Nigeria no doubt has experimented with constitutional democracy as our preferred system of government for two decades and still counting.
Democracy, without doubts remains the best form of government because it has inbuilt mechanisms for self-corrections. Democracy is built on the plank of checks and balances meaning that all citizens are equal before the law. Also, institutions are created and governed by the Rule of law.
However, Nigeria has a peculiar history of incessant internal squabbles amongst officials and operatives of the institutions created by law to drive the wheel of constitutional democracy. Some of these inter-agency struggle for supremacy amounts to grave threats to national security interest of Nigeria as a corporate entity.
Nigeria seems to be facing challenges with enforcement of service discipline and professionalism between and amongst the members of the different segments of the armed security services.
The most fundamental challenge that threatens professionalism in the armed security services is the seemingly superiority conflicts between the different security agencies which in most cases boils out to an all-out street battles resulting in casualties and the destruction of government and private property. To make matters worst, the regime of impunity that has been institutionalized makes it impossible to bring these culprits to book.
Take for instance, since last year; there have been over two dozen conflicts between the military and the police on one hand, the Police and the Civil Defence Corp, and even amongst the economic and financial crimes commission versus the combined forces of the Directorate of state security services (DSS) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on the other hand. These conflicts are clearly avoidable if the office of the national security Adviser is raised to a cabinet level appointment. Then again, there are institutions created by statues to guide against these acts of gross indiscipline by security operatives. Sadly, these bodies that should control these operatives are too weak to effectively discharge their mandates.
In one of such conflicts of the last mentioned security agencies, there were reported exchanges of gun-fire even as members of the public were reportedly caught unawares and were made to scamper for safety.
On a smaller scale, the military operatives and the police have been known to have engaged in several street’s battles which in many of these instances, have led to the invasions of police facilities by the soldiers and the resultant destruction of public property.
The sad thing about this ugly scenario is that there is an absence of effective corrective mechanisms to bring the culprits to book and on the part of the hierarchies of the armed forces; there are no known effective remedial mechanisms or measures put in place to deter the occurrence of such disgraceful conducts by their operatives. But why is the court marshal mechanisms not been put into use to sanction offenders? Why is the orderly room trials of the police and the police service commission not been used to check the excesses of these misbehaving policemen?
I took time to do just a less stressful research, and came out with a huge body of knowledge regarding the dozens of times that such disgraceful inter-agency street scuffles have happened in the last twelve calendar months as captured by the popular media of mass communication. However, the online and social media have over four dozens of such shows of shame.
Last year April, there was one of the ugliest cases of conflicts between the police and soldiers over a girlfriend in Damaturu, Yobe state which led to the death of five persons.
As recorded by the media, the clash between soldiers and policemen over a girlfriend left four mobile police officers and one soldier dead in Damaturu, Yobe State capital, with several others injured.
Among the wounded mobile police officer is Buba Dauda, the Mobile Commander in Yobe State, whose abduction by the soldiers in the wee hours triggered the face-off between the two security agencies.
It was gathered from sources that the clash resulted from a misunderstanding that erupted between a serving Army Captain and some mobile policemen over a girlfriend the military officer allegedly snatched from a mobile policeman.
The situation did not go down well with the policeman, who mobilized his colleagues to beat the Captain to comatose.
On hearing what happened to their colleague, some soldiers stormed the residence of the police team’s boss in the area in two patrol vans and took him to an unknown destination.”
“On December 29th 2017, a group of newly trained army recruits of Ekiti State origin clashed with police officers in Ado-Ekiti, following disagreements over what was believed to be extortion of motorists by the soldiers.
In the process, the soldiers beat up and stabbed a police corporal, Abdulkadir Yakub, who had challenged their illegal activity at the Fajuyi Roundabout.
A witness said Mr. Yakub, a traffic police officer posted at the roundabout, was attacked after he challenged the soldiers for extorting money from motorists and causing a traffic gridlock.
Mr. Yakub reportedly sustained deep cuts in the head and buttocks, as he was said to have been stabbed by one of the recruits.
Witnesses said the young soldiers, who were about 17 in number, were returning from the governor’s office after a courtesy visit to Governor Ayodele Fayose when they stopped at the roundabout and started extorting motorists.
Another police corporal, Monday Agom, who paired Mr. Yakub at the post, recalled that the incident occurred at about 2.00 p.m., after Mr. Yakub pleaded with the soldiers not to cause a traffic gridlock by their activity at the roundabout.
“One of the soldiers stopped a man in mufti who happened to be a policeman right in his car and demanded the car key, while Yakub was trying to pass him to allow for the next person in line, so as to free traffic which was already building up,” Mr. Agom explained.
“Yakub then explained to him (the attacker) that the man he stopped is a police officer and that he should allow him to go as stopping him there would cause hold-up.
“This statement infuriated the soldier who immediately slapped Yakub, before bringing out a jack-knife with which he started cutting him at several parts of the body.
“I then joined other people to rescue Yakub from the soldier, who was shouting ‘I will kill you, idiot; I will kill you, idiot.”
He added that other soldiers also joined in punching Yakub who was already dripping with blood.
The situation degenerated when mobile police officers whose station was close to the scene, mobilized themselves and attacked the soldiers in reprisal.”
Fast forward to March this year when a major fracas broke out amongst Nigerian law enforcement agencies after an attempt to seal a Road Safety office went awry, sobsays reporters.
It was learnt that the violence broke out after soldiers and policemen attached to The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) tried to serve the Road Safety office in Wuse Zone 7 a violation notice.
The police officers and soldiers attached to the AEBP officials allegedly assaulted a female Road Safety marshal in the process, leading to confrontation.
The AEPB task force members denied assaulting the Road Safety personnel, saying they were resisted from sealing the Road Safety office as ordered by a magistrate’s court.
During the fight, a soldier was reportedly wounded and a civilian staff of the AEPB was “taken hostage” by the Road Safety marshals.
In turn, soldiers and police officers who were part of the AEPB team seized a Road Safety officer.
In the same March of this year, details emerged of how a plain clothed policeman, Imomoh slumped and died during a clash with a team of soldiers drafted from the 19 Battalion, Koko, to maintain peace at a burial ceremony.
According to the media, the incident happened at the burial reception in honour of a 111-years-old woman (name withheld) at Boboroku community of Jesse in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The report revealed that the event turned awry when youths of the community clashed with a team of soldiers drafted from the 19 Battalion, Koko, to maintain peace.
The rowdiness reportedly started at the time the food and drink was being shared at the party and in the process some of the youth allegedly made attempts to disarm two soldiers, who had tried to restore orderliness.
One person was reportedly shot on the leg as others sustained various degrees of injuries in the melee that ensued, while the windscreen and windows of at least five cars, including one Hilux belonging to the soldiers, were also destroyed by the youths who went berserk over the incident.”
On May 16th this year, there was commotion along Ada George Road in Port Harcourt as soldiers sacked the Rumukpakani Police Station, allegedly over the killing of their colleague by a policeman.
The murdered soldier, who was in mufti, was said to have been shot near the Police station by one of the policemen on duty. It was gathered that the development forced a group of angry soldiers to storm the Police station and arrested the Divisional Police Officer and the murder suspect.
This same year, the EFCC reportedly attempted to arrest the immediate past Director General of the Department of state services (DSS) but the combined forces of the DSS and NIA stopped the armed security forces from the EFCC from effecting the arrest.
Last week, there was a report of soldiers and police men fighting somewhere in Lagos over what cannot easily be deciphered and was circulated on the social media, just as this melee caused considerable panic amongst civilians.
The question to ask is why have all the relevant disciplinary measures and institutions put in place to check such acts of indiscipline chosen to watch as these armed operatives engage each other in public fisticuffs resulting in violent deaths.
The Nigeria constitution has very clearly spelt out the functions of each of the segments of the security forces even as both the hierarchies of the armed forces and the police service commission have been empowered to maintain service discipline and instill professional excellence amongst the men and women that are recruited into the military and police.
Besides the issue of violation of codes of conducts by these armed men who engage in street wars, there is also the very important issue of putting the lives of civilians at risks by their misbehaviours.
These brazen acts of indiscipline goes contrary to the essence of the military in modern nations and most especially in constitutional democracies such as Nigeria.
General Chris Olukolade, is a Nigerian military officer who penned a beautiful book titled: “Issues in the mobilization of public support for military operations in Nigeria”, and in the earliest chapter, this powerful writer stated the underling essence of setting up military institution in Nigeria.
“The military or armed forces as a concept refers to the organization of professional men and women who having been inspired to sacrifice their lives in defence of their fatherland, and trained, equipped and motivated to perform the constitutional duty of national defence”.
This organization, According to him, which is usually made up of an army, navy, and air force is bound together by the feeling of esprit de corps, discipline, unparalleled patriotism, professionalism and hierarchical command and control among others.
He noted that the military organization is usually in charge of external security and differs from other armed organizations in society which are mainly in charge of internal security such as the Police, Civil Defence, Immigration, Customs and Prisons.
On his own part, the late director of legal services of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General T.E.C Chiefe (rtd) ph.D, reminded the military that they are governed by laws and must comply or else the full weight of the law should be applied to offenders.
His words: “It has also been argued by Aycock and Wurfel that just as civil and criminal law seeks to restrict and regulate behavior so that people can live together in peace and tranquility, military law has a similar and yet more positive purpose”.
“They state that military law as of necessity is to promote good order, high morale and discipline in the military, for the accomplishment of the military mission. It has also been emphasized that the principal purposes of military law must be to serve the interests of the particular armed forces within which it applies and to strengthen the goals, aspirations, morals and ethical values of that military and by extension the nation to which that military belongs.”
Nigeria needs to take measures to enforce professionalism and discipline amongst the operatives of the armed security forces. We must dismantle the impunity which allows for offenders embedded in the military and Police to walk scot-free after engaging in disgraceful street wars over some egotistic issues unrelated to their mandates. Those who are trained and armed by the benevolence of the tax payers should not become a threat to our national security. This is not too much to demand from the military and Police.
Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs@ www.emmanuelonwubiko; www.huriwanigeria.com; www.hiriea.blogspot.com.