he incessant unchecked expansion of military-like outfits in Nigeria is concerning, because it threatens to exacerbate the country’s insecurity crisis.
The Nigerian Merchant Navy is one of these unlawful organisations, whose training ground, was recently uncovered by the Lagos State Police Command in Ogudu area, resulting in the arrest of approximately 108 people. The revelation raises even more significant worries about the safety of persons and property, both of which are being trampled on at an alarming rate.
The Organization has been in operation since 2005, and it has a functional website that describes itself as a “quasi-military Nigerian Marine Department….duly registered by the Federal Ministry of Commerce…to be among the best in the world for the provision of more security both at land, air, and sea, to meet up with the international standard at all levels.” Lagos is the country’s commercial hub, and if an organization of this size can stay in one of its main centres for 16 years, how many more of such would be hiding in the countryside?
At the Headquarters of the Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja, on December 1st 2021, the Command Boss, Hakeem Odumosu, said the command began intensive surveillance of the camp and its activities after receiving credible actionable intelligence on the outfit’s illegal activities, before carrying out a well-coordinated overt operation at the training camp.
Several military accoutrements, including camouflage, rank badges, flags, signboards, and ID cards, were recovered during the operation, organized by the Command’s Operations Department, according to Odumosu. Recovered at the ground were recruitment letters, promotion letters, a photo of the Commanding Officer, criminal charms, two motorcycles, one plasma TV, three cutlasses, and other items are among the other goods.
But that is not all there is to it; in a separate incident, security agencies are reportedly planning a major crackdown on the National Taskforce on the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Pipeline Vandalism, which defied the Federal Government’s five-month-old ban on its operations across the country.
NATFORCE is accused of emboldening its unlawful actions by attracting some powerful Nigerians, including retired military personnel, ex-senior police officers, and members of the National Assembly, with promises of job opportunities for their favoured candidates and constituents. The Organisation is reportedly collecting various sums of money ranging from N6,000 to N35, 000 from the recipients, the group is said to have given 18,000 phony appointment letters for recruitment into the illegal security operation.
NATFORCE was declared an illegal security organization by the Federal Government in June 2021, and it and other similar organizations were ordered to cease operations immediately across the country. The National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW), which is housed in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), is the country’s only national coordinating structure for small arms and light weapon proliferation control and monitoring.
In 2018, the Nigerian Army revealed the finding of an unlawful security training camp in Serti, Taraba State’s headquarters; where over 300 teenagers were being trained ostensibly at the State Government’s request.
In most cases, these illegally trained ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ are used by the elite and the political class to perpetrate evil and also set them against their political opponents, rivals and anyone who seems to stand in their way. Also, they are used as tools to keep the society at their bait, ready to silence anyone who knows about their shady dealings and wants to spill the bin. I see no reason why these military-like outfits are allowed to roam the society in the nation’s official uniform, the military khaki especially, make an arrest and detain individuals in the cell they provide for supposed ‘lawbreaker’ within their centres/organizations right under the watchful eyes of the law. It is really appalling! Sometimes, they are even spotted riding alongside the Nigerian Police Force, the NSCDC (The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp) and the likes for operational duties.
At public events and ceremonies, the cadets of these so-called military-like outfits could be seen at the entrance and in and around the events/ceremonies centre which simply implies that their services were acquired and paid for by the organizers of such events. I guess the organizers barely know that they are incurring services from an outfit that the Federal Government has tagged ‘illegal’. Who is to blame in this case? Is it the organizer that ‘knows not what he is doing’ because he/she lacks the information that such bodies are illegal or the Federal Government that allows such organizations to thrive without enforcing the law on them to make sure that they are flushed out and brought to book? Your guess is as good as mind!.
What is the nation’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces doing to alleviate the country’s insecurity? What is the plan for addressing the core source of these problems, other than from the yearly appropriation of large sums for security agency equipment, which sums and/or equipment are frequently reported unaccounted for? Unauthorized outfits that have been proclaimed banned in the country are almost certainly a recipe for violent crime. Could these costumes be the origins of the unidentified shooters wreaking terror across the country?
But how much longer will Nigerians be terrified? While the Constitution declares that the fundamental goal of government is to ensure the security and welfare of the people, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is clearly out of control, given the recent wave of killings, kidnappings, and other acts of violence across the country. Fear of becoming victims of violent crime has deterred ordinary Nigerians from visiting their farms, exacerbating their economic woes. The government must take immediate action to prevent the spread of these uncontrolled organizations that operate under the cover of community policing or any other pretext. In order to acquire intelligence and prevent crime, security organizations must be more proactive and use technological tools.
A review of the country’s security architecture is even more critical and imminent at this point that the nation is dangling at the precipice of collapse due to the worsening insecurity situations witnessed daily in the land. Indeed, stakeholders have urged repeatedly for a constitutional amendment that would allow the creation of a state police force to address security concerns. Nigeria is far from meeting the UN-recommended ratio of one police officer to every 450 people, with a population of over 200 million and a police force of less than 500,000. The debate over the establishment of state police goes beyond individual or political party ideologies; it is more of a necessity in light of the country’s current realities, which have confirmed that the country’s security architecture can no longer support the weight of its numerous security challenges.