Presidential leadership and security sector governance


For centuries, violence and security have coexisted in almost all societies. Each society has its peculiar approach to ensure that security prevails over violence. It is in recognition of this perpetual pursuit of national security that Nigeria’s National Security Strategy is anchored on the strategic interests of security and welfare of Nigerians; sovereignty, defense of our territorial integrity and peace; social justice, democracy and economic growth.

Without the prevailing presence of these strategic interests, violence will prevail, resulting to escalating threats to national security, as Nigeria is experiencing with terrorism, banditry, economic sabotage like crude oil theft, ethno-religious conflicts, kidnapping, financial crimes and other opportunistic criminal activities.

When institutions of security sector governance – specifically security architectures like the police, military and the defence intelligence community, fail to ensure the security of the state as a precondition for development, through state’s monopoly of legitimate violence, the efficiency of security sector is questioned. To improve national security, Nigeria averages $5.8 billion in defence spending. From 2009, Nigeria’s budgetary allocations for defence have consistently increased with a noncorresponding result of widening insecurity. This shows that increase in defence spending is not an independent variable for achieving improved national security.

Such other factors as governance, rule of law, professionalism and accountability are crucial to ensure that state spending in security has direct outcome for achieving Nigeria’s over-arching strategic vision to situate a peaceful, self-self-reliant, strong and prosperous nation. To secure Nigeria requires governance and governing the security sector starts with a set of approaches, practices and responsibilities exercised by the government to reduce Nigeria’s exposure to security risks.

The security sector of any sovereign state embodies institutions and structures organized and positioned to monopolize legitimate violence, in the provision of security as a public good, preservation of a state’s territorial integrity and ward off internal insurrection and external aggression. Whether at the internal or external security environment, the operational elements of a sovereign state’s security teach the toughest lessons on strategy and leadership.

To coordinate a responsible, efficient, transparent and accountable security sector, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), situates the President, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The exercise of leadership in complex military and security operations, requires three levels of leadership: leadership at the grand strategic level, at the military strategic level, and at the theatre operational level. All extant laws on security allow the president enormous powers to exercise credible oversight and management of the security sector in advancing our democratic, development, sovereign and cultural interests, at the grand strategic level of security sector leadership.

When taking an adversary’s fire, soldiers at the theatre operations can afford to run in zigzags in making themselves the hardest possible target, but at the core of our next Commander-in-Chief’s job is a decisive straight line leadership – to reform the security sector for the protection of the people and not just the regime; curtail institutional abuse and procurement corruption; enhance transparency; promote professionalism; delineate responsibilities in ways that encourage synergy within the security sector; ensure the sector’s compliance with international best practices; and commit to local manufacturing of military equipment in Nigeria.

The Commander-in-Chief is constitutionally required to provide firm leadership in coordinating the heads of security agencies – National Security Adviser, Chief Defence Staff and the Inspector General of Police, in intelligence gathering, intelligence analysis and intelligence utilizations. This must be done within the purview of the principles of good governance in the security sector – strategic vision and planning, participation, consensus, responsiveness, effectiveness, efficiency, rule of law, audit and oversight.

Beyond recruiting more personnel and allocating more material resources to the security sector as canvassed by some of our presidential candidates, Nigeria’s next president must be seen to be manifestly in charge of the security sector’s strategic goals, practices and procedures. Nigerians want to be safe; we want to hear that the enemy has been decimated; we want to celebrate the release of the entire Chibok girls; we want to travel across the country without fear of kidnappers, bandits and terrorists. Nigeria’s next President must lead the security sector with accountability.

Read also: Nigerians to presidential candidates: ‘We want to hear you out’

Even with 60% of the Nigerian territorial space being ungoverned, the Nigerian security ecosystem which is largely unaccountable, with an opaque feature of security votes for almost every agency of the government (with 117 federal agencies receiving security votes worth N24.3 billion in 2021), yet crisis and insecurity are on an upward trajectory. Budgeting heavily on defense yet sporadic insecurity and pervasive fear persist everywhere across the states.

With N5 trillion budget for defense (both internal and external) in six years and 11,420 Nigerians killed within the same six years in view (2016 – 2021, and N1.97 trillion budgeted for defense in 2021 only, representing 14% increase from the N1.78 allocated in 2020, insecurity still hold sway in every part of the Nigerian state). At best, this is transactional governance and not good governance in our security sector.

Given that security is a precondition for social stability and development, and governance at the grand strategic level is urgently needed in solving our daunting security challenges, our next Commander-in-Chief must understand his or her place to unlock our country and its people’s potentials for greatness, by first securing the enabling security environment for legitimate enterprises to thrives.

The best way to achieve this is to ensure democratic governance of the security sector, on the basis of rule of law, merit-based recruitment and promotion of personnel, respect for human rights, strengthen national legal framework and security institutions, strengthen civil society participation and advance management system and internal oversight. The Nigerian security sector is capable of securing Nigeria if well governed and we need a President who can command such high-level of leadership to achieve results and not rhetoric.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Ekpa, editor-in-chief, Nigerian Corruption Cases Law Report, [email protected]



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