both the Nigeria Police Force and the Federal Road Safety Commission collected N1,000 from every applicant. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency raised the “fee” to N1,500 per applicant. It is estimated that the NDLEA realised not less than N1 billion from the exercise. Having regard to the failure of the Government to address the rising wave of unemployment in the country it is morally indefensible on the part of any public institutions to extort money from our army of unemployed young men and women.
Last year, the Ministry of Interior hired a company to recruit 4,00 staff. The company extorted the sum of N700 million from the thousands of job seekers who took part in the mock examinations conducted in several stadia. As no arrangements were put in place for the recruitment exercise, not less than 20 of the applicants were killed in stampedes. The then Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro blamed the criminal negligence of the government on the “unruly behaviour” of the applicants.
The revenue realised from the exercise is not captured in the Appropriation Act. Hence the fund has not been paid into the Federation Account in line with Section 162 of the Constitution. Therefore, the extortion of victims of unemployment by the NPF, FRSC, NDLEA and Ministry of Interior is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void. We therefore call on the Buhari Administration to direct the said agencies to refund the money realised from the exercise and desist from further extorting money from innocent members of the public under any disguise whatsoever. The EFCC should, as a matter of urgency charge the officials involved in the job scam with obtaining money from job seekers by false pretences.
In organised societies, the rule of law is a sine qua non for political stability. All persons and institutions, including governmental agencies are equal and subservient to the rule of law. But in failed states and unstable societies, the rule of law is operated at the whims and caprices of the powers that be. Under the current democratic dispensation, the rule of might is the order of the day. As democracy cannot thrive in an atmosphere of poverty, Nigerians who are committed to political stability should, as a matter of urgency, insist on the enforcement of socio economic rights.
It is my fervent belief that we cannot achieve real security and rule of law in a democratic Nigeria without addressing the actualisation of the social, economic and cultural objectives set out in Chapter II of the Constitution. At the beginning of the current democratic dispensation, the Late Dr. Bala Usman had warned: “Therefore, the political stability of our democracy does not mean the stability of the power of any civilian to rule any way they want. There can only be political stability for our type of democracy if those freely elected rule in accordance with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy and decide to make the security and welfare of the people the primary purpose of government”.
Femi Falana (SAN), one of Nigeria’s foremost advocates for social justice, writes from Lagos.
This presentation was
given at the symposium held by the Dentiscope Editorial Board at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State on Tuesday, July 14, 2015.