Passing the Buck: Nigerian Legislators and Insurgency

insurgency

Security is about the most essential of all social expectations, and it is germane to the consolidation of democratic governance. Recent and persistent demands for the removal of service chiefs, probe into the expenditure of the Nigerian military, and the demand for President Muhammadu Buhari to address the National Assembly could only hastily be perceived as efforts to tackle insecurity in the country.

However, a deeper examination of all angles to the security concerns in the country will reveal that the capacity of the nation’s legislature to effectively lay the parliamentary framework for an enhanced and more efficient national security sector is grossly deficient and at the bottom of the unending war against insurgency.

In the first instance, the National Assembly is required by the Constitution to pass ‘laws that guide, regulate and define the various agencies of the security sector, including their powers and functions.’ The provision of laws that can effectively guide and regulate any unit of government demands a good percentage of partnership, deeper understanding, and great attention to details.

insurgency
The Nigeria National Assembly

Recent actions and resolutions of the National Assembly have reflected everything except partnership and understanding with an executive arm that they are expected to partner with to ensure that peace and good governance reign in the country. It is playing to the gallery when the National Assembly fails to provide the necessary parliamentary framework required by the Nigerian military in the war against insurgency and insecurity in the country. Rather than tackle the issues head-on, they engage in gerrymandering and buck passing, and keep the nation distracted by the theatrics of their non-performance.

The National Assembly has failed to ask the most important question about insecurity in Nigeria: What can be done to defeat Boko Haram, banditry, and insecurity in the country? The senators and members of the House play politics with it. Governors, politicians, the media, and even the organized civil society all play politics with it. And everyone turns around and says, it must be the service chiefs.

Senator Ali Ndume, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Army, and a senator representing Borno South Federal Constituency, has repeated stated the challenges that the Nigerian Army faces in the war against insurgency. A few other military strategists have spoken to the same effect. The Nigerian Army needs to be properly funded to frontally tackle insurgency and other security threats in the country.

What does this mean?

Ndume also told his fellow lawmakers that the Nigerian Army needs to recruit more boots on the ground to have a robust and impenetrable presence, so as to provide a well-coordinated defense against the insurgents.

Could Ndume’s recommendations have fallen on the deaf ears? The 2021 budget of the Nigerian Army remains a meagre N27.87 billion for capital and operational expenses, out of a N13 trillion budget? Senate Ali Ndume had asserted that the Nigerian Army needed a lot more to prosecute this unique type of insurgency, and also spread its presence all the states of the Federation, especially in areas where IPOB, IMN, EndSARS promoters, and sophisticated disruptors of national security are widespread. It seems the Senate is more comfortable with questioning the expenditure of the Nigerian Army and constantly peddling rhetorics on the floor of the house, instead of coming up with strategies and laws that will give the military ample powers to frustrate the actions of Boko Haram and other insurgents.

Governance, according to the World Bank, is “the exercise of political authority and the use of institutional resources to manage society’s problems and affairs” (cited in Conflict Prevention Resource Pack, 2009: 111). It is the management of both the human and material resources of an organization or a state with a view to accomplishing the collective goal(s) of the organization or the state. Thus, ‘democratic governance’ by inference implies the art of governing people in line with the tenets of democracy (Babawale, 2007:47). A society is democratic in so far as the public can play a meaningful role in managing their own affairs (Chomsky, 1991:12).

Consequently, democratic governance of the security sector implies the participation of the people, through their elected representatives, in the management of a nation’s security system. Central to the idea of democratic governance are: the principle of popular participation and the principle of public accountability of the leadership. Given this, a democratic security sector is one that is accountable and responsive to the people.

Ndume’s position coincides with the fact that although the Nigerian Army had conducted some recruitment, such remained insignificant in tackling the insurgency in the Northeast, let alone engaging all the frontiers of national threats. The insufficiency of the number of boots on the ground has led to fatigue amongst the soldiers who have not been availed any leave to refresh before they can return to the theatres of war. While the Nigerian Army continues to engage Boko Haram insurgents within its capabilities, the Senate should avoid all forms of doublespeak as this can affect the morale of men at the frontlines.

The entire Northeast is under a psychological siege because socio-economic activities can be hardly undertaken in some areas without the threat of attacks from the insurgents and bandits. It is burdened by mines implanted on roads and farmlands. It is stifled by the fear that one’s life may be scuttled in an attempt to exist within the confines of the sovereign and peaceable suzerainty of the Nigerian State. The Nigerian Army struggles to represent the legitimacy of government on the frontiers. It has not been able to sustain higher measures of victory because it lacks enough boots on the ground to midwife the localities back into peaceful, civil existence.

Their brief presence in some localities signals temporary flags of victory that soon disappear once they move to another location. This was expressed by the Council on Foreign Relations which noted that, ‘The reality appears to be that the Nigerian Army is able to secure Maiduguri and the larger towns. It has consolidated its forces into fortified bases in these population centres in part to reduce military casualties. It can even clear episodically certain rural districts. But it is not able to retain the territory it clears, nor the territory around cities and towns. In this way, insurgents have at times effectively cut off ground travel to these cities and towns from the rest of the country.’

Furthermore, it is clear that insurgents bid their time until the army, for lack of enough boots on the ground, remove themselves from the scene. The insurgents swiftly return to the scene to cause havoc, kill informants, and displace members and leaders of the communities. Garba Shehu hinted at the truth of the matter when he said that Zabarmari massacre was caused by the fact that the farmers did not receive clearance from the army before embarking on their farming activities. As much as this is a pathetic reality of the lives of Borno residents, it also speaks volumes to the fact that the military is unable to stretch itself to protect residents of Borno in all local governments, farm settlements, streets and compounds. This is because it is constantly managing a fatigue, resulting from inadequate numerical strength.

In order to tackle this insurgency, the army needs not only more boots on the ground, but also trained informants, and high-level technology to combat the insurgents head-on. The Nigerian Army has proven to Nigerians that it is serious in expunging the menace of Boko Haram through  its advancements in developing armoured tanks, establishment of training programmes for both superior and mid-level officers in new areas of warfare, and improvement if the provision of health-care. According to Major General John Enenche, the strategy development approach of the Nigerian Army against the Boko Haram insurgents has always been a bottom-to-top approach so that the soldiers on the ground can feel motivated, and can own the modus operandi of the operation in the trenches.

While the leadership of the army is doing all it can to motivate the soldiers, the Senate has not shown enough sympathy and concern to the limitations in armoury and technology that has impeded the victory of the soldiers. Senator Ali Ndume had lamented in recent times that the Boko Haram insurgents have a more ballistic presence than the Nigerian Army. The Boko Haram deploys drones to map the movements of the soldiers on the ground so that it can set in motion series of offensives. What the Senate must do to salvage the situation is to critically evaluate the needs of the Nigerian Army, and provide the necessary support for it to completely wipe out Boko Haram from the country.

Undoubtedly, when poor leadership lives in denial of its responsibilities, it searches for and impugns a scapegoat.  On three occasions, the National Assembly has called for the replacement of the service chiefs in the name of injecting ‘fresh ideas’ into the war against insurgency. The National Assembly fails to recognise that all the officers and men of the Nigerian Military, irrespective of rank, constantly tinker with the pockets of internal and possible external insecurities that plague the territorial integrity of the country.

It is therefore a parody of good judgment to dwell on the service chiefs instead of engaging the issues and deficits that hamper the productivity of the Nigerian military. It actually portrays the intellectual deficit of the Nigerian legislators and their hundreds of legislative aides that they are not able to grapple with the real issues of insecurity in the country.  The constant demand for the heads of the service chiefs when it has failed to provide the required minimum parliamentary support only smirks of deceit and hypocrisy.

The National Assembly is aware of its constitutional powers to create a framework that would enable the President and the military to decisively deal with the issues of insecurity in the country. It has thus far failed in that responsibility, and rather than wake up to the truth, it continues to deliberately and mischievously pass the bulk to the service chiefs.

The expectation of many Nigerians is that the legislature should put on the top burner of its legislative agenda, a critical discourse of insecurity in the Northeast, banditry in the Northwest, and cyber and real-time attacks across the polity. Deliberations in the National Assembly should be engaged with a clinical approach and resolve to find lasting, measurable and practical solutions to the nation’s security issues.

Chinedu Ibiam  

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