Soldiers are lamenting taking over the job of the police in an increasingly volatile Nigeria.
Soldiers have been deployed to keep the peace across Nigeria even though the constitutional role of the military is to defend the country against external aggression.
“The increasing deployment of military forces for internal security operations across the country underscores the profoundly dysfunctional state of Nigeria’s public safety institutions, particularly the ineffectiveness of the police force,” Nnamdi Obasi, West Africa analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, told Bloomberg.
Boko Haram has been waging a brutal war against the Nigerian State with sophisticated weapons since 2009. That has left the nation’s police stretched and running scared.
The military is finding it difficult doing the job of the police, but it has been left with no choice.
“The kind of criminality and the kinds of weapons being used have reached a level of sophistication to a point that the police doesn’t have the capacity to handle it and the military has to come in,” said Defense Ministry spokesman John Agim.
“The situation isn’t good for the military; it’s not good for the police.”
Nigeria is badly under-policed with a police to citizen ratio of 1:600—far below what the United Nations recommends, because police personnel are watching the backs of so-called ‘big men’ instead.
The United Nations recommends one police officer for every 450 citizens. Nigeria has about 370,000 police officers.
IGP Ibrahim Idris has been pleading for more police recruits to meet the demand of policing an increasing population.
“Look at the numbers: We are 180 million people and we have 400,000 policemen in the country,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told Bloomberg. “The police can’t be everywhere because of their low number.”
For the moment, analysts say the army can’t continue doing the job of the police because they aren’t trained to deal with internal security challenges.
“Episodic deployment of military forces will not solve Nigeria’s internal security challenges,” Obasi said. “What is needed are constitutional, political and administrative responses to grievances and demands in various parts of the country.”
There have also been incessant clashes between police personnel and soldiers on civilian duties.
Last February, when Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Dapchi after soldiers had withdrawn, the military blamed the police; saying it was its job to ensure public safety.
The police responded by saying Yobe is an army controlled area and that the military didn't officially hand over the area.
With incoming elections in February 2019, the Nigerian military will most likely play a prominent role at election centres to ensure law and order.