AFTER many months of being preoccupied with other things, including an unending insurgency, the Nigerian Army has announced once again that it would recommence the many security operations against criminals that had brought its personnel to much suspicion and loathing in some parts of the country. Suspicion because in the name of securing the country against criminals, a task largely alien to their training, they have been awkward in respecting the rights and liberties of the people and in making a significant dent on criminality. Worse, they have not only unnecessarily militarised the country and created tension far worse than the criminals have managed to instigate, they have pretended to be unaware of the ephemerality of the solutions they have tried to impose. In addition, the mentality of Nigerians has become so distorted that they now judge the involvement of the military in police duties as normal, effective and even desirable, despite its impermanence and the abuses that sometimes accompany it.
According to a press statement issued by Army spokesman, Col Sagir Musa, the operations are expected to begin on October 7, 2019. Said he: “In her spirited efforts to combat insecurity across the nation, the Nigerian Army (NA) is set to commence simultaneous routine training exercises in the various geo-political zones of Nigeria. The exercises are Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA 11 in the North Central and parts of North-Western States of Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi and Taraba as well as Kaduna and Niger States in 1 and 3 Divisions Area of Responsibilities (AOR) including Headquarters Command Army Records, Guards Brigade and 707 Special Forces Brigade; Exercise EGWU EKE 1V which will be carried out in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States in 82 Division AOR; while Exercise CROCODILE SMILE 1V will, as usual, take place in the South-South and parts of South Western States of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers States in 2, 6, 81 and 82 Divisions’ AOR…Similarly, Operation Positive Identification will also be extended across the nation to check out for bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ethnic militia, cattle rustlers as well as other sundry crimes across the various regions of Nigeria. In the same vein, as part of Programmes built into the exercises, – the Nigerian Army Women Corps, will stage a robust show of force/confidence building patrols in some selected locations in Nigeria.”
Why they call the operations routine training exercises though they would be tackling cattle rustlers and other criminals is difficult to explain. And though they insist that insurgency had been knocked into a cocked hat, the cancer is still festering and would still require more attention and commitment in the months and years ahead. There is now little doubt that the lines between the police and the military are becoming blurred. Insurgency is yet to be defeated, but the military has not deemed it fit to transfer their surplus endowments to those pressing duties. Have they asked themselves what happened to the crime situation when they ended the former operations, and what would happen again after this round of operations is halted? And how many states have asked for the help of the military in internal security operations, considering that there is a laborious protocol for the deployment of such measures?
No matter how hard they try, the military cannot adequately complement the police in law enforcement operations. They are an obtrusion. Crime is spiralling out of control because the police are poorly funded, poorly equipped, and training facilities have become decrepit and even unsustainable due to structural deficiencies in the funding and control of the law enforcement agency. The crime situation is much worse than the occasional and inexpert contributions and involvement of the military can remedy. Nigerians have called for a more holistic approach to the problem of policing, starting from a complete restructuring and decentralisation of the Police Force. The government has, however, preferred a desultory approach, with the appalling consequences of encouraging the military to act more impulsively in civil affairs, and even endangering democracy as a whole. This approach is wholly and unacceptably wrong.
Without knowing it, the military, as the House of Representatives recently discovered, will defy civil authorities more and more, and little by little. The legislature, judiciary and the media, not to say the society as a whole, will suffer from the military’s brusque interventions and needlessly visible involvement in civil affairs. This is a danger the civil authorities have refused to appreciate, perhaps because the president, as a former soldier himself, is inured to this danger.