It is very worrisome that nineteen years into our renascent democracy, the presence of the Army in the lives of the civilian populace has become even more rampant than ever. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, recently told a workshop jointly held by the House of Representatives and Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), that the army is currently deployed in, at least, 28 states of the Federation.
This is unbecoming in a democracy where civilian law-enforcement agencies, such as the Police, the State Security Services, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and others are deployed to maintain law and order. It is only when a situation has gone beyond the capacity of these agencies that, as an emergency resort, the Armed Forces can be called in to quickly bring the situation under control and return to the barracks.
It is true that the nation is faced with many daunting criminal and security challenges. These range from terrorism, kidnapping, armed robberies, cult wars, armed herdsmen, communal conflicts, separatist agitations, militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta and the ignoble activities of misguided youth groups, in addition to insurgency.
We are convinced that the use of the military to confront these challenges is not the best option. We should understand the root causes of social problems before responding to them with the appropriate strategies.
It is obvious that many problems confronting the nation stem from the poor state of the economy, corruption (which reduces the rate of service delivery and employment opportunities for the youth), impunity by those who feel they own the country more than others, discriminatory use of state institutions like the Police, favouritism and feelings of marginalisation by certain groups.
These and other vices perpetrated mostly at the level of governance have, over the years, created pockets of angry and disillusioned Nigerians, some of whom have either taken to crime or embraced agitations of varying degrees, which the Federal Government has tended to respond to with the deployment of soldiers. The militarisation of purely democratic processes is a poor attitude to governance which must be addressed.
With our military resources spread thinly around the country, our ability to respond to major external threats will be seriously compromised. The Police and other law-enforcement agencies should be reinforced to take full charge of their constitutional duties while the Armed Forces should concentrate on military challenges such as the fight against Boko Haram terrorism.
Good and inclusive governance will reduce tension and agitations. It will curb corruption, increase prosperity and reduce unemployment and crime rates. These will make it easier for the Police to work effectively and keep the Army to its core mandate of protecting the nation from aggressors.