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Civil society in civil-military relations (3)



Civil society in civil-military relations (3)

What some civil society critics call grandstanding is what I call sacrifice. I am not really sure that an individual without ideological grounding and with no genuine cause will decide to give up his or her freedom and or go to jail on grounds of grandstanding. Clutching the limelight and being popular can be cultivated using other platforms.


I know of some entertainers that are quite popular and strayed into the arena of human rights advocacy and empowerment and had to speedily exit when they faced small harassment and threat to their freedom, finances and their family. Civil society work is not a tea party. Some people think that civil society leaders sit in their offices, drink tea or coffee and make trouble. Some people think that some civil society groups and organisations harbour hatred for the military and the security agencies. That is far from the truth. It will be unconscionable to harbour unjustified hatred or bitterness for individuals that put pen to paper and affirmed that they will go to wherever they are sent by air, by sea and by road in defence of the country.


Rather, civil society groups and their leaders hold members of the armed forces in high esteem and expect them to remain within and perform their functions within the confines and ambit of their constitutionally and legally assigned roles and responsibilities. However, there are broad areas that civil society groups and organisations come into direct conflict, misunderstanding and sometimes confrontation with the Nigerian military.



These are in the areas of internal security operations of the military and their role in providing some form of security during elections. The other area is in the form of communication and proper understanding of the military as an institution and their proper roles and responsibilities. Section 217(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) provides that the Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. These are the broad functions and duties assigned to the Nigerian military by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


The Nigerian people expect the Nigerian military to remain within the confines and ambit of these functions and duties. Unfortunately, the Nigerian military have more often than not been called in to perform emergency and extraordinary roles and functions that thrust them directly into the centre of national politics and issues.


The exigencies of the Nigerian nation and the proclivity of the political elite to stoke the combustible embers of ethnicity and religion have seen the military moving in to maintain law and order in so many states of the federation thereby stripping the Police (trained in the area of civil duties) of the responsibility of the Nigerian Police to maintain law and order. Sections 214-216 of the Constitution of Nigeria established the Nigerian Police Force. Section 214(1) of the Constitution provides that “There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be called the Nigeria Police Force and, subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.”


Furthermore, section 214(2) (b) of the Constitution provides that “The members of the Nigeria Police shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by law” while section 214(2) (c) provides that “The National Assembly may make provisions for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and fields.”


It is clear, it is unambiguous and does not permit any other interpretation to assert that constitutionally and statutorily, it is the primary and routine and daily responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force to maintain public order and public safety. However, due to changing circumstances and changing dynamics, police authorities established a second tier called the Police Mobile Force to tackle, handle and suppress serious situations of breakdown of law and order or anticipated situations of breakdown of law and order beyond the capacity and capability of the regular police force. It is only when the regular and Mobile Police Force have been mobilized, equipped and deployed and the situation snowballs out of hand that the military can be called in to restore law and order.


In which case, the Nigerian military will deploy superior firepower and military capacity and capability to deal with the emergency situation. The Nigerian reality is that we do not even call in the military to intervene in cases of breakdown of law and order. In most states of the federation, the military are permanently deployed.


The military mounts checkpoints and maintains law and order in most of the states of the federation. In most states of the federation, the Nigerian military are the first line of defence and the Nigerian Police engages in ancillary duties and functions outside their core remit. It is unfortunate that the Nigerian military is engaged in internal security operations in almost all the states of the federation. It is an aberration and really an attempt to strip Nigeria of the last bastion for the defence of its security and corporate existence to deploy the military to perform functions that are the exclusive preserve of the Police and other security agencies.


When the military performs civil duties reserved for the Nigerian police, the civil populace expects that their fundamental rights must be respected and when these rights are violated the human rights and pro-democracy organisations must step in to assist the populace redress their violated rights.


It is my submission that the military can only be deployed when there is actual breakdown of law and order and can only come in aid of civil authority when called upon by the President and subject to conditions prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. The tragedy of the Nigerian condition is that those in authority will sometimes, on political and economic considerations stoke the embers of ethnicity and religion and the country will start boiling.


The military are called in without clear rules of engagement or protocol and they are expected to deal with the civil populace in a civil manner and this, no doubt, is not part of their training and activities and in the process some of them violate the fundamental rights of the citizens.


A key component of the activities of civil society groups and organisations lies in the protection and defence of the provisions of chapter 1V of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).


These fundamental rights include the right to life, the right to the dignity of the human person; right to personal liberty; right to fair hearing; right to private and family life; right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; right to freedom of expression and the press; right to freedom of assembly and association; right to freedom of movement; right to freedom from discrimination and right to acquire and own movable property anywhere in Nigeria.


Civil society groups and organisations protect and defend fundamental rights and freedoms using the fundamental rights enforcement procedure rule and employing the tactics and strategy of advocacy, enlightenment and public protests and this puts them in the line of fire with the authorities.


The Nigerian military must at all time be the last line of defence and should be sparingly used in internal security operations. The Nigerian Police must be our first line of defence and should be repackaged and reorganised into a modern police force with the capacity and capability to anticipate and degrade internal security challenges.

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