Some young Nigerians and military officers from the Defence Headquarters have expressed worry over the gaps that exist between the Nigerian youth and security agencies.
At a summit held in Abuja on Wednesday and Thursday, the participants called for trust and youth involvement in security matters in order to achieve a better response from them.
The Summit themed “Building Trust for an Improved Security Response in Nigeria,” was organised by Abuja Global Shapers Community (AGSC) in collaboration with Defence Headquarters.
At the event, participants including the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, a lieutenant general, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, representatives from the Ministry of Interior, security agencies, among others, discussed the disturbing gaps that exist between Nigerian youth and the security forces.
Besides the problems of lack of synergy between Nigerian youth and security personnel, participants also discussed the spate of insecurity in the country and major criminalities like killings and kidnapping-for-ransom.
This summit comes amid increased terrorism, banditry and all other kinds of security vices including killings and kidnapping-for-ransom which has spread across the country and spanned over a decade.
In his welcome remark, Mr Irabor disclosed that the military is currently advancing the whole-of-society approach as a means of solving security challenges – of which Nigerian youths could play a pivotal role.
He described the collaborative venture between the Nigerian Armed Forces and the AGSC as enlightening in order to better understand the roles and responsibilities of the military in surmounting internal and external threats as well as protection of lives and property.
While he identified freedom from dangers and threats to the nation’s ability to defend and develop, promote its core values, and legitimate interests as well as enhanced wellbeing of its citizens as component of national security, he noted that youth engagement practically makes them part of the fabric of stability of the society towards enhancing national security.
The AGS Hub Curator, Umar Naveed, noted that the event was aimed at placing youth at the centre of national security conversations like this as well as encouraging collaboration between both parties.
“This menace has spread over all six geopolitical zones and crippled economic, academic and social activities in these regions. It has also forced many to flee their ancestral homes and seek refuge elsewhere.
“No doubt, the security situation in our country has evolved into a very serious challenge. And for this reason, the Abuja Global Shapers Community has strived to be at the forefront of security conversations and initiatives like this – with the aim of addressing some of the persistent security challenges with a grand strategy approach,” he said.
The event was divided into four panels spread across the two days.
The panel sessions comprised youth, technical and security experts who were able to make recommendations on how to build trust among the youth and the security personnel for improved security response.
As advice to security agencies, Mr Itodo prayed that their personnel attend conversations as such with an “open mind” and willingness to listen to the plight and point of the youth.
This, he said, is one way to create and maintain synergy between both parties.
“I don’t think we would divorce these discussions around kidnapping without the context which is – when a state has failed in performing its own responsibilities…these manifestations (insecurity) are just evident of the fact that the state has failed,” he said.
“If you come to dialogue with young people, come with an open mindset. A mindset that seeks to understand how these guys are thinking and the best way to achieve this is to listen to them and their messages and don’t think that you know it all or that they are criticising you.
“You don’t talk at young people, you talk with them because the dynamics are different. If you want to build trust within young people, you must come to the discussion with a different approach.”
He said judging by the #EndSARS campaign in 2020, it will take years to build trust between security agencies and citizens but one way to fast track that is to acknowledge that young people come from a background and have been victims.
“Don’t think that they don’t know the depth of the challenges that we encounter. They are the victims…Nigerians have a duty to hold the authority to account because democracy cannot survive if you don’t ask questions.”
Other participants noted the need for genuine investment in community policing – which requires that the whole security apparatus begins to intervene in the communities.
One way to achieve this, they said, is by introducing a system where top security officers who live in the community, interact with the police, army and members of the community. Such will allow for more citizen participation.
They also stressed the need for accountability and justice – with regards to whistleblowing and reporting suspicious behaviours, a crime or violence.
Participants also agreed that there is a need to invest in dialogue and mediation as well as an established and reliable warning systems like hotlines in terms of emergencies. This, they said, will help build confidence.
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