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Use mercenaries to fight insurgency, Reps tell FG

The House of Representatives yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently consider the use of private defence contractors for targeted security operations against insurgency and terrorism in the country.

This was one of the 19 recommendations made by the Special Committee on National Security whose report was submitted to the President on the day.

Following escalation of insecurity in the country, it will be recalled that the House convoked a summit last month to help find lasting solutions to the menace.

The report of the committee laid before the House on July 8, 2021 was considered in the Committee of the Whole yesterday.

Moving the motion for its consideration, the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said a large number of Nigerians from different backgrounds and experiences were consulted on the matter to make inputs.

‘Use private defence contractors’

“Give immediate consideration to the use of private defence contractors for targeted security operations to combat insurgency and terrorism especially,” the House recommended in the report submitted to the President last night.

The House also recommended that a special team of 40,000 Police Mobile Unit officers undergo special training to improve their capacity in dealing with insecurity issues.

It also recommended that 1,000 of the officers be deployed to every state for immediate operations, stressing that the North-East, South-West and South-East could receive the officers remaining out of the 40,000 men.

The Green Chamber also urged the Federal Government to deploy early warning systems nationwide, including installation of CCTV cameras and other surveillance, satellite and electronic equipment along major highways, public places, and major cities and the borders.

‘Set up local security c’ttees in all LGs’

It  called for the creation of local security committees in all 774 local government areas to be managed by the Nigerian Police Force as part of its community policing mandate.

According to the House, the panel should include traditional rulers, religious institutions, and local opinion leaders.

The law-makers also recommended that use and development of grazing reserves and ranching be pursued in lower population areas, saying that pilot schemes should commence immediately in all states positively disposed to it.

The document containing the recommendations read: “Instruct the immediate enhanced training for the Police Mobile Unit to improve their capacity to deal with insecurity.

“A special team of 40,000 Police Mobile Unit officers should undergo this special training. 1,000 should then be deployed to every state for immediate operations. North East, South West, South East can receive the officers remaining out of the 40,000.

“Create a new team under the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, to train and work with the guards of Nigeria’s forests. This unit will collaborate with the current Forest Guards who will remain under the control of states

“Encourage the intelligence agencies (working with the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Defence Staff) to initiate a screening and vetting program of all frontline officers of the military to fish out moles and double-agents who have so far compromised most efforts at combating insecurity and win the war against insurgents and terrorists

“Strategically, the Executive should initiate a Presidential Police Reform initiative that will be resident in one central place within the Presidency. Also, an operational specialised unit should be established within the NPF to champion and drive all the change initiatives (based on a Presidential Policing Reform Roadmap) from within the institution.

“Direct the use of the Nigerian Police Trust Fund to procure some of the immediate equipment need by the rank-and-file police officers in Nigeria. This intervention will include the procurement of modern critical equipment for the Nigeria Police Force as specified by the leadership of the NPF.

“Give immediate consideration to the use of private defence contractors for targeted security operations to combat insurgency and terrorism especially.

“Urge the Executive to use all means at its disposal (while legislation is pending) to create a protocol that will compel intelligence (as a matter of necessity) sharing among all security agencies.

Deploy early warning systems

“Deploy Early Warning Systems nationwide, including installation of CCTV cameras and other surveillance, satellite and electronic equipment along major highways, public places, and major cities and our borders;

“Establish and strengthen a National Crisis Centre, NCC, within the Nigerian Police. The NCC will be the national coordinating centre for all civil security response actions and monitoring of resolutions of such with monthly reporting on all incidents. It will also be the central place for any Nigerian to report major security incidents;

“Through an Executive Order, initiate a civilianisation program in all our security agencies. This should compel the agencies to use civilian staff to perform most back-office and non-tactical duties. This initiative will free up thousands of security personnel for frontline duties immediately;

Information ministry, NOA, to campaign

“Encourage and resource the National Orientation Agency and the Federal Ministry of Information to begin a structured strategic communication and orientation campaign, using all available media channels and platforms to promote peaceful coexistence and national unity;

“Support for the creation of local security committees in all 774 local government areas. This panel should include traditional rulers, religious institutions, and local opinion leaders.  This should be managed by the NPF as part of its community policing mandate;

“The use and development of grazing reserves and ranching should be pursued in lower population areas. Pilot schemes should commence immediately in all states that are positively disposed to it.

“Strengthen the judicial and law enforcement administration through a Digitisation initiative for the judiciary. This will speed up the administration of justice and reduce corruption. Swift administration of justice will help reduce causes of disaffection which feeds into insecurity.

“Strengthen and instruct widespread use of the centralized national criminal database by the NPF and mandate access for other security agencies, providing resources to ensure this can be done. This should also include modernization of the national fingerprint database.

“The NSA in collaboration with civil security agencies should identify, map, and arrest cult group leaders, violent agitators, and networks of criminal groups at tertiary education level as well as society at large.

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“The nation’s dependence on the import of basic security requirements should be reduced by enhancing the existing military production facilities and private companies across the country for immediate supply of needed security equipment.

“Target poverty as a must; as poverty is the main driver for all the insecurity issues currently prevalent across the nation. This can be done through a focus on infrastructure and a new jobs’ creation drive and initiative by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Executive is also urged to consider doing even more by declaring a state of emergency on job creation considering the high rate of unemployment.

‘Need to tackle illegal arms’

“That Nigeria must take major steps to control the flow of illegal arms into the country. The first step must strengthen the control of our borders to detect and seize any illegal shipment of arms into the country, and arrest and prosecute any person associated with the illegal flow of arms into the country. ‘’In the next step, Nigeria should reach out to overseas arms dealers to enlist their cooperation against the sales of arms to non-state actors. A third step should be a major diplomatic initiative with the governments of countries known to have companies engaged in selling arms to non-state actors. ‘’Continuous Arms-Collection and Depository scheme should be established at the national level to encourage disposal and collection of illegal firearms.”

Meanwhile, a bill seeking to provide stiffer penalties for the possession of unlicenced firearms scaled through second reading at the House of Representatives yesterday. The bill also recommended the local production of light weapons to forestall smuggling into the country.

The proposed legislation, titled “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Firearms Act, Cap. F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Increase the Fines, Provide for strict Prison Terms and Licensing Fees; and for Related Matters (HBs.101, 1204, 101)” is sponsored by Adejoro Adeogun from Ogun State and Ossai Nicholas Ossai from Delta State.

Leading the debate on its general principles at plenary, Adeogun said the bill was to amend 16 sections of the Firearms Act to allow for provision of stricter requirements and legal framework for licensing of firearms ownership, proficiency training, storage, sale, assemblage and manufacturing of firearms in Nigeria.

He said: “The firearms Act, LFN 2004, was an adaptation of the 1959 Fire Arms Act put in place before Nigeria assumed political independence. At the time the 2004 Act was conceived, the number of illicit weapons in private hands were still limited and level of insecurity relatively low in Nigeria.  “Given prevailing security challenges, the 2004 law is no longer robust enough to address contemporary weapons control challenges.

“The bill before us proposes the alteration of sixteen sections of the Fire Arms Act cap F. 28 LFN 2004,   to insert new clauses intended to strengthen the Act and provide for proper regulation of licenses, ownership, proficiency training, handling, usage, storage, repairs, manufacture and sale of firearms in Nigeria.

“To achieve stricter control, the bill proposed raising the qualifying age from seventeen to eighteen years; psychological evaluation certificate from a government hospital not more than six months; police clearance certificate not more than twelve months; rifle club membership of at least six months and a firearms proficiency certificate issued by the club; and National Identification Number issued by the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC.

Local production of light weapons

“Mr Speaker, a couple of weeks ago, spokesman of the Nigeria Police led the parade of some suspects who were arrested for illicit manufacturing of AK 47 rifles. The spokesman emphasized that the locally fabricated weapons are as effective as the original ones imported from Russia.

“When this situation is juxtaposed with the perennial complaint of our troops in the North-East about inadequate weaponry, one is forced to ask why we have failed to mainstream domestic production of weapons to address the shortfall of weaponry among the security and law enforcement agencies.

“The issue, Mr. Speaker, is that the existing Fire Arms Act does not allow for local production of firearms and light weapons by the private sector. In other words, the Nigerian business community is not allowed by law to participate in an industrial sector that grosses over $20 billion annually.

“How can we promote innovation if we shut our people from this sector? Should we continue to do that in the face of our economic challenges?

“I have proposed an amendment of Sections 9 and 22 of the Act to provide for registration and licensing of businesses for the purpose of manufacturing, assembling, sale and training of licensees of firearms.

‘’By denying Nigerians the right to manufacture weapons, we have   inadvertently made our country dependent on other nations whose permission we must seek before we can obtain the tools needed by our security forces to combat security challenges.

“I am aware that some Nigerians would argue against local production of firearms on the ground that it would further enable proliferation of weapons.

‘’Mr. speaker, the ease with which people smuggle illicit weapons to our country has shown that criminally-minded people will do everything possible to get the tools of their trade, hence denying our nation the economic benefits of local production as well as the inherent advancement in that sector.

‘’We will be better off as a nation if (military backed) local businesses are allowed to meet the needs of our security forces through local production of light weapons.

“Mr. Speaker, my colleagues, the major challenge faced by our nation today is insecurity. This bill is another step towards tightening loose ends, closing windows that were hitherto being exploited by criminals to possess illicit weapons, while also exploring avenues for economic and technological advancement of the nation in an area that is of critical need.’’

When the bill was put to voice vote, it got the support of  majority of lawmakers and was, therefore, passed for second reading.


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