Frequent clash between security agencies


A security agency is a governmental organization which conducts intelligence activities for the internal security of a nation. They are also the domestic counterparts of foreign intelligence agencies, and typically conduct counterintelligence to thwart other countries’ foreign intelligence efforts. The police and the military are some of the security agencies in Nigeria.

Security operatives are creation of the state to check personal and group excesses of members of the society. This is because it is only in the atmosphere of peace and tranquility that social life can be ordered and development of the society achieved.

This provision of security however seems a herculean task, as it requires the synergy of members of the society with security operatives for this social virtue to be enjoyed. More critical to the provision and enjoyment of security in society is the cooperation of security agencies who are saddled with security provision in different domains, since security is universal. If security agencies are involved in violent conflicts in the full glare of the civil populace as noticed in Nigeria of late, it spells doom for national security. This mean inter-agency synergy would have failed, while public confidence leading to civil police co-operation becomes difficult. Today, the civil society in Nigeria is economical with vital information needed by the police to control crimes in Nigeria. In fact, it has been stressed that most Nigerians lack confidence in the police and other law enforcement agencies and thus prefer private security outfits or vigilante groups to public security operatives.

Security agencies by training and constitution are expected to conduct themselves in certain ways to uphold the image and dignity of the country they serve. By extension their allegiance to the constitution of the country is considered sacrosanct. But experts believe that total allegiance is lacking as this is rather observed in the breach rather than the observance especially with the frequent clash to assert supremacy by some of these agencies.

For some time now, violent conflict is gradually becoming one of the defining characteristics of Nigeria, the nation considered by many as the most populous nation of the continent of Africa. No part of Nigeria is free from violence of one form or the other. The problem of violence in Nigeria has become more worrisome as the security operatives whose duty it is to maintain peace, detect and suppress crimes have themselves become engulfed in violent conflicts, thereby giving criminals opportunity to unleash terror on the citizenry with impunity. Although, other unethical practices are held accountable for the clashes, superiority struggles arising from their historical past has of late become more prominent.

Recently, Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade hastily convened a meeting with representatives of the Nigerian Navy and police to address a deadly clash between the two security agencies which left at least three police officers dead.

Two police officers and a naval officer who were injured in the clash were recuperating at different medical facilities in Calabar, the Cross River State capital where the incident occurred.

The clash was sparked by a disagreement between a police traffic officer and a naval officer at a traffic light in Akim neighbourhood, downtown Calabar, around 4pm on the day of the incident.

By 8pm, it had degenerated into a deadly riot, with suspected naval officers attacking a police divisional headquarters; killing three and injuring others after setting the facility ablaze.

A naval officer sustained gunshot wounds from suspected police fire.  At the emergency meeting, Ayade who confirmed that the violence had been neutralised, condoled with the two agencies, and promised adequate compensation for victims.

Also recently men of the Nigerian Air Force and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) engaged one another in a gun duel at MurtalaMuhammed Airport, Lagos which resulted in one NDLEA officer being injured.

According to eyewitnesses, the clash started at 4:52 pm when the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) task force denied an NDLEA officer access to the premises because the latter failed to identify himself properly after the office hour.

FAAN had restricted movement into the facility to 12 hours (7am-7pm) from the initial 24 hours’ period in order to curb illegal activities and eliminate touting at the Hajj and Cargo Terminal area of the airport.

Anyone that must access through the gate at the terminal after the hours of 7:00 pm must be properly identified and must also be a staff of the airport or any of the security agents, according to FAAN sources.

A staff of NDLEA who showed up at 7pm was refused entry but after intervention by a senior aviation staff he was allowed into the terminal, the sources said.

Long after, another NDLEA officer forcefully gained entrance into the premises, which led to a showdown among members of the two armed agencies.

Officials of the NDLEA allegedly started throwing stones at officers of the Nigerian Air force on duty, an eyewitness said.

In retaliation, the airmen also invited their mates to engage the anti-drug agents, and the hell was let loose. The fight which lasted till 7 pm, scared off passersby around the area.

This was not the first time clash between men of security agencies occur in Lagos.

In 2011, men of the Nigerian Army soldiers clashed with policemen who were trying to stop them from using the BRT lane at Obanikoro, Lagos. In 2013, the clash was between naval officers and men of the Lagos State Police Command. Two policemen allegedly sustained injuries in the fight and police patrol vehicles including Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC, were destroyed. Recently, men of the Nigerian Navy engaged in a street fight at Ojuelegba with operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos.

The naval officers reportedly abducted Sergeant Vicky, a policewoman attached to the Traffic Section of the Lagos State Police Command, because she hit the body of their car at Mushin in Lagos.

From research, inter agency clash was first reported in Nigeria in 1977 in Port Harcourt between personnel of Nigeria Police and Nigerian Army. This problem has not only become repeated in several parts of Nigeria, but has over the years involved virtually all the security agencies and para-military organizations in Nigeria. For instance, there were reported cases of violent clashes involving personnel of Nigeria Police and Nigerian Navy, between the Nigeria Police and Nigerian Air force, between Nigeria Police and National Security and Civil Defence Corps, and between Nigeria Police and Nigerian Custom Service, etc. However, soldiers-police clashes have been the most prominent of them all, considering the frequency of occurrence, the level of casualties, losses and confusion that accompanied it.

The enormity of the implications of inter-agency clashes is better appreciated when we recall the purpose of their creation. Analysts have argued that the police are paid to police, secure and ensure compliance with the existing laws and conformity with the precept of social order. They posit that the police exist to prevent and or reduce crimes in society. They are further saddled with the right to protect the citizenry from harm and violations. Hence, they are seen as indispensable formal agency of social control. The role of the army on the hand is very similar to what is expected of the police. Former Lagos Police boss, Young Arabamen believes that they are saddled with the task of protecting and defending the nation against external aggression. They are further expected to work in collaboration with civil police to provide internal security to the nation.

The similarity in origin, status, roles, remuneration and condition of service was what made Professor BayoAdekanye, an expert in military relations to see the Nigerian Army and Police as peers. This also inspired Dr.NowamagbeOmoigui to advocate for jointness in training and security operations. If the above is the popular perception of the roles of the army and the police in Nigeria, it brings to mind the proverbial African ‘oracle that ought to be consulted to unfold causes of misdemeanor in the society is itself accused of criminal bahaviour’. By the same token, if the forces are thus involved in persistent violent clashes that often cause destruction to lives and property then, where will the society seek the solutions to such crimes when they are committed by the civil society?  Apart from the side effects of violence, is the absence of security to the citizens at the time of these clashes and the rating of the giant of Africa (Nigeria) as unsecure and unsafe nation to do business with. This popular perception has scared both domestic and international investors from the resource studded nation.

Dr.Odoma Samuel of Kogi State University, Anyigba said that the implication of interagency war is grievous. “The repeated violent clashes among these security professionals have consistently alienated them from the public. It has further caused loss of confidence and respect of the citizenry. The ultimate side effect is lack of civil co-operation that these forces need to succeed in crime control. This explains why the nation has not been able to effectively manage insurgency and other security challenges in recent times. If Nigeria’s peace is pivotal to African and global peace as stressed by some scholars, then there is urgent need for the problem of superiority struggles to be addressed,” he declared.

Professor DemolaAbimboye of University of Ilorin, thinks that lawlessness of security agencies has created other monsters over the years. For instance, the south-west produced O’dua People’s Congress (OPC), the south-south produced Igbesu Boys, the south-east produced Bakasi Boys, while the northern equivalent is Arewa People’s Congress (APC). One thing that is common to these sub-cultural groups is lawlessness and violence, he noted.

Professors A.A Aderinto and Dr. A.A. Ajayi of University of Ibadan think that continuous inter-agency feud has grave implications. There is no doubt that the greatest of such implications is insecurity of the Nigerian state and her people.