A Community Based Strategy For National Security
A key requirement for economic prosperity is the safety and security of lives and property. Insecurity eats away at the foundation needed to maintain modern society: confidence in public infrastructure and services. This loss of confidence in the ability of government to protect citizens can lead to reduced economic activity and almost paralyse a nation. However, our situation is not as bad as it might seem. More can be done to equip the law abiding majority to keep the peace in cooperation with security services. What we need is a new and improved plan of action for safer streets, neighbourhoods and public places.
The CIA says that the combination of ignorance and poverty make for fertile grounds in which terrorist rhetoric thrives. One should add a few more requisite ingredients. Failure of states to provide succour to the disadvantaged, large disparities between rich and poor, and extravagant displays of wealth & power. But most important of all, the ignition agent. The demagogues that incite common citizens to violent action, and the ideological and opportunist terrorists.
Despite improvements on the record of the PDP, Nigeria has had many security breaches since the emergence of the APC. Indeed, year 2016 was replete with a variety of assaults on the public peace, especially in the north and the south-south but also in the south-east, and more surprisingly, the south-west.
Roaming criminals attacked the Godogodo community in Kaduna state between the 24th-26th September and killed about eight persons. Suspected militants stormed the premises of a school in Igbonla, Lagos state, kidnapping two staff and six students on the 6th of October. Soldiers killed three suicide bombers who were attacking a neighbourhood near the Maimalari barracks in Maiduguri on the 11th of November. Suspected terrorists murdered twenty Tiv farmers during a raid on their village in Taraba state in December. All of this is aside from ongoing battles with Boko Haram and the Niger Delta Avengers.
So many assaults spread across the nation, many different methods and by a plethora of malcontent groups. Confronting these groups are an army of less than 100,000 able-bodied men and an ill-equipped, poorly resourced police. It is no wonder that security appears to be a despairing cause to many citizens. Other nations facing guerilla fighters and terrorists have had to contend with violent disruptions for years, with limited success on the part of the authorities. Could the outcome be different in Nigeria?
The Pathology of Violent Insurrection
Nigerians in the trouble-spots would be forgiven for becoming exasperated, giving up, or blaming the government. Terrorist groups are a lot more sophisticated these days, and even the most powerful nations (US, France, etc.) struggle to contain the attacks they unleash on innocent citizens as well as security forces.
The rapidly evolving nature of the threats and their ubiquity makes it difficult to establish an enduring strategy to contain the violence and neutralise the assaults. An added complication is the fact that terrorist groups are usually a mix of ideologists and opportunist criminals. This creates a blend of motives, which in turn complicates the predictability of action by the groups.
Traditional strategies cannot cope. Most security and response systems are organised centrally. They are often led and controlled by a homogeneous group; the reporting and control systems are hierarchical; reaction times are sub-optimal, and change is slow and difficult. This is the Western approach to containing terrorism and it has had limited success. In contrast, the threats from terrorists are dispersed, authority is federated, collaboration lacks fixed hierarchy, and the composition and modus operandi of groups changes rapidly. Despite considerable losses, it is their success that makes all the headlines.
New Strategies to Alter Historical Outcomes
Adopting strategies that have had limited success in other countries is not wise. The same actions will result in the same outcomes. We should learn from their mistakes and do better. Strategies for security must be empathetic to the nature of the threats that we are faced with, and the greatest number of citizens should be mobilised to help the fight. We must embrace a community based strategy for national security.
Our strategy needs to always bear in mind the nature of the threat from terrorist groups (dispersed, evolving, flat-hierarchy). Their rapidly evolving nature places them beyond the resource limits of security services to actively and continually protect all locations. A new strategic approach seeks to mobilise as many ordinary citizens as possible in a constant lookout for national and communal safety and survival.
Basic Terms of the Strategy
It is useful to define some key terms that underpin the strategy; these are: Target, Perimeter, Status Quo, Agent, Device, Vector, Weapon, Risk, Threat, Breach, and Alarm.
A Target is a potential focus of attack; the main types being persons, infrastructure, and property.
A Perimeter is an area that is to be kept safe: it could be a street, square, village, shop-front, roundabout, mall, town, office, etc.
The Status Quo is the last-known safe state or default safe state of a perimeter. It includes detailed, verifiable information about the appearance, infrastructure, property, persons and relationships within the perimeter.
An Agent is a recognised person or group that monitors a perimeter to ensure that the status quo has not changed.
A Device is any instrument approved and used by an agent to monitor and secure a perimeter against anything or person(s) that could change the status quo. Not every change is bad, but it is important that the agent is aware or can detect the change, and so can evaluate if it is safe or not.
A Vector is a person or group of persons that have been identified, by profile or identity, to be a potential danger to one or more targets in a perimeter
A Weapon is any instrument used by a vector to attack targets within a perimeter.
Compound Terms of the Strategy
A Risk asserts the proximity of a vector to a perimeter in relation to their level of knowledge about targets within the perimeter. The level of knowledge will be one of the following:
• Conjecture – usually hearsay, rumour, unconfirmed
• Information – publicly available, widely distributed, generic
• Intelligence – contextualised, detailed, timely
A Threat is the presence of a vector within the area defined by a perimeter; this is irrespective of weapons. The assumption must be that a vector’s intention while in a perimeter is either to prepare or launch an attack.
A Breach is a successful attack by a vector on targets within the perimeter; this is an outcome that the strategy aims to prevent.
An Alarm is the communication by an agent of a risk, threat, or breach regarding the perimeter for which he/she is designate. An alarm should not normally be raised by non-agents. If it is, an agent should be required to validate it.
Community at the Heart of it All
A strategy for public security against terrorism can only be successful if it is community-centred. This is driven by the following observations:
The status quo is often better known to the community than security services or a vector. Because the status quo itself is dynamic, only local observers can continually monitor, assess and report on changes.
If the status quo in a perimeter changes, there is a far greater likelihood that an agent will be present than a national or state security personnel. The agent is therefore the best hope of raising a timely and accurate alarm. A vector that is local or embedded within a perimeter can be detected quicker and more precisely by an agent. For these reasons documentation, monitoring, reporting, and initial response are more efficient where local resources are connected with and backed up by security services in the management of risks, threats and breaches.
Articulating Novel Solutions to our Problems
Present strategy and tools of security services are at odds with the modus operandi of violent anti-establishment groups. We therefore need new strategies, tactics and tools to deter, contain and neutralise nascent risks as they emerge. Such strategies recognise that “security is everybody’s business”. The #SeeSayKeepSafe approach is embedded in the strategy, i.e. if you see something, say something to someone, so we all remain safe. Using the concepts mentioned earlier, a new engagement model is being set out. It is a public engagement plan for mobilising common people into a security network. It is leaner, cheaper, and far more effective than the approaches articulated in the West. The implementation of these strategies offer us better hope for safe streets in the near future.
Oyewole, Olanrewaju J (Mr.)
No 66, London SE18 3PD
+44  793 920 3120
Social and political commentator, blogger, and technology consultant. With significant experience in the security sector, having worked on key IT initiatives for the UK police and army