Critical Conversations

Nigerians Call for a State of Emergency on Security

In his popular drama, “Macbeth”, Williams Shakespeare wrote that there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He must have felt that no one can read someone else’s mind by merely looking at the face.
However, last Tuesday, the reverse was the case in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. No one needed any art or science to know the mind’s construction on the faces of those lawmakers. Everyone around could perceive the pressure and anxiety as members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives met on the state of the nation.

The tension was palpable. It was reported that Boko Haram, which the country has been fighting for the last 12 years, has hoisted its flag at Shiroro, Niger State. The location is just a two-hour drive to the heart of Abuja.

It was obvious that anyone with any sense of invincibility in Abuja must wake up to the reality the country is really facing tough challenges.

The lawmakers met for more than three hours before coming out from the executive session with 12 major resolutions.

Top on the list was the call on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security, following the recent taking over of 42 communities in Niger State by Boko Haram.

Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House, read the resolutions after the session. His words: “The president should immediately declare a state of emergency on security so as to fast track all measures to ensure the restoration of peace in the country.”

He explained that the legislative intervention is coming in the wake of the revelation by the Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, that Boko Haram terrorists are in control of territories in Kaure and Shiroro local governments of the state.

The lawmakers also asked the federal government to recruit more personnel into the military and the police, saying the current capacity “falls far short of the required number to effectively secure the country.”

The lawmakers also resolved to summon the Service Chiefs, the National Security Adviser, and heads of paramilitary agencies.

Last week the Senate also had a session on the state of the nation when they declared that “The president must rise to the occasion and bring in people to save this country or else we will be consumed. We cannot keep quiet any longer.”

The Senate resolved for its leadership to meet Buhari to discuss the country’s insecurity challenges, and invite Nigeria’s army chief and other commanders and intelligence chiefs to speak on the matter. The upper house called for “massive recruitment” for the military and police, as well as procurement of new equipment for security forces”.

Citizens will not forget the theatrics of Smart Adeyemi, a senator of the ruling party who broke down at plenary and wept profusely saying “The nation is on fire.”

The call for the declaration of a state of emergency has been a recurring one at least in the last eight or nine years.

The last resolution before now was the Senate calling for the declaration of a state of emergency last year. The Senate asked President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security without further delay.

The motion was moved by Senator Sani Musa following the abduction of students and staff of the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State. The Senate demanded the implementation of its ad hoc resolution on security, urging a combined team of military and police to set up operations to destroy criminal camps across the country.

From public comments and presentations at the national assembly, the feeling among many politicians and public office holders is that Nigeria’s security is in a serious crisis. Some, like the governor of Taraba State, have even suggested that laws should be made to allow legal possession of firearms by citizens to tackle this security challenge.

Political elites are still not aware that such quick fixes cannot provide the solutions to our national security problems.

During various presentations, analysts have dissected various facets of the country’s security challenges and many have come to visualise clearly that what is really needed in the country, even before now, is for the President to receive full emergency powers to comprehensively tackle our current security crisis.

Some months ago, a Public Historian and writer, Dr. Udu Yakubu, published an article in The Journal titled, “Buhari Needs Emergency Powers to Tackle Insecurity.” In that article, Udu Yakubu captured with clear precision how the state of emergency could arrest Nigeria’s current situation using the template of what happened during the country’s civil war over five decades ago.

Prosecuting the war, Yakubu stated, was not without huge and frightening challenges to the Federal Government led then by General Gowon. Obviously, it is not expected to be a stroll in the park for current President Buhari.

It is on record that Nigeria went into the Civil War in 1967 with just about 5000 soldiers in its army. However, as the war came to an end, Nigeria had well over 250,000 men in its national army, all within the space of 30 months of prosecuting a civil war for which it had no previous experience. This means that the government embarked on mass recruitment into the military, and simply overwhelmed Biafra by the sheer number of soldiers who were in the theatre of war. There were federal boots in every available space within recovered territories.

The significant point that must be made and firmly established, Yakubu stressed in his article, is that, in going to war, a nation’s military requires both strategic and programmatic approaches.

After over ten years of engaging insurgency in the country, he noted, in line with many other analysts, that the Nigerian president needs full emergency powers that would allow him to deal with these matters decisively.

In pushing hard against the current insurgency and decimating it, Yakubu opines that Nigeria needs to inundate her space with a near-ubiquitous military presence to make the needful statement against the Boko Haram fighters and bandits with boots everywhere the ground.

During the state of emergency, Yakubu proposed that there should be a timeline that government would push to increase the number of fighters in the military to at least 400,000 well-trained active personnel within the next six to nine months.

The numerical strength of the Nigerian Armed Forces should be prioritised with the objective of having a dominating presence in every local government in the entire Northeast and in parts of the Northwest, North-central and South East. Nigeria is in a state of war. A distinctively superior military power and decisiveness of strategy will be needed to completely overwhelm and decimate the insurgency at once. Such overwhelming presence of military forces on the Nigerian landscape would mean everything for the magnitude of decimation required to completely wipe out Boko Haram, bandits and other elements from Nigeria. The military has to inundate and overwhelm the entire regions of conflict within the country.

The country, Dr Yakubu opines further, would equally need to actively explore and engage other options in terms of arms procurement, as well as reach out to those countries with technological capabilities to significantly aid the task and processes of finishing this war with speed. The depth and implications of achieving the required critical measures can work best in the context of the presidential emergency power that Buhari will exercise.

In Yakubu’s words, “Fighting a counter-insurgency war will require a lot of resolve by the government to see the battle to a clear and logical conclusion. This resolve must show how much the country is ready to commit to the fight in terms of funding.

“It is only with funding that the numerical strength of the military, and its weaponry, can be increased to the required levels. But the current financial state of the Nigerian military does not indicate the expected level of readiness”.

The National Assembly would need to move in promptly to endorse it for maximum effect. It is when the President assumes such emergency powers with the support of the lawmakers, and then he can pursue a critical military development agenda.

Considering the level of resources that would be needed, development activities will slow down remarkably, to free more funds for arms procurement.

It is only with emergency powers in the hands of the President that the country can increase funding for the Nigerian Army without persistent legislative scrutiny which can be quite distracting most times.

It is quite disturbing that funding for the military most times comes in trickles. For instance, the first trench of funding for the Nigerian military in the 2020 national budget was only made available to the Armed Forces in July 2020. Without a doubt, such cannot be the story of a nation that is at war and badly needs to crush the insurgents. Investing in infrastructure development when adequate national security is lacking, is a futile venture in many ramifications.

Fighting a counter-insurgency war will require a lot of resolve by the government to see the battle to a clear and logical conclusion. This resolve must show how much the country is ready to commit to the fight in terms of funding. Yakubu wrote, “If Nigeria does not multiply her human power and firepower, she would continue to live with insurgency, banditry and sooner or later contend with more insurgencies from other parts of the country and the real threat of extinction”.

Barely seven months after, this prediction is taking place as new groups of insurgents, kidnappers, bandits and separatists how been emboldened by the survival of Boko Haram to pick up arms in different states in the country.

Over the years, The Nigerian military itself has persistently complained about a lack of weaponry. Some soldiers in the trenches have consistently decried that the insurgents even wield more sophisticated weapons than the military. The position has always been that funding is a strong reason behind the inability of the Nigerian Army to live up to its full potentials.

Read Also: Nigeria at War: State of Emergency Needed

During a state of emergency, military-related projects will take precedence over every other thing in the country. The country would need to actively explore and engage various options in terms of arms procurement.

Yakubu stressed strongly that pushing hard against the current insurgency and decimating it, Nigeria must inundate her space with a near-ubiquitous military presence to make the needful statement against the Boko Haram fighters and bandits.

In his words: “Boots on the ground! Boots everywhere! This is what Nigeria needs now in every contested territory in the Northeast, the Northwest, South East and elsewhere. A battalion of soldiers in every local government in the Northeast and Northwest will finish the war”

The current war against insurgency, according to Yakubu, has been prolonged by the huge gaps in human power to effectively crush the insurgents. This explains why, for instance, the troops of the Nigerian Army always move on after conquering and recovering territories from the hold of the terrorists. In moving to conquer the next town or community, or in chasing after the terrorists, there has often been a security gap in the towns just recovered, and the insurgents keep finding ways of making the most out of the gaps.

It is in this critical sense, Yakubu explains, that Nigeria really needs boots and battalions everywhere in and around the theatres of war, and in the entire Northeast and Northwest especially.

Nigeria would really need to take her fate into her hands. This should begin with the President and Commander-in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, assuming emergency powers that will immediately enable him to embark on building the Armed Forces into a massive and intensely dominating mobile attacking force, that will completely crush every element of insurgency in the country.