Policy Briefs

GAPS in Inclusive Participation in Nigeria’s SSRG.

Comments By Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze, MD/CEO Selonnes Consult At the FES/CISLAC Conference on Gaps in SSG/R and Possible Contributions of Civil Society and non-Traditional Security Actors,  Abuja FCT, 27-28 July 2021


First, I wish to commend Dr Iro Aghedo for the lucid presentation of his paper titled, “Inclusive Participation in Nigeria’s Security Sector – Trends and Opportunities.” Even though we are all aware of the security challenges confronting us; past and present failings in tackling them robustly, we also know that policies and operations now in place are not optimal in addressing such challenges. The prevailing lacuna remains even more troubling.

Certain realities are incontestable. We are no longer under any illusions, assuming that we ever were, that those in government, especially the military-security complex operatives do not trust their civil society counterparts; just as the national population no longer trust the government and its security operators on security issues.
Also, we are no longer under any illusions that critical gaps exist that undermine the active and inclusive participation by critical non-governmental and civil society actors in Nigeria’s Security Sector. Members of the attentive public, and certainly those gathered here, know what the challenges are.

Trust Defict Persist

 If there are discernible deficits in contributions of civil society and non-Traditional Security Actors to security sector activities in Nigeria, it is because of some prevailing corollaries: dissonance in policy formulation and implementation and widening trust deficit. The notion that security policies and their implementation are best conducted in opaque manner continues to compound our national challenges. Ultimately, SSR has not gained resonance in Nigeria in particular and in Africa in general. This is such  simply so because of persisting trust deficit 

Complex as it may seem, our collective mandate at this conference, which includes presenting identified gaps to the general public; highlighting CSO’s contributions to SSR/G; examining and critiquing Nigeria’s approach to SSR/G, while establishing linkages between gaps identified and progress made, seems to me self-evident, given our national realities.

Often, in the past and presently, we have confronted a paradox: we all acknowledge rising insecurity in Nigeria and its deleterious moral, socio-economic and socio-political impact. We are fully aware that positive results in combating insecurity in Nigeria is not in any way commensurate with the funding devoted to national security; and we are aware that those who are in charge of the security sector require assistance in security sector reform and governance. We know all these, just are we know that there is continually enormous pushback when CSOs, NGOs and non-traditional security actors step forward to assist. And that is where the gaps begin and continue to widen. What we cannot deny or escape is that “new and emerging security threats, underscore the need to assess if the right tools, concepts and approaches are being deployed.” And if not, determine what needs to be done.  

Insecurity is a hot-button issue in Nigeria. Without exception, every geo-political zone in the country continues to experience insecurity: Be it Boko Haram insurgency in the North East; banditry and kidnapping in the North West; herders-farmers conflict and incessant banditry in the North Central, South East, and South West and rising ethno-nationalism across board.  

Meanwhile, we are aware that State-centric approach to policing remains an intractable problem. Poor policing, under policing, unmotivated-policing have combined to compound the prevailing security challenges. The capacity and morality of the federal police has been further diminished by use of the military for civilian police duties. Reluctance to devolve policies powers and functions to the Geo-political regions or States has not helped matters. The search for alternative modalities for addressing the rise in non-state actors, ungoverned spaces and existing critical gaps has been impeded by the refusal of the state and security agencies to create space ‘for civilians’ inclusion in security provisioning.”

I will not belabour or rehash the extant and identifiable security gaps. However, a synoptic rendition of those catalogued by Aghedo includes the non-involvement or deliberate exclusion from Security Sector Reform (SSR) and governance, of academic institutions, youths, women groups and traditional institutions. Regrettably, such exclusion has happened at a time when SSR has been identified by most states for as a critical requirement for “conflict prevention, early warning crisis management and post-conflict reconstruction.”

As we can glean from the body of Aghego’s paper, we confront three core challenges in the effort to strengthen the institutional framework of SSR. These relate to ensuring the “proper location of security activities within the constitutional framework defined by law”; “building the capacity of the policymakers so that they can effectively detect and responds to security threats”; and ensuring that “both state and non-state actors playing oversight functions are accountable and are able to enforce the law effectively.”

Grey Areas

• Nigeria has no concrete security policy. This is one reason for exclusionary practices that are further compounded by compartmentalisation of security actors, policies, responses, operations and interventions.

• Despite States’ statutory responsibility to protect, optimizing SSR continue to suffer setback on account of some security sector actors believing erroneously that in choosing response methodologies, “one size fit all.”  

• Spread of insipient insecurity tends to be dynamic. In managing insecurity, often, there are no defining lines between local, state, national and regional insecurity. Whereas boundaries and borders may delineate localities, they do not deter nebulous insecurity arising from spill over effects.

• Oftentimes, dichotomy in oversight, methodologies and jurisdictional accountability, gives rise to non-traditional security actors, who are in it for transactional reasons or for self-preservation.  

• The military-security complex creates its own bureaucratic weakness by subscribing to the “groupthink syndrome” that compels viewing the exclusion non-traditional security actors (NTSAs), as an institutional imperative.

Additional Recommendations

• There should be very strict criteria of accepting/engaging non-traditional security actors (NTSAs) civil society groups. Their parameters/activities should be well spelled out and monitoring benchmarks established to obviate such activities becoming transactional, self-administering or counter-productive.

• Availability of data provided by CSOs will always enhance early warning analysis, conflict prevention planning and enhance intelligence, policy making and projection.

• Youth engagement is better enhanced when there is ownership of process, adequate funding, transparency and accountability.

• Recruitment into the security agencies should be periodic, transparent and based on equity. No region should in have majority.


Final Thoughts

• The need to rejig SSR/G is long overdue, simply on the account that SSR/G as it is presently being executed, is not working optimally. If left unreformed, the current practice of excluding those outside the traditional orbit of state security will continue to the detriment of the society.

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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