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Stolen radioactive materials, NYSC farms… 10 things you might’ve missed from Nigeria’s Security Strategy

LAST December, a revised edition of Nigeria’s National Security Strategy document was released by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, to guide the country in its fight against insecurity.

In his preface to the document, now obtained by The ICIR, Monguno explains that it was formulated to help Nigeria contend with such problems as terrorism, kidnapping, militancy, small arms and light weapons proliferation, banditry, and pastoralists and farmers’ conflicts. But then, he adds, it also “underscores the need to address the socio-economic concerns such as corruption, which breeds poverty and unemployment; insecurity and the diversification of the economy”.

The first edition was published in 2014 and subjected to review after five to 10 years. As with other policies, doubts have been expressed about how far the government will go in implementing its recommendations. Umar Aliyu Babangida, a former military intelligence officer, emphasised that though the strategy is well-written, it will be useless unless it is executed.

In this report, The ICIR shares ten notable observations and proposals highlighted in the document.

Stolen radioactive substances

There have been incidents of loss of radioactive materials belonging to oil companies in the Niger Delta, the NSA notes in the revised strategy document.

If people are exposed to large amounts of such substances, it raises the risk of cancer and could cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, haemorrhage, central nervous system damage, and even death. Also, in the wrong hands, they can be used to make explosives and nuclear weapons.

The NSA admits that the loss of materials with Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) components can compromise public safety. These substances are currently in use in large quantities in various sectors including health, petroleum, education, and energy.

Drones: a threat to ‘VIP security’

The strategy document says that the prevalence of drones [unmanned aircraft] constitutes safety challenges, including mid-air collisions with manned aircraft, penetration of prohibited airspaces, terrorism, espionage, drug trafficking—and also “threats to VIP security”.

The term VIP security or protection, The ICIR, found is often used to refer to bodyguards, not the preference of law enforcement agencies for a class of people as suggested by the country’s security strategy.

Meanwhile, the same document, in another section, seeks the promotion of social justice, equal opportunities, and the elimination of “all forms of discrimination, favouritism and preferential treatment in our national life”.

The government had in 2016 placed a ban on the use of drones without security clearance, but the authorisation process has been described as problematic, especially compared to similar rules in other countries.

Promoting Military-Industrial Complex

According to the document, Nigeria’s armed forces will improve their capacities by deliberately exploiting “the full range of a nation-wide Military-Industrial Complex (MIC)”. It further states that the country “will promote the development of the MIC as a deliberate national economic security option”.

But this  proposal might not be well-informed.

MIC refers to a form of alliance between a country’s military and the defence industry, including manufacturers of weapons who supply the forces. Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, who popularised the term himself condemned this practice.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” the retired five-star general warned while delivering his farewell speech in 1961.

“The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Planning for a future without crude oil

The strategy document recognises that there is an energy deficit in Nigeria despite immense oil, gas, hydro, wind, and solar resources.

“Given the development of shale oil and electric vehicles by developed countries, we need to continue to plan for a future without crude oil,” it recommends, and also encourages investments in nuclear and renewable technologies.

However, last year, when Ben Murray-Bruce, former Bayelsa East senator, introduced a bill to phase out petrol vehicles by 2035, the House kicked against it—according to former deputy senate president Ike Ekweremadu, because “this will enable us to sell our oil.”

Oil still constitutes nearly 90 per cent of all of Nigeria’s exports to other countries and is a major source of budget funding.

The problem called cryptocurrency

The office of the NSA highlighted a number of global trends, which Nigeria’s economy is vulnerable to. Among them are cryptocurrencies, digital assets used to conduct financial transactions using blockchain technology.

Others include international trade wars including the US-China trade dispute, geopolitical realignments including Brexit, the development of new technologies and energy sources, and then global commodity price instability.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had said in 2018 that virtual currencies were not recognised in Nigeria and not protected by law, but Nigerian users of cryptocurrency have continued to increase in number.

Revival of NYSC farms

One of the things the strategy seeks to do in achieving set objectives is the “resuscitation of the NYSC [National Youth Service Corps] pilot farms and empowerment of corps volunteers under the war against poverty programme”.

The NYSC Director-General, Suleiman Kazaure, had in 2017 said the scheme would soon start posting corps members to farms as their place of primary assignment.

“Already the NYSC has acquired active farmlands across the nation’s geopolitical zones with four already fully operational in Kwali, Bauchi, Oyo and Kebbi,” he said.

It appears that the plan was eventually abandoned, but the NSA would like its revival as a means of empowering the country’s vast youth population.

Nigeria not likely to war with other countries

The NSA office believes “the possibility of direct military confrontation with other countries is low” but insists the country must remain vigilant about likely violations of its sovereignty by others.

Such attacks may be due to resource dispute involving water or land. The office also foresees the possibility of other threats, including the buildup of arms and foreign military presence, transnational criminal activities, and the spread of international crime.

Building housing the National Space Research and Development Agency. Photo Credit: The Guardian

More robust space programme

The National Security Strategy believes that outer space technology holds a number of opportunities for military activities in the promotion of peace.

To achieve this, it proposes the triggering of academic interest in the use of space through the funding of initiatives at universities, human capital development in the area of space science, developing advanced communication and surveillance capabilities, as well as the “establishment of geospatial laboratories across the country for data processing and provision of data to support strategic planning”.

As it is though, Nigeria’s space programme, which has been described as a “dilapidating utopian project”, is both underfunded and underutilised.

Kidnapping, banditry, militia almost half the problem

The office of the NSA has also noted that, altogether, kidnapping, armed banditry, and militia activities constitute about 40 per cent of incidences of insecurity in Nigeria.

To battle these problems, it suggests the activation of systems that will facilitate early warnings and responses to crises. It also recommends conflict-resolution and peacebuilding through the help of existing traditional and faith-based structures.

Annual anti-terrorism reports

Finally, the document notes that the Military has also committed to continuing to produce annual reports on combating terrorism and countering violent extremism “in furtherance of national and international accountability in counter-terrorism”.

The Nigerian Army’s website presently has no document uploads and there is no sign the NSA’s website has ever been used actively.

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