By - Lanre Oyewole
A community based strategy for national security, in the previous article, we introduced static and dynamic aspects in the strategy, including Target, Agent, Perimeter, Alarm, Threat etc. In this article, we will explore the human aspects of the strategy. The focus here is on the interaction between community actors (Agents) and security agencies (Contacts).
The purpose of the interaction is to “communicate, locate, isolate, neutralise and clean up a Breach“. The hope of course is that with much improved communication, the other activities (locate, isolate, neutralise & clean-up) will be rare.
Effective, proactive communication is a powerful deterrent to budding terrorists and violent activists. The key terms are: Triggering, Spotting, Circling, and Tracking. We need mention three others: Media, Justice, Support. These are not directly involved but are vital in sustaining an effective security strategy.
Triggering describes how an Alarm is raised. The Agent is the one who is charged with Triggering, i.e. raising an Alarm. He/she must be familiarised with the definition of the Status-quo, or in simple language, what normality looks like. The Agent must also be aware of the Targets within their Perimeter. The definition of the Status-quo will include the people, property, buildings, infrastructure and movement that is characteristic of their Perimeter. The Agent already knows this in their subconscious and long term memory. But it must be spelt out in simple language so that they can memorise and easily recall it. A simple list of places, people and property with positions and timings will do.
It is the duty of the Agent to constantly monitor the mental list against what they see and observe. Whenever there is a deviation that is either suspicious or difficult to explain, an Alarm must be raised. The Agent is not required to profile the deviation. They must immediately identify themselves to a Contact and pass on all the information they have. The information provided must include the location, timing, persons and other pertinent details. The Agent must be able to pass this information on by phone, SMS, or a mobile App. There should be more than one Agent in each Perimeter. Each Agent must represent a distinct/unique interest or group within the Perimeter.
Agents must not be aware of the identity of other Agents. Agents must be geographically separated from each other within the Perimeter. These measures provide security and good coverage. Ideally, this should be enough. However, there may be exceptional cases where an Agent is not available to send an Alarm. Third parties within a Perimeter must be given the same contact details as Agents, so they can raise Alarms too. However, when a non-Agent raises an Alarm, an Agent must be located in the vicinity to verify the claim. If this is not possible, the handling and escalation of the Alarm must be treated differently. Third parties and Vectors may deliberately provide misleading information (noise) to confuse security services.
Once an Alarm is raised, security services (Contacts) must immediately “Spot” the Alarm. Spotting is the process where the location, nature and veracity of an Alarm are established. Spotting records the location of the Alarm and other basic details, such as items (Targets), persons (Vectors), property, positions (Perimeteir), Weapons and timings. The record is then plotted as a spot on a geographical dashboard. Within the dashboard an Alarm can be easily visualised and compared or related to other Breaches and Alarms.
A new Alarm will be cross-checked against the Status-quo defined for that Perimeter and its history of Alarms. The details of the Alarm will then be added to a heat map of the geographic region. Spotting helps to build a profile of the risks and fears in the region. A Spotting also identifies the area surrounding an Alarm, in case of any further action. Spotting is similar to a triage; it does not imply that further action is automatic. However, the assessment will indicate if such is necessary. Spotting is time-sensitive. It must be completed within a few minutes of Triggering; a maximum turnaround time of thirty minutes is advised. If uncompleted within that period, further action may be fruitless.
Spotting can be managed by the state, independent organisations, security services, or a hybrid of all of these groups. It is important that the body responsible must have very good relationships with the communities and the security services. Spotting must quickly determine if it is obvious, likely or probable that a Vector has become active in the Perimeter. If such determination is made, the Alarm must be escalated to the next level of action: Circling.
An Alarm that is escalated beyond Spotting goes into Circling. Circling is the exclusive preserve of the security services of the state and/or the nation. It involves the lock-down of a Perimeter, and optionally, the surrounding area. Circling aims to contain Vector(s) within a Perimeter or its vicinity. Time is once again critical here, but so also is the connection with the core security services. There must be an established secure channel for communication between the Spotting body and security services. Circling will also require dedicated personnel that can respond within minutes of an Alarm being escalated. The personnel will be mainly mobile units of the armed forces set aside for this role.
The profile of the Breach established during Spotting will determine the nature of Circling. Cutlass wielding marauders present a different problem than AK47-armed groups. The speed and scope of a response to attackers on foot cannot be the same as that for motorised invaders. The equipment needed to neutralise mounted anti-aircraft guns will differ from that for light arms. It is vital that the information provided by the Spotting team to Circling is detailed and accurate.
Whereas the first goal of Circling is containment, the secondary goal is equally important: resolution. Much as deadly diseases must be contained and treated in the area of first occurrence, so also a Breach. Vector(s) must be prevented from leaving the Perimeter or its vicinity. The first option of course would be to arrest them. Where this is either impracticable, risky or a non-option, security forces must prioritise the lives of innocent citizens.
All effort must be invested to ensure that residual threat from active Vector(s) must be resolved during Circling. However, in exceptional conditions one or more Vectors may escape from the area of Circling. This could be due to different factors: poor profiling, late response, unfavourable terrain, bad weather, etc. If security services deployed during Circling cannot provide an assurance of containment, an escalation is required. The escalation from Circling goes to the next and final level of proactive action: Tracking. The personnel involved in Circling must provide detailed intelligence, not conjecture, as input to Tracking.
Where Vectors are known or suspected to have escaped out of the Perimeter or its vicinity, Tracking is necessary. Tracking builds on the actions taken during Circling. The focus here is to clean up after a Breach. This scope must be driven and led by security services but it benefits from the input of two community actors: Agents and trackers. The objective is to find Vector(s) that may have escaped Circling and either capture or engage them. Agent(s) will provide useful local information as well as entry and exit points of Vector(s). Trackers can take up the trail from the exit point, hopefully to location of the escaping Vector(s).
There is a need to lock down the affected areas. A curfew must be imposed on specific areas that will be covered by Tracking. The curfew reduces the likelihood of pollution of evidence by citizens going about their daily lives. However, the curfew must be strictly limited by time. This is to avoid antagonising citizens living in the affected area. A period of twenty four hours should suffice for intelligence-driven Tracking.
There are indigenous groups that are skilled at tracking animals and persons through countryside in Nigeria. If indigenous trackers are insufficient, or inadequately skilled, there are tribes all over Africa that are skilled at tracking. The Americas also have peoples and professionals that have honed skills in tracking. Security forces will need their skill and ready availability, to quickly follow up and locate escaping Vector(s).
Given that most assaults occur in rural areas, Tracking should be very effective. It is almost impossible to move through countryside without leaving tracks. This is more so for attackers who will have to leave the crime scene in a haste. Tracking follows the trail either to where the perpetrators are, or to the point at which they were evacuated.
Either of which has great intelligence value. If the Vector(s) were evacuated, this points at a specific profile required to coordinate and facilitate such action. The focus of the search could potentially shift to those behind the actions, not just their foot soldiers. Once Vector(s) are apprehended, it is absolutely vital to ensure that such persons are immediately handed over for trial. Vectors must not be allowed to return into circulation without a period of deterrent incarceration.
Beyond Tracking, action on the field must be supported by actors and institutions within society. These include the justice system, the media, and others.
When Vectors are apprehended, there must be speedy trial. Justice must be done, and seen to be done. This is critical for maintaining the momentum and psychological advantage. To end, some preparatory leg work is required. The profile of judges must be studied. Cases involving Vector(s) must not be very carefully managed. Every effort must be invested in ensuring that such cases are handled by judges that identify with the establishment. Judges should be preferred that have a record of quick, strict, unsympathetic discharge of justice to anti-state actors. The feedback from the courtroom must not be perceived as undermining to those risking their lives in the fields. Judgements that are salutary to the cause must be widely publicised; to boost the nation and demoralise Vectors.
The media has got a big part to play in the war against violent groups. Information must be managed very carefully, especially to quell fears, contain contagion and project confidence and hope. The fourth estate (media) must be co-opted into the fight. All citizens must hear a few simple messages:
The owners and leaders of media houses should be brought into some confidence with security forces. The terms of the cooperation must be agreed in advance to avoid fall-outs midway. Said confidence is the price that must be paid for some measure of support in the war. In exchange the media houses should provide a platform for rallying the nation behind the security services.
Information is precious, for economics, and also security. Information systems that combine time series and geographical information should power the control centre that coordinates all security activities. As a minimum, these should provide a graphical view of incidents, supported by meta-data for drilling down or analysis. Some of this information should be made available to the public, especially the affected communities.
It is also important to control information about the movement of vehicles. Most attacks will require transportation for some of the journey to the target. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology should be deployed to key transport hubs, interchanges and routes, to collect details of vehicles. This information can be fed into the repositories of the control centre and plotted against Alarms, Threats and Breaches.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a sensitive topic. However, the situation is such that every option must be seriously considered. The nation’s security is approaching a critical state. Youth corpers have hitherto been constrained to civilian roles. However, with a looming security crisis and over a million able youths coming on stream yearly, a rethink is apt. The NYSC should be re-purposed to deliver para-military training in preparation for service in national security.
The armed forces are stretched and the situation has almost become a war of attrition. Youth corpers can very quickly help to turn the tide. In return, corpers will get to serve the nation in more meaningful and enduring ways than presently. In the process, long-lasting, enduring bonds will be formed across religious and ethnic lines, among the corpers. This could be a win-win for the youths, the security services and the nation. However, leaders in the executive and legislative arms must embrace the unconventional to make this a reality.
What is written here is a summary of a more detailed and nuanced strategy. But it is more than enough to put two and two together. Much additional work will be required to flesh this all out. Vulnerable communities must be identified; Agents profiled, contacted and equipped; control centres set up. Communication procedures drawn up, shared, practised, fine-tuned and finalised. Information management processes, people and tools agreed, and governance across scopes nailed down.
No strategy can be imported wholesale, it must be customised for the context: Nigeria. And all the primary actors must be local. This could take time; only those with a vested interest can be expected to persevere. Nigeria must avoid the mistakes that other nations have made. You can defeat an army, but you cannot overwhelm a people that are united against a common enemy. The nation’s security services must prioritise synergies with communities to contain and eliminate rising waves of threats to national security.
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