“SECURITY”: the Need for Policy Legislation Framework in Nigeria, By Dr. Adoyi ONOJA

We – and I dare say most Nigerians – would wish for Nigeria to work for most Nigerians primarily and for Africa, the South and the rest of the world in this order. Nigeria can only work if there are policy platforms stating the nature, meaning and purpose of every policy of the government. These policies must put Nigerians and Nigeria first.

The policy platforms would enable the Nigerians to hold the government to account on the one hand and on the other hand facilitate the investigation and interrogation of the action or inaction of the government by interested individuals and groups. The policy platforms would leave no room for ambiguity on the part of the government and the governed.

It is the democracy enabling environment in place since 1999 that will guarantee the creation of policy platforms for government activities. This is facilitated by institutions of the legislatures, executives and judiciaries. Of these three, the legislature and the executive have the onerous task of ensuring that policy platforms are created for government activities.

The legislature is principally saddled with the task of generating ideas into policy legislation among the arms of government. They can do this through evolving new ideas from amongst the needs of the people, reviewing, updating and amending old and existing legislations to meet the evolving needs of the people and/or mainstreaming and providing legislative backing for practices and pronouncements of the executives.

I am concerned with the practice called “security” in Nigeria. This is in view of the failure of “security” regardless of the numerous attempts to re-strategise in order to achieve “security”. The fact remained that in most if not all of the attempts to resolve the issue of “security” and/or “insecurity” bedvilling Nigeria since 1999, the question perennially on the table of the executives and the legislatures was “how” or strategy and not “what” or policy. The assumption was that this “security” was known. Do they know this “security”? What is the basis of the knowledge of this “security”? Is it policy? Is it practice? Is it imitation?

The knowledge from where the strategies to make this “security” work did not come from policy. Nigeria has never had security policy in its nearly sixty years of existence as a state. The knowledge of this “security” comes from practice based on the imitation of the popular face of the two faces of security internationalised since the emergence of Pax Americana following the end of the Second World War.

The reason for the failure of “security” is primarily because there has never been policy framework on “security” in this country. The absence of policy framework stating what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved rendered ineffective every attempt to hold government to account and to investigate and interrogate the actions and inactions of the government on account of its security policy.

The popular face of security is the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE). This is what I regarded as the logistics of security for the United States and other powers. The military, intelligence and law enforcement goes after security anywhere and everywhere in world. Security is economic and strategic resources scattered all over the world. The United States’ Congress, in passing the legislation creating the National Security Act in 1947, recognised that its security – economic and strategic resources – lies outside the shores of the United States of America.

This fact i.e. the resources that will keep Americans and America prosperous – was embedded in its founding history replete with the reasons for migration beginning with the Pioneers that founded Virginia in 1607 to the outbreak of the Second World War. The National Security Act of 1947 established the resources – military, intelligence and law enforcement – as the vehicle for the attainment of National Security – economic and strategic resources – anywhere and everywhere in the world.

The need to have the military, intelligence and law enforcement as the vehicle for security for the United States and other international players was anchored on the theory of realism particularly the strains that distrusted human factor and the logic of anarchy embedded in the structure of international politics. Thus there is symbiotic relationship between national security and foreign relations in the United States.

Thus national security culture was a product of the history, sociology and politics of the United States. The United States pursue and attain its national security anywhere and everywhere in the world using instruments such as the military, intelligence and law enforcement, alliance, leverages and bilateral and multilateral agreement. The National Security Act is the policy. The strategy keeps changing with each administration since 1947. The latest strategy, the America First national security strategy, represented the mission of President Donald Trump during his term of office.

What is the philosophy of security in Nigeria? What is the policy of security in Nigeria? What is the strategy of security in Nigeria? There is no philosophy or nature, meaning and purpose of security in Nigeria. There is no policy of security in Nigeria. There is a document described as the strategy of “security” in Nigeria that goes by the name the National Security Strategy (NSS).

The NSS is an example of a strategy or mission without policy or vision. This explains the reason “security” failed, is failing and will continue to fail especially since 1999. The NSS was singlehandedly compiled by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) – the be-all and end-all of “security” in Nigeria without any input from any sector. As a strategy, it was first compiled in 2014. According to the ONSA, the shelve life of the NSS expires after every five (5) years.

In accordance with this, the ONSA recompiled and re-launched the NSS in 2019. The only significant addition was the notes from the incumbent President and National Security Adviser. The NSS is back on the shelves of the ONSA for keep. Like its predecessor, the NSS will gather dust as it will never be consulted even by its compilers, the ONSA, let alone ministries, departments and agencies of government, the private sector and most Nigerians that only heard and have never seen the document. Not even the coteries of scholars, writers, and commentators specialising on “security” have seen let alone cited the NSS as guide in their interventions on the issue of “security”.

The NSS has never guided “security” because beyond its defence orientation and specialisation, the ONSA has not the foggiest idea of security. The NSS sole reason for existence is perhaps to avert the embarrassment of not having any document to show in bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries.

To this end, I have argued that the ONSA should either be scrapped or refocused on defence. From the examination of its pronouncements and conducts if there is any conduct beyond guzzling Nigeria’s scarce fund in the name of “security”, the Office is about defence and nothing else. Even in the defence area, it is strictly limited to the supportive role to civil authorities. Nigeria, it should be noted, is not losing sleep over any external threat or threats.

Nigeria is losing sleep over the disillusion, dissatisfaction and disgruntlement of most of its people. This is the result of mis-governance or the ineffective and inefficient utilisation of human and material resources for the benefit of most Nigerians. This explained my suggestion that the Office, if there is any need to retain it, be renamed Office of the National Defence Adviser (ONDA).

There is every need for caution in whatever intervention on the subject of “security” by Nigerians. This is because of the lack of policy legislation on security stating what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved deriving from Nigeria’s history, sociology and politics.

For now, most if not all the interventions are in the areas of defence and law enforcement. These – defence and law enforcement – when examined from the theory and practice of security of developed countries – the basis of Nigeria’s imitation – differs and should not be mistaken for security, in the absence of an indigenous conception of security.

As I have argued repeatedly, the absence of security policy in Nigeria makes Nigeria one of the countries fulfilling the security objectives of countries as diverse as the United States, Britain, Europe and China with clear idea on their security. Nigeria’s military and the prolonged military rule first socialised most Nigerians into this view of “security”. The entrenched executive mindset of most Nigerians particularly the officials was enabled by prolonged military rule socialisation. This has been consolidated since 1999 where the legislatures have remained ineffective and in the shadow of the executives in their continuous fostering of this “security” view.

The intervention of most Nigerians whether as officials, scholars, and commentators in the perpetuation of the prevailing knowledge of “security” as military, intelligence and law enforcement, in the absence of security policy legislation, contributes to the ideological consolidation of Nigeria’s inability to deliver security to most of its people and consequently accomplishing the security of objectives of countries such as the United States, Britain, Europe and China.

The legislatures in Nigeria have the onerous role of asking and answering the right questions on public issues. At the moment, in the entire history of Nigeria and judging from the percentage of Nigeria’s gross domestic product that goes into this known unknown “security”, it is imperative  to ask and answer the question what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved.

These questions straddle philosophy or nature, meaning and purpose, policy or vision and strategy or mission. These questions should be based on Nigeria’ history, sociology and politics or what I called Nigeria’s history, experience and reality (HER). This is in tandem with the mandate from the people of Nigeria to their representatives in the legislatures to generate new ideas, review and update and amend old ideas in tandem with prevailing realities for their benefit.

The provision of policy legislation on security will empower Nigerians to hold the government to account and/or investigate and interrogate security based on extant policy and strategy. The policy legislation will also enable the development of curriculum for security studies with theories, concepts and methods peculiar to Nigeria’s environment.

Our interventions as officials, scholars, commentators and ordinary Nigerians should spring from a confluence of what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. Only a Nigerian centred policy framework can provide this confluence. And only then will our interventions enhance and advance the cause and course of security for Nigerians and Nigeria.

All Nigerians have roles to play in mobilising and galvanising the legislatures in the direction of formulating policy legislation to provide for the governance of security to engender security governance in Nigeria.

About the Author: Dr. Adoyi ONOJA teaches history and security courses in the Department of History and in the graduate programme on Security and Strategic Studies in the Institute of Governance and Development Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi. He edits the website www.adoyionoja.org/stripping/buzzingintown/aoviews/adonostra and can reached through his email address onojaa@yahoo.com

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