The Upper Crust

A vote for the $1bn

 

With Uche Nnadozie

It could be naivety, ignorance or sheer politics that has blinded citizens to what $1 billion represents in the pursuit of making our lives more secured. Surely I do not pretend that folks do not have a reason or two to be skeptical. Former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and his alleged rapacious looting of defence budget in connivance with politicians surely raises concern as to what this new request is meant to achieve- coming less than a year to another general election. Nonetheless, there are times and circumstances that do not permit cynicism. Today, the country is passing through tumultuous moments. There are apparent security threats and breaches across the land. We simply lack the capacity to deal with the size, volume and dynamics of these threats. Part of that lack of capacity can be located within funding or lack there from. We can no longer hide behind a finger. We can no longer want to make an omelette thinking that we will not break some eggs.
Recently, Boko Haram has relaunched itself. The daring kidnap of over 100 school children in Dapchi was the height of it. It appeared to show that no progress has been made against them. Surely, this is what can happen in a country where people take things for granted. People- also mean government and security agencies. As if the Dapchi incident isn’t enough, lately Zamfara state has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Rustlers own the communities. They kill at will and boss the police. Even the Army drafted to help have lost at least two captains and many men. It is no longer funny. Rustlers are as deadly as Boko Haram and the herdsmen who kill and destroy. We have three pronged security threats that can stand independently as terrorist groups. It can’t get any worse.
Aside the threats above we still have daredevil armed robbery and their clone brothers, the kidnappers for fortune. These are all over the country. People should be worried because anyone can fall victim. Yet we cannot bow in the face of these bloodshed. Truth is, we need another security summit where everyone will tell everyone the truth. If we must run a country, we can no longer continue with this analogue policing. I reiterate my earlier admonition that the Inspector General of Police has overstayed his welcome. Just like other service chiefs. For military service chiefs, not necessarily because they have failed; but because it appears to me that they have reached their apogee, diminishing returns have set in. There is lack of creativity in the way they respond to security challenges. It is usually same of the same. We need fresh ideas from new people.
In supporting the approval by all stakeholders for the government to have the funds, the current service chiefs must not be the ones to superintend the money. Most of them should be retired. They have put in their best, but it’s time to move on. As a matter of fact, I will prefer for government to seek $3 billion for a period of three years for special spending on national security. We need to increase our intelligence gathering personnel. Therefore, the department of state security in my opinion needs at least 20, 000 more officers. This is apart from whatever internal reforms that could take place. Our military is too small. We need between 80-100, 000 more men to boost our military force within the next three years. In the same vein, the police needs even more recruitment. We need to double whatever number the police claims it has now. We should not have anything less than 700, 000 police men. They will need cash. I can bet, even my proposed special intervention fund of $3 billion won’t be enough.
If we want security we have to pay for it. We are doing trial and error here. Let me cite just one example, London Metropolitan police last year had a budget of $3.5 billion. This is for a police force that caters for about 9 million Londoners.  That figure is about N1.5 trillion. That is just for policing parts of a city! Whereas, the approval by the president is just N360 billion and that’s for all of our security apparati. There parts of London, like the Greater London area that has its own police. Lagos state alone has about 20 million residents, with about 36, 000 police men. No CCTVs, not enough communication gadgets, bullets, guns, bullet proof vest, etc. The insurance is poor, corruption is high. Monitoring is low and that’s partly why our policing is weak. The rest of the police men trained with public funds provide domestic service to some big men. There is very little that can be achieved in the circumstance. We like to leave everything to God in this clime, but that is not how it works in the climes we always like to cite as examples. They do the things that are humanly possible. God is for everyone not for those who leave things to Him. Our security is in our hands and it is government that provides it through the money we the people make available to them. What we can do is to ensure that the money is used judiciously.
We need to understand that security equipment are not cheap as we do not produce them. These things are paid for in foreign exchange. We equally need to bolster our intelligence gathering capabilities. We can’t simply have a country surrounded by all sorts of neighbours yet spend little in espionage. We need to up our game. Not all our neighbours are happy with us. So they don’t mind accommodating our enemies. And it is important citizens stop this disgraceful opinion of Boko Haram being sponsored for political gain. We have passed that stage. Folks can ask questions about how money is spent but to question the “credibility” of a terror gang like Boko Haram borders on treason and delirium. I urge the National Assembly not only to approve this fund, but to create a larger pool of money to radically improve our security. But they must do their oversight.
This is what it is. Money that could have gone into education and health must have to be channeled towards keeping us safe. After all, the reason for setting up and abiding by rules of this country is to receive protection of my life and property. The constitution validates that and says, it is the reason why the Nigerian state was set up ab initio.

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