Nigeria will on May 29, 2023 have a new leadership that will steer the affairs of the country in the next four years. The new administration will inherit some humongous challenges especially in the areas of national security which the country has been contending with for over a decade.
Apart from dousing the misgivings generated by the conduct of the presidential election, the incoming administration has a bigger challenge of finding solutions to the multiple internal security challenges in all the political zones of the country.
These include insurgency and terrorism, banditry and kidnapping, pipeline vandalism and massive oil theft, as well as killings and violent separatists’ agitations.
Although the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies have been conducting operations across the country to decimate the various security threats, the new administration will be confronted by the urgent need to totally dominate the environment and restore peace and order across Nigeria.
This means that the incoming government must urgently search for funds to prosecute the war, restore civil authority, resettle displaced persons, address the causes that gave rise to insecurity and properly manage the thousands of insurgents and their families who surrendered to military authorities.
Luckily for the incoming government, there have been lots of successes recorded in the fight against insecurity in the country through joint military operations involving the Army, Air Force, Navy and other security agencies.
For instance, the tempo of military operation under the Joint Task Force Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK) in the North East has led to mass surrender of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists and their family members to troops in different fronts.
Available record revealed that more than 82,000 terrorists and their families surrendered as at the end of 2022, while hundreds of terrorists were killed or captured in various operations in the region.
Military authorities confirmed about 900 arrested terrorists awaiting prosecution and thousands of others including terrorists’ commanders, collaborators and logistics suppliers killed in land and air operations by the Nigerian military.
In the Niger Delta region, the military joint task force, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) has in 2022, destroyed 37 militant camps and over 1,883 illegal oil refining sites in the region.
According to the Commander, OPDS, Rear Adm. Aminu Hassan, 699 suspects were arrested in the effort to secure the operational environment for oil and gas companies and ensure safety of citizens.
The operations helped to save the nation over N53 billion worth of crude oil, diesel, kerosene and petrol; and recovered 90 assorted illegal weapons and large caliber ammunition.
In spite of recent military successes in all regions, including the North West where prominent bandits were eliminated, the incoming government should focus on enhancing intelligence gathering and sharing, including leveraging technical and communication aspects of intelligence in support of the armed forces.
Although the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Samuel Adebayo, recently said the Defence Intelligence Agency had successfully dominated the threat environment with a combination of special intelligence operations and non-kinetic activities, the government should push them to take more measures to deny enemies of Nigeria the cohesion and capabilities to operate.
They should therefore be empowered and equipped to enhance tactical and technical intelligence drive on all frontiers to sustain the gains recorded and further secure the country.
The new administration will also have to devise ingenious ways to manage the thousands of insurgents who voluntarily surrendered to military authorities, as well as support the thousands of displaced people returning to their homes, especially in the North East, after years of exile.
It is also imperative for the government to sustain the ongoing community-based reintegration of deradicalised insurgents to ensure sustainable peace in the country.
Emphasis on military response to the profound security and political challenges confronting the country will not provide the desired outcome.
Amnesty and negotiations should continue to be pursued to mitigate the conflicts, especially where military actions failed. The 2009 amnesty programme for militants in the Niger Delta region should guide the administration in that regard.
The Deradicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) of insurgents through Operation Safe Corridor started in September 2015, should also be given prominence.
So far, more than 2,000 repentant members of Boko Haram and ISWAP have been rehabilitated, deradicalised and integrated into the society with tremendous success.
According to the National Centre for Counter Terrorism in the Office of the National Security Adviser, transforming those who took up arms into normal civilians is crucial to ending violent extremism.
National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, also said at a workshop organised by the centre in Abuja on Amnesty Management, Deradicalisation and Community-Based Reintegration, that there should be greater focus on preventing radicalisation of young people by violent extremists.
Monguno agreed that the DDR would fundamentally re-establish state control, secure stability and initiate a process leading to sustainable development of the country.
He however cautioned that rushing to grant amnesty would be counter-productive to national security if there are no established policies and legislations, national ownership and coordination mechanism for the amnesty programme.
“Thus, the cooperation of communities is unavoidable in the quest for Government to consolidate on the gains of ongoing Counter-Terrorism Operations while measures to win the hearts and minds of the population are critical, and gradual resettlement and reintegration of affected communities is crucial for success.
“This involves military, political, civil social, economic and humanitarian interventions, implemented within a multi-stakeholder platform,’’ the NSA said.
The NSA said government, its partners and other stakeholders have been successfully implementing the DDR strategy developed in collaboration with International Organisation for Migration.
Thus, the incoming administration should strengthen the programme, including mechanisms to monitor the beneficiaries reintegrated into the society.
It is therefore imperative that in pushing its security agenda, the incoming government should source for new funding for the defence sector and develop solutions to underlying causes of insecurity in the country, which should include tackling extreme poverty, access to education, health care and justice, as well as unemployment