Security, Conflict and Information Management in Nigeria


Friday, September 20, 2019   /  05.27AM /  By Rear Admiral Akinsola M Johnson, (Rtd)   / Header Image Credit: Deloitte


Being the text of a paper presented by Rear Admiral Akinsola M Johnson (Rtd) at the 2019 Annual National Management Conference Break Out Session held at the International Conference Center, Abuja on September 15, 2019. 




I am enormously pleased to be in the midst of distinguished delegates from the private and public sectors, including members and non-members of the Nigerian Institute of Management for the 2019 Annual National Management Conference. I am also highly honoured to speak on a 20-minute paper with the sub-theme Security, Conflict and Information Management, and to be the Moderator for the Break-Out Session.


At the dawn of the Twenty-first Century, Nigerians agitated for a re-introduction of democracy as a possible answer to persisting problems of bad governance, instability, economic hardship and insecurity that seem to characterize the country then. Since 1999, Nigeria has embraced democracy as the system of government.


Democracy, with its flaws and weaknesses, is truly suitable for us a people provided it can be made to work effectively and, even more importantly, fairly. For almost a decade, anybody with an intellectual interest in national security cannot but be taken aback by the general climate of insecurity and uncertainty in the country.


Nigerians and our friends in the international community are concerned about what is responsible for this bleak security picture we witness today in Nigeria? Some scholars want to know if democracy can survive without security. What is the link among security, leadership and development? Is it that our security planners do not have a clear perception of what is required to provide security for almost 200 million people? Or is it that the country lacks the capacity-human and material- to provide security for its citizens? Can we attribute insecurity to poor security management strategy? The questions are endless. It is against this background that this paper seeks to provide a platform for a robust discourse in order to proffer strategies to manage Nigeria’s security challenges.




The concept of security is a complex one that covers every sphere of human endeavours. Security means different things to different people in the society and that is why it does not have a universally accepted definition. Individuals see security in different ways depending on their intellectual preference and/or socio-political perception.


People feel secure or insecure because of several reasons. Some people feel secure may be because they are self-actualized. For some they see security as having to do with war. For this category of people, they feel insecure when there is conflict. While others feel insecure because of situations within their environment that cannot make them live long and enjoy a good life. One must have seen people who feel insecure because of uncertainties in the polity arising from frequent loss of job, devaluation of the local currency and incessant electricity supply.


Whereas, there are non-military threats such as famine, ecological disasters, and even destruction of a nation's resources without recourse to arms which are no less devastating than military threats. All these have negative impact on people. In fact, some scholars see security from a broader angle to include the whole gamut of human security needs.


McNamara, however, got the crux of security when he claims that "Security of any nation or entity lies not solely or even primarily in its military preparedness but also in having a stable economic development and political growth at home and abroad." The common element to all perspectives on security is that of protection against threats either internal and/or external.


In a broad sense, security connotes freedom from, or elimination of, threat not only to the physical existence of the state, but also due to its ability for self-protection and development and the enhancement of the general well-being of the people.




Conflict is a disagreement between parties where they perceive threat to their interests and needs. Conflict can be between individuals, communities, or even countries. There are mechanisms to resolve conflicts. But when conflicts are not well managed, they gravitate to war between countries involved. War may be seen as something conventional. The use of armed conflict as war and war as armed conflict is semantics because both are pervasive human behavior and are naturally destructive.


Indeed, the use of the conflict concept coinciding with peculiar wars of terrorism and insurgency as we have them currently, may be an attempt to deny the damaging nature of such wars. The risk here is for policy decision makers and implementers who may not consider an evolving situation as war in the offing until it engulfs the polity with its mysteries.


This fear was brought to focus by an observer of the Nigerian polity who says in an article "The Great Unravelling- the Disintegration of the Nigerian State" that  as the strength of the state wanes in Nigeria, communities are increasingly militarizing themselves and resorting to self-help. The forte of his scholarship is reflected in his opinion that if the conflict continues unchecked, it's not going to be a fiery event but slow and lethal with pockets of conflicts pervading the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.


In fact, other observers are of the view that: "If Nigerians continue to die in large numbers in the hands of insurgents, armed robbers, kidnappers, bandits, militants, herders, farmers, communal warriors, and cultists amongst others, then democracy as a system of government will be discredited and no one will raise a finger to save it."


Countering terrorism and insurgency have become sustained endeavours of many nations of the world. There is no universal remedy for countering the affliction. However, a soft and hard approach have become methods of choice. On the soft side, good governance, dialogue, amnesty and the like have been employed. On the hard approach, the employment of intelligence to nipping their acts in the bud as well as paramilitary and military confrontation have also been used.


Some principles have been established such as the four D's: "Defeat terrorists and their organizations; deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists; diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit; defend your citizens at home and abroad."


With respect to counterinsurgency, five principles have been emphasized: "Clear political objective, establish a stable and unified country; coherent plan, coordinating actions in economics, social, security, etcetera; secure government base areas; operate within the rule of law; prioritize defeat of political subversion."


Insurgency and terrorism are wars of the Twenty-first Century and they do not just emerge but are triggered by many contending issues in contemporary time such as the environment, insecurity, growth in information and communication technology, globalization, religion, ethnicity, bad governance, corruption, population explosion, nationalism and identity issues.


Information Management     


Just like security, there exists a welter of definitions on information management. Information Management in the security realm entails the practise of collecting, monitoring and analysing security-related data. It describes "controls that an organization needs to implement in order to ensure that it is sensibly protecting the confidentiality, availability and integrity of assets such as citizens, data, borders, economy etcetera from threats and vulnerabilities."


Information management will require the use of technology-tangible and intangible, and human resources to identify, generate, process and store information for eventual retrieval and dissemination for use by individuals or groups who require such data for attaining their objectives. Information management will include profiling of perpetrators of crimes and criminalities on land, sea, and air. Crime against computers and information systems where the aim is to gain unauthorized access to a device or deny assess to a legitimate user is called cybercrime. Cybercrime is very common these days which threatens a person, a nation's security and financial health. Internationally, both governmental and non-state actors engage in cybercrimes. Cybercrimes crossing international boarders and involving the actions of at least one nation state is sometimes referred to as cyberwarfare.


Brief Analysis 


Security in Nigeria has reached a critical stage with insurgency in the North East spreading rapidly to other parts of Northern Nigeria. Similarly, there are communal clashes in the Middle Belt, kidnapping in the South-West, cultists and thugs having a field day in the South-South. In fact, the military has been over-stretched, with policing duties in 34 states of the country, and battle-fatigued after 10years of armed conflict with Boko Haram in the northeast.


Nigeria has been managing violence for several decades. Managing violence is very expensive. It is better to manage peace. What we are witnessing currently, is asymmetric warfare and the proliferation of small and light weapons is of concern. National security has been compromised by terrorist organizations operating within borders of countries in the Sahel region.


The security challenge has consumed the country's lean resources to the extent that one of the daily newspapers reported that "FG's declining military spending limits chances of defeating Boko Haram." But the FG says that "the great difference between 2015 and today is that we are meeting these challenges with much greater support to the security forces in terms of money, equipment and local intelligence."


The battlefield has fundamentally shifted to the society. The country cannot fight asymmetric warfare perpetually as it will have a negative impact on development. If it is true, according to conspiracy theorists that some powerful people in the society are benefitting from the war on terror then there will be no end to the violence.


The security situation appears to be pathological to an extent that a former Head of State, had to express his concern that "Nigeria is going through a period of trial amidst growing tension and resentment all over the country. There is anger in the land and voices of reason are drowning rapidly." Some security experts say that there are wide variety of motivations for these threats ranging from economic to religious to conflict over resources.


Restoring peace in the country goes beyond using the military alone. The peace which we require as a country cannot be achieved by using the armed forces to compel the enemy to submit to our will as a nation. So all components of national power, namely diplomacy, information and intelligence gathering, economic and military, must be brought to bear to end the war on terror.


Our policy makers must put more efforts to addressing refugee issues and funding of education in the North East to improve the welfare of children in the region. The growing and boundless threat in the North East requires better deterrent capabilities and far more developed defences.


Above all, good governance to our citizens is vital to lasting peace and security. We need to apply care and caution so that the nation is not left with a disaster of monumental dimension capable of rendering the West African sub-region unstable. The governments must not break laws in order to uphold it. Democracy can work better if there is adherence to the rule of law. While citizens must be law abiding and not take laws into their hands.


There are views in certain quarters that security challenges are further compounded by information gap which can only be addressed if the country continues unabated to fund intelligence organizations effectively. That is the price the country has to pay for insecurity. The intelligence community must engage experienced and seasoned experts to develop, and conduct detailed risk assessments, provide technical and procedural countermeasures and adequate force protection measures.




In conclusion, a democratic Nigeria is only an aspiration. An economically prosperous and democratizing Nigeria are unquestionably the country's hope of attaining security.

Democracy is the only known means of checking the political nuisance embedded in the nature of our politics. If we are able to sustain democracy despite its flaws and weaknesses, then the very conditions responsible for the exclusion and marginalization of large segments of the society will hopefully disappear with time.


Elder statesmen should not shy away from dialoguing in order to resolve the anger that seems to have permeated the country. Security experts have stated that government’s conflict management decisions should be based on qualified risk assessments and vulnerability assessments of events.


Finally, "In moments of despair, in our search for solutions to the security challenges, the answer is not likely to come from logical thinking. Rather for salvation and rescue of our country, we have no choice but to resort to lateral thinking."


Thank You.





  1. An Overview of the Theoretical Issues in African Security, TA Imobighe in Beyond Conflict Resolution: Managing African Security in the 21st Century, Edited by RA Akindele and Bassey E Ate, Ibadan: Vantage Publishers, 2001
  2. Chukwuma CC Osakwe, Causes and Nature of Conflicts and War in Strategic Lenses, Defence and National Security Management in Nigeria, Series 2, 2018.
  3. Damus, L. "System Reliability and National Security" in Peace Research Reviews, Vol.7, Nov 1977, p13.
  4. Democratization and the Management of African Security: Ogaba Oche in Beyond Conflict Resolution: Managing African Security in the 21st Century, Edited by RA Akindele and Bassey E Ate, Ibadan: Vantage Publishers, 2001
  5. Kana TM and Lonsdale DJ, Understanding Contemporary Strategy, New York: Routledge, 2012
  6. McNamara, R. The Essence of Security, New York, Harper Row, 1968, P.10
  7. Nezekwe, R. "Security and Detterence: An Evaluation of Defence Doctrine." Seminar Paper Presented to Postgraduate School, Univeristy of Jos, 1991, p.4
  8. Ngwodo, C. (2017), The Great Unravelling: The Disintegration of the Nigerian State.
  9. The Guardian, "Why We Dumped Peace Summit- Southern, Middle Belt Leaders, 29 July 2019, p1.



About the Author

Michael Akinsola Johnson, Rear Admiral (Rtd), MIoD MNIM CEng FIMarEST MBA; Johnson had a distinguished career as a naval engineer, a weapons electrical specialist, until 3rd October 2014 when he took to writing and consultancy services. He can be contacted via . Kindly follow him on twitter via @akinsolajohnson  

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