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Published On: Fri, Apr 25th, 2014

Boko Haram: Foreign intervention or elastic surveillance system?

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By Francis Agu

Foreign military intervention in any country is often questionable. The doctrine of UN can justify military intervention to protect civilians, but in most cases the legality or legitimacy of military attack without UN’s Security Council approval is always not cherished. Knowing that such terrorist attacks fall within unconventional warfare and can spontaneously occur, should we always be reliant on foreign military intervention whenever the attacks occur? Atiku pleads for foreign intervention, but also for the implementation of formidable solutions to pre-empt such terrorist attacks as opposed to trading blames. A caution about foreign military intervention is to take into consideration its potentials (not) to escalate local conflicts to larger conflagrations: it might be a threat to a durable peace. What I am not trying to do here is dwell on the controversies surrounding external (US-UN) military support in the past years, as some people would believe, linking such interventions to foreign economic interest, colonialism or imperialism: the concept of intervention is in itself controversial enough.

The call for foreign intervention arises from the fact that the present national security set up appears incapacitated to quell crimes such as terrorist attacks. It’s unthinkable that the Federal government’s security project the NPSCS is reportedly not capturing image. That’s not even my main concern here; my argument here is that just the building of CCTV is not sufficient enough to easily track criminals. The objects of digitized surveillance including a central registry (as I earlier mentioned) are built-up data that make the CCTV’s work faster and easy; a comprehensive package is needed. How could the CCTV project have started without adequate debate on how its maximum goals can be achieved? Do our lawmakers lack the expertise to deliberate meaningfully on new projects with a view to making them practical and resourceful? In the fight against terrorism in the West, we can see from their experiences how a central digitalization with information technology helps in tracking criminals. Nigerian politicians and especially the lawmakers are not deliberating on unified national popular issues, and in so doing are retarding the progress of the country.

It is high time Nigeria started rearing the positive benefits of the concept of globalization. Obviously globalization continues to sweep across the global borders. However, Nigeria is selective about the positive and negative effects of globalization. Nigeria is doing well partly in issues like cheap/local manufacturing, suicide attacks (of recent), consumerism especially of the latest gadgets, but lacking in the adoption of institutional ICT. For example, the advantages and essence of ICT in creating, communicating, disseminating, storing, managing information is overwhelming, and that’s its relatedness with civil registry and digital systemization mentioned here. Innovation or modernization, as is obtainable in other advanced societies, is not meant for the West alone. To be sure, any country that does not join the ICT bandwagon cannot yet claim to be independent, because it enhances and updates social policies, education, labor and productivity, to mention but a few. Civil registry helps in national security – even South Africa has already made a good start in having a civil registry maintained by the Department of Home Security. It is not a one-day project, and each country may customize the project to suit her goals. Why are the Nigerian politicians not promoting the use of such important factor as ICT? The truth is that the Nigerian masses don’t ask the politicians including the lawmakers the right questions, and so they get away with their selfish agenda. Which masses are they representing if relevant bills germane to development can’t be regularly sponsored in the houses?

The arguments here include the fact that the surveillance is a worthwhile investment. The project is comprehensive but will require all sorts of training, including ICT, improvement of infrastructures. Registration services have to be made available in all the local governments. The system with the obtainable better and faster communication is a myriad-pronged approach solution because it will help solve multifarious Nigerian problems such as corruption, or fraud. Why engage in a crime, knowing full well that “Big Brother” is watching you, and you stand a solid chance of being caught? It will also help in health records, emigration, immigration for instance of foreign mercenaries. Put simply, it is a blueprint for tracking crimes in times of need.

Unfortunately, among the obstacles to the surveillance system project are the beneficiaries of the unjust socio-economic structures. For the fact that they gain hugely from the situation, these groups of influential persons tend to work in one way or the other against it. For this project to be optimally successful, all the socio-economic structures must be effective and accountable. Moreover, there must be sufficient power or electricity to enable the officials concerned to execute their work. Do we still wonder about what killed the project of digitalization of all Nigerians? Secondly, there are pessimists who not only harbor the feeling that Nigeria will never good, but go about to educate such premise. Actually, the main goals of an indexed civil registry are aimed at protecting the civil rights of citizens and generating vital statistics. Some others will argue that the surveillance is an expensive project to embark on. However we should realize that the digitalization of births and deaths is in fact cost effective. Among others, it has the advantage of saving billions of dollars being spent on census and voters registration.

In conclusion, any foreign military intervention is a short-term measure. The present national security measure is not elastic enough in tracking modern day crimes such as terrorist attacks. To be able to effectively upgrade her national security measures, Nigeria needs a paradigm shift in the form of a systemized approach. I have hereby argued for a synchronized surveillance system as a pivotal resource that brings all the actions of the security organs together in a synergy. Nigerian lawmakers should start deliberating on urgent issues bothering the country’s progress. Among the major socio-economic problems, identity politics remains their contour, with its divisive formula. Regarding Atiku’s suggestion to step up intelligence that can have some kind of ability in pre-empting terrorist attacks, this digitized system is a basic point of departure not only towards achieve that goal, but also towards bring accountability in all facets of Nigerian society. The benefit of such a digital representation, coupled with institutionalized ICT, is many-fold: Nigeria can, for the first time, become truly independent, economically and security-wise.

Francis Agu can be contacted via


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