By Emmanuel Daudu, Abuja-Nigeria
Military officers and civil society actors have advised Nigeria to reduce the interference of the military in civil matters, more importantly.
Experts expressed concerns over the military activities on sundry operations in almost all the states in the country.
This was included in the discussion at the State and Civil Society Actors Conference on the Intersection of National Security and the Civil Space in Nigeria held in Abuja at the Army Resource Center, on Thursday.
The occasion which had military officers and civil society organizations was organized by White ink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER) in collaboration with the Nigerian Army Resource Center (NARC), funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
Dr. Jubril Ibrahim, a professor and senior fellow at the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), who presented a paper said “the Armed Forces must be rebuilt. As the State recovers, our traditional and religious institutions as well as civil society have a huge role in playing their parts in the war against ongoing insurgencies.
On the current security situation in Nigeria Prof. Ibrahim said, “given the huge security challenges facing the country, it is important that Nigeria as a nation devises effective strategies that will stem the insurgency and create conditions for the protection of human rights and the deepening of democracy within its sovereignty”.
On the role of the military in the current security challenges, Prof. Ibrahim said, “the Armed Forces have a significant role to play in this regard. Nigerians are particularly concerned about the rules of engagement for military operations within the civilian population. There are military operations in virtually all states of the country. This means that the normal process of police being in charge of internal security issues no longer operates.
He argued that the rules of engagement might not be suitable for the new role thrust upon the military.
“it is important in this context to publish, debate and revise the rules of engagement to ensure that they are in conformity with human rights principles. Finally, we cannot give up on the police. We must expand the police, train them and build their capacity for effective law enforcement,” Prof. Ibrahim said.
Godwin Omelo, a Nigerian Army Major-General who was also a panelist bemoaned the proliferation of military operations across the country. He opined that this act has reduced the prestige of the force.
In Omelo’s words, “too much familiarity breeds contempt over time. Very soon, the military will be doing the work of the police. If the military loses that aura, there will be a problem. I don’t support military operations in 34 states of the 36 states.”
He submitted that other law enforcement agencies be strengthened to discharge their responsibilities.
The President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Ahmed Maiwada, who also spoke at the event blamed foreigners for Nigeria’s failing security.
Maiwada said, “one of the reasons why we have many people who are not citizens of this country participating in this conflict. There is no patriotism whatsoever.”
He encouraged the country to revisit the ECOWAS treaties that allows free movement at the border with other African countries.
So other participants also believe that there should be a regulation of the civic space and religious leaders.
One of the participants said, “I feel civil society must take modalities to regulate the civic space. When the civil society is not regulated, there is this threat to national security. It is the responsibility of civil societies to look inwards. Non-state actors are taking up the civic space.”
Earlier, Brigadier-General Saleh Bala who is the Chief Executive Officer, WISER, while giving his welcome address said the phenomenon although intercontinental, is “spiraling into anarchy” in Nigeria.
Brigadier-General Bala summed it up as, “I cannot shake off the urge to add my little piece to the burgeoning debate over the “shrinking of the civic space, which is not only a problem with democratising nations but very much both the advanced democracies, as well. Across Europe, professional footballers and football clubs commenced a social media boycott, because of the acrid and toxic throw-ups which the platforms offer in the name of liberty and freedom of expression”.