Withdrawal of Military Checkpoints Sound Decision – Ekhomu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Cover Choice, POLITICS

Withdrawal of Military Checkpoints Sound Decision – Ekhomu

Posted: Jun 28, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 Dr. Ona Ekhomu is an international security expert while Tanko Yunusa is the National Chairman of Interparty Advisory Council (IPAC). In these separate interviews with IFEOMA ONONYE, they address the significance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision.



What do you think about the recent withdrawal of military checkpoints by President Muhammadu Buhari?

The Presidential directive on withdrawal of military checkpoints in the country is a sound decision.  The use of checkpoints is a tactical security measure aimed at interdicting crimes in progress.  For example, if a citizen calls, in a tip off,  to say that armed robbers or kidnappers operating in a red SUV are heading toward Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the proper procedure for interdiction is for all Police or Military Patrol vehicles in the area to set up check-points there, and look out for that car.  However, to permanently have a checkpoint at a given location nullifies the security advantage of the checkpoint.  Criminals can simply avoid the checkpoint, or drive up to it and act familiarly, which will enable them pass without inspection, or mount a frontal attack on the checkpoint.  A large number of police personnel and military personnel have been killed while manning checkpoints.

You said earlier that there is a great disadvantage in allowing military mount check points, what are these disadvantages?

Corrupt practices are one of the major disadvantages. The worst feature of checkpoints is that it is a breeding ground for corruption and extortion.  Even though military checkpoints are less prone to corruption, there is still a measure of this going on.  I have seen this happening particularly with commercial vehicle drivers and drivers conveying freight.  We can’t afford a situation where the Nigerian Military will be demeaned by corrupt practices such as extorting money from transporters on the road.  The Nigeria Police Force has already acquired that reputation for checkpoint corruption.  We can’t afford to add the military to that disgraceful conduct.  Truth is, a man holding a gun in the sun wields enormous power that many citizens find it safer to simply pay a “toll” and be allowed through, rather than risk getting shot. However, in the hot zone of North-East Nigeria where the battle against BH is raging, I believe that checkpoints are useful there because of the audacious tactics of BH. First, they Try to overwhelm targets; They ride in long convoys of cars and motorcycles; they employ IEDs AA guns and AK-47 in their attacks, and sometimes they bring military tanks to encounters. The point here is that combating BH is a pure counter-terrorism operation which requires all strategic and tactical tools to defeat the enemy.  I believe that the Presidential order on dismantling checkpoints excluded the North-East zone.  It would be tactically mistaken to remove the checkpoints in Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states because the terrorists are still costing Nigerian lives with daily multiple attacks.

Can you breakdown the role of police as far as internal security is concerned?

The police agency is the leader in crime control in the country.  However, combating terror requires the military.  Boko Haram has shown that it is more or less a “foreign army” on Nigerian soil.  They get sophisticated bomb-making trainings, marksmanship training and be-heading training from ISIS, AQIM, Al-Shabbab, AQAP and Talibans. The need for the military to assist the Police in combating terror cannot be over-emphasized; it is their constitutional responsibility.  What president Buhari meant was that the Police should continue to be the prime agency for crime control. However, the Police must contribute robustly to the war on terror.  They should canvass snitches and informants for information on BH members and their hideouts.  This information can then be tested for validity and then passed to the military commander for immediate action.  If this terrorism control strategy is fine-tuned, the BH will be contained quickly and eventually defeated.

What do you think is the way forward?

The BH problem has been left unattended to for too long, and they have acquired enormous capability to withstand our counter-terrorism actions. There is not going to be guide fix in the problem. BH has changes strategy from occupying territory to stealth attacks.  Our counter-terrorism planners should change our response strategies. First, there are just too many attacks – which make the government seem impotent.  Second, terrorist plots are not nipped in the planning stages. Third, the politicization of the war on terror is bad for the country. Fourth, disparaging comments about the military have been demoralizing. Fifth, the recent AI unsubstantiated report accusing the Nigerian military of human rights abuses is a deliberate ploy to kill the morale of Nigerian troops who are under fire from BH. Among other measures, the establishment of a Counter-Terrorism Unit in the Presidency to provide the much needed cerebral input in the war on terror is essential.