Transforming Nigeria's security.

Author:Siollun, Max
Position:The Policy Box: Security Reform

Nigeria's security services are not fit for purpose. Currently, they prioritise external threats over internal ones and threats to the government over threats to the nation. Max Siollun proposes a new Internal Security Force (ISF) to help correct this imbalance, improve the fight against Boko Haram and other threats that may emerge over the horizon.

Nigeria has experienced terrorist attacks or large-scale insecurity in over 60% of its states in the past six years. After the elections, sober reflection and a "debrief" about security should be a priority for Nigeria.

Insurgencies of the type mounted by Boko Haram and the Niger Delta militants are not aberrations. Every single one of Nigeria's six geo-political zones has experienced violence and insecurity in the past fifteen years: Boko Haram's insurgency in the northeast and terror in the northwest; ethnic, communal, and religious violence in the Middle Belt; the Niger Delta insurgency in the south-south; kidnapping and extortion in the south-east; and political violence in the south-west. Even Nigeria's offshore waters are not safe and have experienced piracy.

Unless and until there is a drastic change in the way Nigeria is economically and politically governed, the country will have to live with, and manage, large-scale violence of this type. How should Nigeria address its recurrent bouts of violence?

Nigeria requires a massive overhaul of its security apparatus to prioritise internal, rather than external, security. It needs a new security force exclusively dedicated to fighting domestic terrorism and insecurity. The five biggest security challenges that Nigeria has faced in its post-independence history all emanated from internal rather than external sources (the Biafran civil war of 1967-70, the Maitatsine riots of the 1980s, the Sharia riots of 2000, the militancy in the Niger Delta (2003-2009), and the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency). Nigeria does not face realistic threats from its neighbours, most of whom are too small and have too many internal problems of their own to bother Nigeria.

Internal security is a massive challenge. The police are no match for insurgents with armoured personnel carriers, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide bombers, and artillery. The Nigerian Mobile Police's (MOPOL) colloquial nickname of "kill and go" is an unenviable trademark of its conduct. Endemic insecurity has led to the army being relied on as Nigeria's undeclared proxy police force and being given...

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