STATEMENT: Effectively managing assets to protect vulnerable Nigerian citizens
14 October 2015
Today is exactly 18 months when schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok were abducted in their school by terrorists on 14 April 2014; 57 escaped, 219 are still missing.
Right from the very beginning of our advocacy, our Movement has persistently called attention to this costly weakness of our national intelligence that has failed not only our Chibok girls but several thousands of our fellow citizens who were either killed or abducted in circumstances that effective intelligence gathering and use could have forestalled.
It is clear from objective assessments of the victories by the Nigeria Army on the one hand, and repeated bomb and other attacks by the terrorists on the other hand since coming into power of the new administration, that our weakest link and highest area of vulnerability in this counterinsurgency effort is ineffective intelligence, evident in our inability to preempt and prevent the enemies. It is therefore of utmost urgency for the federal government to consider how and why it collects information and to identify ways of promptly converting this information into intelligence and effectively deploying same in a timely manner to prevent these attacks, and make arrests.
In recent times, the number of multiple bomb blasts that have killed and maimed citizens instructs an urgent action to reposition our insurgency war, to become fully intelligence-led. The Nigeria Army has over the last four months begun to regain its professional capability as seen in the string of successes it recorded against the terrorist organization and its foot-soldiers. However, it is now time for all the processes of our counterterrorism war to become embedded in a well-integrated and coordinated local and national levels of intelligence, surveillance, security, and policing. The foundations for such effective intelligence architecture and landscape certainly depend on how well our military and security teams manage our ASSETS which include the following:
• Knowledge assets – Knowing the business of policing and understanding law, policy and guidance which thus requires the deployment of the most relevant and cutting-edge knowledge to the current strategy of our counter terror effort. We obviously need to upgrade the intellectual content of our broad strategy and field operations in order to be able to preempt and prevent repeat occurrences of bomb blasts especially in places that have been hit before, or are vulnerable and capable teams deployed to the operational beats.
We also need to acquire and/or upgrade our forensic investigation capacity and capability.
• System assets – Having appropriate systems and structures in place, including secure environments and practices which require updating and upgrading the technology and equipment that we need for effective surveillance of our communities and neighborhoods.
• Source assets – Ensuring information is effectively gathered and managed from as many sources as possible which requires a more advanced and coherent reliance on the most effective processes of information gathering and evaluation. It is obvious that we must build capabilities which enable information to be gathered, recorded, evaluated, disseminated, retained and disclosed as necessary from a range of available information sources. For instance, the recent Abuja bombing were predicted by an individual on Twitter 24 hours prior. Was anyone observing? Has the individual in question tracked and brought in for investigations?
In these, the citizens become partners that offer as much helpful information as possible to those who secure them. Is there a secure medium of relaying such critical information?
• People assets – Establishing a professional personnel structure with trained and suitably skilled staff to carry out the required functions within the zones of greatest vulnerability.
We therefore demand and urge our President to remind all the seven key countries– United States, France, United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, China, Australia – which previously offered help to come back to the table to support our intelligence systems build up under our own leadership and direction.
All these assets along with a strong military/security/intelligence interagency synergy, cooperation and understanding must be appropriately and speedily put in place for our nation’s intelligence infrastructure to begin to work effectively and rebuild the confidence of our endangered citizens.
Another key area which we have repeatedly emphasised right from the out set has been value for money in security/defence budget and spending. In 2010 for instance, our government budgeted N836,016,773,836 (which translates to $5.07 billion at 165 naira to a dollar) security/defence. In 2011 the amount rose to N1,080,894,801,178 ($6.55 billion). In 2012 it went as high as N1,154,857,159,110.00 ($6.99 billion). In 2013 it increased even more to N1,178,832,576,309 ($7.14 billion). Last year 2014, it was scaled down a bit to N1,174,897,477,334.00 ($7.12 billion).
Curiously, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (rtd), Nigeria’s immediate past chief of defence staff on 1 August 2015, just 10 weeks ago said on Channels Television that ‘…the last time any piece of equipment was bought for the Nigerian army was … in 2006′. If this is true (and we have no evidence to contradict someone who was a senior Air force officer, chief of air staff 2012-2014, Nigeria’s defence chief 2014-2015) then it is beyond scandalous! The fact that after a whopping $32.88 billion (N5.43 trillion) we don’t have as much as the most basic surveillance tools functioning, and completely absent in communities and obvious vulnerable soft targets is unbelievable.
We therefore again, call for an audit and in-depth inquiry into the defence/security budget and spendings to establish the veracity or otherwise of the ex-CDS’ claims, and identify reasons why our security and intelligence systems continue to appear ineffective.
Finally, we call on our government to be and appear to be more proactive in demonstrating care to citizens. Empathy has to be the cornerstone of our public policy. It is disturbing that the victims of the Nyanya bomb attacks of 14 April 2014, (which happened earlier in the morning on the same day our Chibok girls were abducted in their school later at night) have been allowed to cope on their own. Likewise other victims of subsequent attacks. We call on the Victims Support Fund and all relevant agencies of the government to double up in their efforts in providing succour for all victims of terror.
For and on behalf of
HADIZA BALA USMAN