For some years, Nigeria has been confronted with many security challenges that threatened the corporate existence of the country. To combat these challenges, the Federal Government deployed the military, which runs several joint internal operations in various parts of the country with different code names to combat one security threat or another.
Nigerians are familiar with military operations code names as "Operation Crocodile Smile, "Operation Crocodile Smile II, "Crocodile Smile III, "Crocodile Smile IV, "Operation Lafiya Dole, "Operation Python Dance, "Operation Python Dance II, "Operation Cat Race etc. Joint Task Forces (JTFs) were set up for specific purposes and assignments to resolve different security concerns in the various regions by working together to attain specific integrated mandates.
Precisely, the secessionists' agitation in the South-East region, renewed militancy in the South-South, insurgency in the North-East, kidnapping and ritual killings in the South-West and herder-pastoralist's conflict in the Middle-Belt region had caused serious security challenges in the country.
Much as the military operations doused some of the fears of Nigerians in those flashpoints in different geo-political zones, their presence generated tension, threatened civil-military relations in the regions and raised questions on the constitutional roles of the Armed Forces in a democracy. Some Nigerians debated on whether these operations were in conformity with the Constitution and if they were politically expedient.
A more fundamental question was about the rationale behind the deployment of military forces against the para-military security component statutorily saddled with the responsibilities of maintaining peace, order and security in the country.
However, the deployment of the military to those regions were largely linked to lack of adequate manpower, especially in the Nigerian Police. So, Nigeria depended on the use of the military as an internal security apparatus under a democratic government.
Even though the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) backs the role of the military in internal security operations, a robust policy framework for joint operations was required to strengthen the operations, especially in providing needed funds to procure and efficiently carry out its mandates.
The joint operations were not without challenges as the intelligence community lacked requisite technological platform to effectively support the conduct of security operations. Lack of funding, lack of real time intelligence, lack of analytical skill, lack of ICT facilities and absence of technical collection means needed to be solved for effective support operations in the country.
In spite of the heavy military presence, conflicts still persist in some of the regions, while the situation has been stabilised in other regions.
However, the Federal Government at the recent Security Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, during which security operations in the year 2019 were reviewed, observed that security operatives did their best to combat insecurity in the year that ended Tuesday. It announced that military operations would be gradually withdrawn in some volatile spots in the country where peace has returned, beginning from the first quarter of this year, 2020 to enable civil authorities to assume full control of security.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, who announced the decision to newsmen, declined to name the specific states where the military would withdraw its operations, but said in place of the military, the Nigeria Police Force, which has the primary responsibility of providing internal security, would assume its duties fully in such areas.
According to Ibas, the withdrawal would allow the military to focus on its primary duty of defending the nation against external aggression.
It is hoped that with Mr President's recent approval of the recruitment of 10,000 policemen, the Nigeria Police Force would have enough hands to fill the vacuum that will be created by the exit of members of the armed forces.
It becomes necessary to appropriately train, equip and empower men of the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to be in a position to fill the gaps.
But the Federal Government should thoroughly carry out assessment of the various zones before withdrawing the troops to avoid unimaginable consequences that could embarrass the government.