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Security of Nigeria and intrusion of non-state actors

State actors are institutions established by the Constitution and other laws with defined powers to perform some functions and discharge some duties. In relation to security, it will be those institutions saddled with the duty to perform the primary purpose of government, which is, securing the lives and property of Nigerians. They are often referred to as the military and para-military forces in Nigeria. The military and para-military forces, include the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Police, Customs, Immigration, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and other forces as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly for securing the lives and property of Nigerians.

Specifically, Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution clearly stated that the armed forces for the Federation which consist of an Army, a Navy, and Air Force shall be committed to defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea, or air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President. Section 218 made it clear that the powers of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation and this power can only, by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as he thinks fit, be delegated to any member of the armed forces of the Federation. This spells out the unconstitutionality of the President delegating the operational use of the armed forces to non-state actors.

Section 214 (1) provides that there shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof. Again, this excludes non-state actors from performing any of the functions of the police in Section 4 of the Police Act, 2020 where it provides that the Police shall prevent and detect crimes and protect the rights and freedom of every person in Nigeria; maintain public safety, law and order; protect the lives and property of all persons in Nigeria; enforce all laws and regulations; discharge such duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of it; collaborate with other agencies to take any necessary action and provide the required assistance or support to persons in distress, including victims of road accidents, fire disasters, earthquakes and floods; facilitate the free passage and movement on highways, roads and streets open to the public; and adopt community partnership in the discharge of its responsibilities; and to vet and approve the registration of private detective schools and private investigative outfits. Again, there’s no room for any non-state actor to be an active participant in the matters relating to the protection of lives and property of Nigerians, outside constituted authorities.

It’s therefore disturbing to watch in broad day light, a non-state actor, head of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, being invited to Aso Rock and given a platform, with Coat of Arms over his head, where he openly declared that the Armed Forces is 99.9 per cent responsible for the oil theft in the Niger Delta. Without sounding as if anyone is defending every individual member of the armed forces, because there’s no insttution that’s devoid of some individual bad eggs, it will be preposterous to imagine that the armed forces will be held responsible solely for the theft going on in a region. Maybe the gentleman should have checked the Constitution to discover that the operational use of the armed forces is determined by the Commander-in-Chief. The President appoints the Service Chiefs and influences the appointments of commanders of all operational units of the armed forces as he demonstrated recently by changing the Service Chiefs and all the surrounding commanders in charge of Aso Rock, Abuja and its environs. The only thing the President needs do if he doesn’t like the result he is getting from the security of oil installations is to change the officers guarding the facilities. If President Buhari failed to change the officers in charge of guarding the oil facilities in the Niger Delta, it meant that either he was satisfied with their performance or he was complicit in whatever they did. A non-state actor accusing the armed forces of stealing, without outrightly putting the blame on the C-in-C, is sycophantic, and indirectly indicting the C-in-C.

Apart from regarding this attack as a misplaced aggression, we must highlight the dangers of any government administering the country through the use of non-state actors. First, it’s an indictment that the state actors saddled with the responsibility of carrying out the duty of securing the country are incompetent and had failed to carry out their duties. This unwarranted insinuation does not augur well for the morale of the fighting force that is so denigrated or disparaged by the non-state actors. It is also an admission that the C-in-C has lost confidence in the ability of the state actors to carry out their jobs as stipulated by the law, hence the employment of non-state actors to do it. It can also be reasonably assumed that the C-in-C may intentionally want to use the instrumentality of non-state actors to perform some unlawful acts which he cannot comfortably do with legitimately constituted authorities as regular armed forces understand that they may be held to account, even after their time in the civil service, for any unlawful actions they carry out in furtherance of any illegitimate orders received from the C-in-C. The non-state actors are not under such liability to play according to the rules and this makes them available tools in the hands of any rogue C-in-C to do the dirty jobs for him.

Countries and leaders that have allowed non-state actors to interfere with the jobs of state actors are reeling from the negative outcomes of such ill-advised decision. What is happening today in Russia exposes the dangers of allowing non-state actors to usurp the duties and functions of state actors, no matter the immediate benefits such temporary reliefs bring. Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin is a Russian oligarch, mercenary leader, and former close confidant of Russian president Vladimir Putin until he launched an armed rebellion in June 2023. Prigozhin is sometimes called “Putin’s chef”, as he owns restaurants and catering companies that provide services for the Kremlin. Prigozhin was born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In November 1979, 18-year-old Prigozhin was caught stealing and given a suspended sentence. Two years later, in 1981, he was again caught stealing, and sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for robbery, fraud, and involving teenagers in crime. He was pardoned in 1988, and was released in 1990. After his release from jail he joined the parents in their business of selling hot dogs from where he started opening successful restaurants that endeared him to the heart of Putin.

Prigozhin is the self-reported founder of the controversial Kremlin-affiliated private military contractor Wagner Group. On 26 September 2022, Prigozhin stated that he founded the Wagner Group specifically to support Russian forces in the war in Donbas. Since then, their activities have expanded to cover many regions in Africa and the Middle East. When the war Putin launched against Ukraine wasn’t going as planned, he employed the assistance of the non-state actor, the Wagner Group, a private army, that has been causing havoc and committing war crimes in Libya, Syria, Central African Republic and other countries around the world, to assist the Russian military fight the war in Ukraine, despite the protestations of the armed forces of Russia. After making the initial gains in Ukraine, at huge costs to Russian lives, he turned against the Russian armed forces and before long, turned against Putin himself and ultimately marched his army against Putin’s Moscow and nearly overthrew Putin.

Nigeria should take this seriously and prevent a repeat occurrence in Nigeria. Most of these non-actors came from criminal background and had failed to attain any meaningful height through responsible pursuit of genuine profession. They turned to criminality as a way to survive. The government engaged them as a means to wean them from their criminality and help the government catch other thieves. They are becoming strengthened gradually and they are not satisfied with their current seat. They have matured into the level of challenging constituted authorities and calling them names. If this trend is not immediately checked, they will soon grow to the level of overthrowing the military and the government in power.

Whoever doubts this scenario should consider what is happening in Sudan now. After the secession of South Sudan, Bashir returned to the rebellion of the Darfur Western Region of Sudan, in order to escape from the consequences of the atrocities committed by the armed forces of Sudan in Darfur. Omar created, armed and supported the janjaweed militia forces, a non-state actor, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, to fight the people of Darfur Region. Their atrocities became so great that the international community charged Omar Bashir with war crimes alongside the known janjaweed military commanders led by Dagalo. In order to refurbish its image, after the atrocities in Darfur region, the janjaweed militia transformed into the Rapid Support Forces. This force transformed into a monster that later overthrew Omar Bashir himself and is today confronting the regular armed forces of Sudan, leading to a complete breakdown of law and order in the country. The problem with non-state actors is that they have insatiable appetite for power and are ruthlessly over ambitious.

Every incumbent government must ensure that they do not bypass the armed forces and other security agencies in the execution of their duties, to delegate such duties to non-state actors who are not constitutionally accountable to the people of their country. In Nigeria, the activities of non-state actors, touts and agberoes marred the general elections in some states in 2023, and they operated openly without regard to constituted authorities. This was how the insurgents, kidnappers, terrorists, separatists and other militants that are threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria today started. Most of them were recruited as thugs for elections and left to fend for themselves after the election. The only trade they had learnt is intimidating their opponents with force and guns. Whenever they are let loose on the people, they use their weapons to feed themselves from them. Nigeria must stay clear of these non-state actors if they are serious in surviving as a country.

Source: The Sun