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Emmanuel Onwubiko: NSA And Nigeria’s Security Missteps

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There is a very commonly used catchphrase that goes thus: “Better soup na money kill am”, which means quality services takes a whole lot of human and material resources.

Another of such commonly used catchphrases also goes as follows: Too many cooks spoil the soup”, Meaning that for any endeavour to succeed, there ought to be respected for expertise. These elementary wise sayings can be related to the general experiences of calamitous security issues that keep escalating by the day in Nigeria in spite of the fact that Nigeria runs a well-funded office of the National Security Adviser.

Aside the unprecedented rise in insecurity around the Country which has become much more troubling since the last batch of military Chiefs embarked on voluntary retirements after putting in many years of illustrious and meritorious services and retired just when they were at the verge of a historic success against the terrorists.

A peculiar question that has lingered ever since the emergence of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government but has become much more nightmarish since the exit of the immediate past military Chiefs is why President Muhammadu Buhari has not considered it imperative to rejig his office of National Security Adviser inspite of the collosal security problems especially in the area of achieving unanimity, harmony and strategic implementation of national security goals. The fact is that even when the immediate past military Chiefs did their utmost best, without a thoroughly bred National Security strategy which ought to emanate from the office of NSA, the individual efforts of the service Chiefs will mean a little.

A reputable scholar who is based in the United States of America was recently in Nigeria on a research tour and sought to know from me why the office of the National Security Adviser is not effective and efficient.

The lady who is actually a Nigerian/American citizen asked the question when it emerged that the administration of President Buhari was blocked from accessing some of the bulk defence assets the administration had ordered from the United States.

The professor of politics with a vast interest in counter terrorism was of the opinion that if Nigeria has an efficient and an effective National Security Adviser then that office could have adequately briefed the United States Congress on the necessity of those military assets vis-à-vis the need to deploy them specifically to battle the terrorists that are tearing Nigeria apart in the North East and large portion of North West of Nigeria including the terrorists that recently shot down a military jet in Zamfara State.

The professor became even much more confused when the information minister Lai Mohammed and the Nigerian Senate spoke at cross purposes and cancelled each other on the same issue of the blockade of arms supply to Nigeria by the Congress of the United States of America. This my scholarly friend then asked:- “please does Nigeria have a National Security Adviser?

Before attempting a response to the tepid and weak nature of the office of NSA in Nigeria now, let us have a review of this major global development on Nigeria in the last one week.

The first was the shocking news reportage that Nigeria can’t get the supply of nearly a billion dollars arms and military assets it had since ordered and paid for.

On July 29 (Reuters) reported that – U.S. lawmakers have put on hold a proposal to sell almost $1 billion of weapons to Nigeria over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the government, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters made by Bell (TXT.N) and related equipment worth $875 million is being delayed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, the sources told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Foreign Policy reported this week that the State Department had informally notified Congress of the proposed sale but that it was frozen in the Senate committee. The package includes the helicopters, spare engines, navigation systems and 2,000 precision-guided munitions, it said.

The hold could have an impact on Nigeria’s efforts to seek support to fight Islamic State West Africa Province and jihadist group Boko Haram in the northeast as well as armed bandits in the northwest of the country.

However, the hold may not hinder Nigerian military capabilities on some missions.

A U.S. government official said Nigeria recently took delivery of Embraer-made (EMBR3.SA) A-29 Super Tucanos, a slow-flying plane that can provide close air support to infantry much like a helicopter.

That deal, for a dozen of the turbo-prop planes, was notified under former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017, and had a value of up to $593 million, according to Pentagon documents. A handover ceremony for those planes is slated for August, the official said.

Under normal practice, the State Department tells Congress of proposed arms sales informally in advance to give lawmakers the chance to put a hold on the proposals to raise concerns. If Congress opposes a sale after a formal notification, it can pass legislation to block it.

A State Department spokesperson said: “As matter of policy, we will not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales until they have been formally notified to Congress.”

The Senate and House committees both declined to comment on the issue. A spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari also declined to comment.

Nigeria, Reuters says is also battling rising armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom where thinly deployed security forces have struggled to contain the influence of armed gangs.

U.S. officials last October complained of “excessive force” by Nigerian military forces on unarmed civilians and called for restraint after soldiers opened fire on protesters demonstrating against police brutality in Lagos.

The well articulated news coverage by Reuters then set out confusion within Nigeria’s official quarters because of the failing of the office of the National Security Adviser to effectively brief Nigerians on the official stand point.

Rather the minister of information unleashed the torrents of confusion and conjectures when he denied a matter that has already become so notorious.

According to Lai Mohammed, we (government) is unaware of the development reported aforementioned.

News Agency of Nigeria reports thus: The Federal Government says it is not aware of any $875 million ammunition deal with the US which is being purportedly blocked by some lawmakers in that country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described the purported ammunition deal reported in some sections of the media as ” fake news.”

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja, the minister said there was no contract of such nature and sum between Nigeria and the US

“There is no contract of arms between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United States of America today apart from the 12 Super Tucano Attack Helicopters of which six had been delivered.

“We are quite satisfied with the progress and cooperation that we received from the government of the US on this issue.

“As a matter of fact, six of the Tucano helicopter will be launched on Aug. 3, this year.

“We are not aware of the so-called 875million USD arms contract or some helicopters which they said some lawmakers in the US are trying to persuade the president of the US not to honour

” The relationship between Nigeria and the US is smooth and waxing stronger,’’ he said.

The reports in some sections of the media had claimed that influential U.S. lawmakers were masterminding a hold on a proposed sale of ammunition and attack helicopters to Nigeria over allegations of human rights abuses and anti-democratic actions of the present administration.

The report listed the blocked proposed sale to include 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters accompanied by defence systems, 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation and 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell.

However the embarrassment became apparent when the Nigerian Senate confirmed the development from the U.S congress.

On 31st July 2021 the National Assembly said it is billed to hold talks with the United States Congress over the stoppage of weapons sale to Nigeria, Saturday PUNCH has reliably learnt.

The Senate and the House of Representatives may be sending different delegations to meet with their American counterparts on how to successfully procure attack helicopters and other arms and an munition in a deal valued at $875m (N360bn).

Chairmen of different security committees in the National Assembly, in separate interviews with one of our correspondents between Wednesday and Friday, confirmed knowledge of the deal’s stoppage and their readiness to seek legislative and diplomatic interventions.

The US lawmakers are holding down a proposed sale of warplanes to Nigeria amid mounting concerns over the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd), human rights record as the country grapples with multiple security crises.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the Congress has reportedly delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra fighter jets and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military.

The proposed sale also includes 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems – laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by Foreign Policy Magazine.

A report by the magazine on Tuesday said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrated a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.

The hold on the sale also showcases how powerful US lawmakers want to push the Joe Biden administration to rethink US relations with Nigeria amid overarching concerns that Buhari is drifting toward authoritarianism as his government is besieged by multiple security challenges, including the Boko Haram insurgency.

Western governments and international human rights organisations have ramped up their criticisms of the Buhari regime, particularly in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in crackdowns on #EndSARS protesters last October.

The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the US State Department to Congress in January before then-former Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.

Nigeria recently took delivery of six out of the 12 Super Tucano fighter jets purchased from the US government.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, noted that the US lawmakers had expressed concerns over rights abuses in Nigeria.

He recalled that the American government raised similar concerns when Nigeria ordered 12 Super Tucano aircraft, part of which had been delivered.

Ndume said, “When we resume at the National Assembly, after consultations, we will know what to appropriately also do as the Nigerian National Assembly that appropriated such amount of money for those purposes…even if it requires our intervention… Definitely, this is based on information that was given (to the US) by one side.”

Asked if the National Assembly would engage the US Congress on the matter, the lawmaker said, “Yes, that is possible. That is what is right. If it requires that, we would do it.”

Ndume added, “What is going on (in Nigeria) and what the arms are needed for, every Nigerian knows. We are not acquiring arms in order to abuse human rights; we are acquiring so the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies can be armed because of the security challenges we are facing. These are two different things. Human rights and the fight against terrorism, banditry and other forms of criminality are different things entirely.

“So, I am surprised that the US Congress is mixing up the things. If it requires that they should hear from the side of the Nigerian Government – not even the executive because the Nigerian Government which we are in collectively is fighting against banditry, insurgency, which is terrorism, and which the American Government has even placed bounty on some of their (insurgents’) heads – they will.”

Speaking on funding for the Armed Forces, the lawmaker said it “is adequate for now, based on the resources at the disposal of the Nigerian Government.”

The lawmaker, however, stated that the country had serious challenges in terms of adequate equipment and platforms for the Forces “while the government has appropriately responded.”

He also noted that the American Government had offered to assist Nigeria in the fight against insecurity.

“That is what the arms are meant for,” he stated.

Ndume added, “If you say you want to help somebody, it means that you have identified that they have a problem. So, when they want to solve the problem, they cannot do it with their hands. And then, when they want to use arms, they have to get it because Nigeria does not have the capacity to manufacture those things.”

Also, the Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson, said the lawmakers would deploy diplomatic means to resolve the issue.

Benson said, “There is what we call parliamentary diplomacy or advocacy. The US parliament is very strong and determines a lot of things. Plans have been in the works – not because of this – to visit the US parliament and explore ways of military cooperation and so on.

“Recently, we visited the base where the Super Tucano aircraft were manufactured and what we all agreed was to cut out human rights abuses; that we needed to be more precise and ensure precision in whatever inventory or equipment we use so that we don’t hit collateral targets or innocent citizens unnecessarily.

“If they don’t give us those armaments, it means that the human rights thing may worsen because there won’t be precision. One of the good things we got with the A-29 (Tucano) is that it is guided. But now, if they (US) are withdrawing, they are not helping us with reducing civilian mortality and building our human rights records.”

Asked if the executive in charge of the Armed Forces should be more concerned about the records of human rights abuses than the legislature, Benson noted that it was still the same government and “there is no difference in Nigeria’s reputation and security that is at stake now.”

The lawmaker added, “We as the people’s parliament need to ensure that when those in the executive go out defending the territorial integrity and internal security, they are more guided, and they need weapons to be well guided. And who produces the best weapons that can guide in this regard? It is them (US).

“As a matter of fact, they have also trained our forces on how to minimise collateral damage and ensure civilian protection. There is ongoing training on that. If they now deny us, they are creating a bigger problem, not solving it.”

Responding to a question of America wanting to see Nigeria walking the talk on human rights protection, Benson noted that the Lagos State Government “is doing a fantastic job” towards bringing closure to extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses by officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force.

Where then is the National Security Adviser of President Buhari? Mr. President Sir, where is your National Security Adviser?

To understand why Nigeria has faced several missteps and flipflops in the strategy adopted to secure Nigeria, a reading of the piece on the qualities of a good National Security Adviser will suffice.

This professional friend of mine then pointed my attention to the scholarly piece titled: “What is the role of the National Security Adviser? And the following are his exact presentation.

The National Security Advisor, officially known as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, serves as a chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues. The National Security Advisor serves on the National Security Council and is assisted by staff that produces research, briefings, and intelligence reports.

The National Security Advisor’s office is in the White House, near the office of the President, and during a crisis operates from the White House Situation Room updating the President on the latest events.

The National Security Advisor is appointed by the President but not confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which protects the position to some degree from political controversy and partisanship. The role is not connected administratively to the Departments of State or Defense but offers independent advice, effectively creating a policy triad that the President may rely upon for advice. The National Security Advisor’s role and relative influence varies from administration to administration, and from advisor to advisor.

The National Security Advisor plays a critical role in administration of the National Security Council (NSC), which advises and assists the President on national security and foreign policy issues. The Council also serves as the President’s principal arm for coordinating national security and foreign policies among various government agencies. The NSC is composed of the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Advisor; the Council is chaired by the President.

The NSC is also advised by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, the White House Chief of Staff, the Counsel to the President, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget may be invited to NSC meetings pertaining to their responsibilities.

The first National Security Advisor was Robert Cutler under President Eisenhower in 1953, and 20 different advisors have served every President since that time. Zbigniew Brzezinski, under President Carter, was the first National Security advisor to be elevated to cabinet-level status in 1977. President Reagan demoted the National Security Advisor from cabinet-level status and subordinated the role to the Secretary of State. Six National Security Advisors served under President Reagan, representing the highest turnover in the position in history.

Brent Scowcroft is the only person to serve as National Security Advisor in two different administrations, under President Ford and President George H.W. Bush. General Colin Powell became the first African-American to serve as National Security Advisor, under President Reagan; and Condoleezza Rice the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor, under President George W. Bush.”

 

President Muhammadu Buhari stands on the threshold of history to make or mar his legacy for life. He has just two years to end the vicious circles of threats to National Security.

 

He already has set the tone by publicising his targets that are deliverables by his new service Chiefs. But these deliverables to secure Nigeria would not materialize if the President fails to reorganize the much important office of his National Security Adviser.

 

The ball is in his court of President Buhari to rescue Nigeria and reassure the global leaders that it is determined to wage law based counter terror war.

 

Mr. President let me drop some legal points I got from a we’ll authored book by a Military General. These are legal thresholds the NSA ought to monitor and then defend the administration in the area of adherence to Human rights standards. He the law expert and General of the Nigerian Army wrote thus: “The basic tenets of the rule of law are unequivocal as to the fact that calling out members of the Nigerian Armed Forces on an internal operation, does not confer on them more powers than those prescribed under the law of the country. Consequently, compliance with the rule of law demands that the rules should be adhered to by troops on all issues during the operations. Some of these issues and the rules applicable to them are addressed as follows:

a. The Use of Minimum Force. The first thing troops have to bear in mind when engaged in internal operations is that force should only be used when absolutely necessary. Even then, the rule is that troops on such operations may only use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances.

There is no hard and fast rule to determine whether a particular degree of force is reasonable in any circumstances. The relevant and widely accepted objective test in determining the use of force is the popular saying that you ‘do not kill a fly with a sledge hammer’ or conversely, ‘you do not attack a lion with a pen knife’.

Arrests. During an internal operation, it is usual for troops involved in that operation to carry out arrests. The suspects may include rioters or even more serious offenders like murderers, armed bandits or looters who are merely taking advantage of an upheaval or mishap. Whatever the circumstances, arrests are either conducted with a warrant of arrest, or without such a warrant. In practice, a warrant usually contains the following:

The date of issue; A concise statement of the offence or matter for which it was issued; The name of the person to be arrested; An order to a law enforcement officer to apprehend the named person and bring him before the law; The signature of the magistrate or judge. (Military Law in Nigeria Under Democratic Rule by Brigadier General T.E.C. Chiefe (Rtd) Ph.D).

 

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is the intellectual leader of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)