Urhobo Historical Society
Dr. Nowa Omoigui Comments on Patterns of Internal  Deployment of Security Forces And  Provides A History of Nigeria's Military Behaviour In Combat.
November 29, 1999

Subject: [edo-community] Security Dilemmas
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 00:14:54 EST
From: "Nowamagbe Omoigui M.D." <nowa@RICHMED.MEDPARK.SC.EDU>
Organization: USC School of Medicine
To: edo-community@egroups.com, kienuwa@concentric.net

Dear Kienuwa,

In the last paragraph of your contribution "Niger Delta Struggle", you stated: "Why did General Obasanjo not declare the same State of Emergency in Kano, surround it with Southern Soldiers, shell Kano to the ground as they are doing in Odi and see what will happen."

Purely for purposes of clarification, let me say this:

General Obasanjo has not declared a state of emergency in Bayelsa State. Soldiers are operating in an internal security role on invitation in one (1) of out eight (8) LGAs.

But it is important to point out that brutality and destruction during internal security (IS) operations can occur in the absence of a state of emergency. Odi is not the first. The Nigerian Army manual on Internal Security Ops is basically the old British Army manual. IS can involve flag marches, checkpoints, riot control, bomb disposal, arms interception, cordon and search, search and destroy, protective security for key persons, and other activities. It just depends.

Just as a matter of information the Army (if enticed into a firefight) also has a track record of destructiveness in the North (when called in by the Police through the Chief Security Officer of the State)


1. Religious riots (eg Kano - 1980, 1982; Bulumkutu 1982, Bauchi 1990). In 1982, armored vehicles were airlifted from Lagos to Kano to be used in support of the 3rd Brigade against Maitatsine. The armored vehicles were British made Scorpion Tanks. The area of Kano where the fanatics were operating was practically leveled to the ground using High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) ordnance. The operation was commanded by a Christian Southerner. The Police as well as regular infantry had been overwhelmed. I knew those involved personally.

2. Ethnic (Zango-Kataf versus Hausa in Kaduna state) - This ethnic clash during IBB's time was also savagely repressed. In fact former General Zamani Lekwot was almost executed because of his alleged role in supporting his people.

3. Jukum/Chamba and the Kutebs (Taraba State) The large number of casualties not only from internecine tribal battles but also from Army intervention here is well known. It almost cost Danjuma his Senate confirmation as Defence Minister. He was accused of funding importation of sophisticated weapons for use by the Jukuns. This accusation was never proven, but the Taraba conflict area (like the Niger-Delta) is also characterized by the use of automatic weapons. Anytime soldiers are called out there they tend to be edgy and ready to deliver suppressive fire.

My point is not to justify destruction but to point out that when the Army is called in to restore order in assistance to the Police [or all by itself], a wide range of latitude exists in the way the rules of engagement are written and the way the ordinary soldiers interpret them against the background of their training. It also depends on the threat on the ground and how well armed those they are "fighting" are. If automatic rifles are being used by rioters/insurgents you can be sure that support weapons will be used by the Army.

After the 1966 crisis things fell apart. Since the civil war the Nigerian Army has had a reputation for lack of fire discipline. One British Defence report in 1969 described the Nigerian Army is "one of the best defoliating agents known." This tendency is not just within Nigeria. In Somalia, during peacekeeping ops the Nigerian unit in Mogadishu expended the highest rate of ammunition during skirmishes. In one particular incident members of other peacekeeping forces (particular the US) had to take cover for several hours. The Somalis learnt not to mess with the Nigerians - just like the Lebanese learnt not to mess with the Fiji unit during peacekeeping operations in Lebanon. (Even though Nigeria was seriously embarassed by the incident, Abacha rewarded the Commander of that Somalia operation with the Governorship of Lagos State upon his return). In Liberia and Sierra Leone it was the same with our countrymen. And back during WWII similar reports of heavy dependence on ammo were made about superstitious Nigerian soldiers who regarded the dark jungles of Burma as "evil forests".

In a strange way, from the standpoint of destructive power, we must be grateful that the armed forces are not really as well armed as they could have been if their leaders had not stolen all their defence funds. Many nasty internal security weapons that have been deployed in other trouble spots in the world have never made their debut in Nigeria. Challenging a modern counter-insurgency Army complete with helicopter gunships is a dangerous undertaking. Those who plan to take that frontal route need to think about it very carefully.

As much as possible we should do everything to avoid any situation that creates an excuse for the Army to operate. Even the Mobile Police can be very brutal if provoked - and they have armored personnel carriers. Ask the people of Aguleri and Amuleri in Anambra State.

However, while correcting the impression that prior northern agitators have been spared repression the undercurrent of your comment is that breakdown in Law and Order in different parts of the country has not been handled in the same manner. Possibly true. The reasons are many. But given the ethnic prism through which we generally interpret the actions of Nigerian leaders, the fact that Obasanjo is a Yoruba man and that many of his key internal security appointees are Yoruba, and the fact that the OPC has not been manhandled has made some people suspect foul play. Obasanjo needs to be more careful because his actions (no matter how well intentioned) can easily be misinterpreted. And he could be the innocent victim of jaundiced intelligence summaries. If your SSS Chief, Inspector-General of Police, Internal Affairs Minister, Police Minister and Deputy Defence Minister are all Yorubas subtle bias may creep into your security reports. A few weeks ago during one of the OPC/Ijaw crises this potential problem was further compounded by the fact that many of the frontline policemen in Lagos were also Yorubas, so the Police IG was asked to massively transfer Yoruba policemen and police officers out of the area and infuse non Yorubas. This will take some time. Obasanjo also appears to have understood the need for ensuring federal character in state repression when he said:

``I do not see why hoodlums from any part of the country should be given encouragement because of where they come from. A criminal is a criminal and should be told so in clear terms,''


"When people decide to behave like animals then they must be treated like animals,"

Some of these comments were actually "grandstanding" directed at the Army. A civilian leader who is viewed as being soft (or indecisive) in maintaining law and order will soon invite a coup. A Commander-in-Chief who is not thought to be sensitive to the lives of his policemen and soldiers who die in the line of duty (rightly or wrongly) could lose their loyalty.

But a lot also depends on the State Police Command, the State Governor and other interested parties. If the Governor and Police say that the situation is out of control then it is Army time. I can tell you that with Obasanjo's order to the Police to shoot Rioters on sight, the Army was on full alert to step into the Ketu situation in Lagos if invited. But how likely is Tinubu to call in the Army against the OPC? Some commentators have wondered about it in light of the history of the OPC, the Afenifere, and debts incurred during the recent wahala about certificate misrepresentation. On the other hand his counterpart
in Ondo State (who had made many efforts at conflict resolution) asked for Army support to keep Ijaws and Ilajes apart - because the Police there just did not have the wherewithal to do so. The Governor told everyone involved what he was planning beforehand and the Ijaws there wisely avoided shooting at the soldiers.

What about the Policemen themselves? Do they implement orders as written? Obasanjo has told them to arrest OPC miscreants. Are they fully equipped? Trained? Motivated? Many troubling issues have been raised by all these events. For example, in a Nov. 27 1999 BBC story titled "Curfew for Lagos trouble spot" I read this disturbing excerpt:

"Lagos police commissioner Mike Okiro told the BBC that despite a shortage of vehicles, manpower and ammunition, his men had got on top of the situation. But our correspondent says that, although the police had instructions to deal severely with the rioters, they have often stood back, apparently too afraid to get involved."

The Police is too afraid to get involved????????????? Lets see how things play out. E get as E be.