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Security and Anticrime Measures

The Buhari and Babangida military administrations relied heavily on decrees and special tribunals to regulate public life and punish offenders. Soon after his takeover on December 31, 1983, Buhari issued a decree imposing life imprisonment on anyone found guilty of corruption, and he set up four tribunals consisting of three senior officers and a judge to try almost 500 political leaders detained since the coup. State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree Number 2 of 1984 suspended constitutional freedoms, empowered the chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters, to detain indefinitely (subject to review every three months) anyone suspected of "acts prejudicial to state security or . . . [contributing] to the economic adversity of the nation." The decree also authorized any police officer or member of the armed forces to arrest and imprison such persons. Likewise, the Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribunals) Decree Number 3 of 1984 set up tribunals to try former officials suspected of embezzlement and of other forms of misappropriation, also without right of appeal. The Exchange Control and Anti-Sabotage Tribunal dealt with certain economic crimes; a new press control law, Decree Number 4 of April 1984 (received August 1985), was enforced by a similar special tribunal, without appeal rights. The Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) Decree covered a wide range of offenses, including forgery, arson, destruction of public property, unlawful vegetable cultivation, postal matters, and cheating on examinations. By July 1984, Buhari had issued twenty-two decrees, including two retroactive to December 31, 1983, prescribing the death penalty for arson, drug trafficking, oil smuggling, and currency counterfeiting. In a related attempt to combat public indiscipline, Buhari's chief of staff, Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbon, launched a largely symbolic and ineffective nationwide War Against Indiscipline (WAI) campaign in spring 1984.

Babangida's AFRC allowed the WAI campaign to lapse and took several other measures to mitigate Buhari's draconian rule, including abolition in July 1986 of the death sentence under Decree Number 20 of l984 for illegal ship bunkering and drug trafficking, and setting up an appeal tribunal for persons convicted under decrees 2 and 3 of 1984. However, the Babangida regime continued the Armed Robbery and Firearms Tribunals under which most of the death sentences were carried out without appeal. By early 1987, more than 300 people had been executed after conviction by these tribunals, and in 1988 another 85 executions were known to have been carried out under their sentences. The Treason and Other Offences (Special Military Tribunal) Decree of l986 empowered the AFRC to constitute another special tribunal to try military and civilian personnel for any offenses connected with rebellion. Special tribunals were also set up to hear cases arising out of civil disorders, such as the religious riots in Zaria in March 1987.

The most controversial decree remained Decree Number 2. In 1986 Babangida extended the initial detention period from three to six months but rescinded the extension after a public outcry. However, he extended detention authority to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in addition to the police and military authorities. In mid-1989 seventy to ninety persons were being held under its provisions, and in October the Civil Liberties Organisation appealed to the government to abrogate the decree and to release all those detained under it. In January 1990, the FMG amended the decree to shorten the precharge detention period to six weeks from six months, but in March the minister of justice stated that the decree would continue until the inauguration of the Third Republic.

Babangida's regime took additional legal and enforcement measures to combat illegal drug smuggling, including setting up special drug tribunals that meted out long prison terms and heavy fines; under these tribunals 120 convictions were attained by late 1987. Air transport laws were also toughened to deal with drug trafficking, and in November 1989 the minister of justice announced that a special tribunal would be set up to try air transport crimes. In October 1988, the minister of defense announced the establishment of a special "drug squad" to apprehend drug traffickers at home and abroad. Decree Number 48 of January l990 established a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to eliminate the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs, and the decree prescribed stiffer penalties for convicted offenders. Although Babangida had abolished the death penalty for convicted drug dealers, by the end of the decade there were public calls to restore it. Stricter security measures were introduced at Lagos International Airport in 1989 to curb a crime wave there, and a plan was instituted in August 1989 to control black market activities.

The worldwide scope of crime demanded international cooperation to combat it. In l982 Nigeria and Cameroon decided to conclude extradition agreements. Nigeria also signed a regional security, law enforcement, and extradition treaty with Benin, Ghana, and Togo in December 1984; the treaty covered criminal investigation, dissident activities, currency and drug trafficking, and other criminal and security matters. In 1987 Nigeria and the United States concluded a mutual law enforcement agreement covering narcotics trafficking and expanded cooperation in other key areas. A related antidrug memorandum of understanding with the United States in March 1990 provided for a joint task force on narcotics and assistance to the new National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. A similar legal assistance pact with Britain to combat crime and drug trafficking was signed in September 1989. Nigeria also concluded an antidrug trafficking accord with Saudi Arabia in October 1990.

In the final analysis, domestic conditions will likely determine the fate of the Babangida regime and its successors for the foreseeable future. Although externally secure, Nigeria's internal problems were legion and daunting. The most salient were political fragility and instability; a military determined to be the final arbiter of political life; endemic domestic discord deeply rooted in ethnic and religious cleavages; overtaxed, ineffective, corrupt, and politicized internal security forces and penal institutions; and anticrime measures hopelessly inadequate to the task. Under such conditions, Nigeria faced major challenges in its political transition to the Third Republic.

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There is voluminous literature on Nigerian military history and national security affairs. Much relevant material is published in Nigeria but is not readily accessible abroad.

Nigeria's regional strategic situation and outlook are evaluated by John M. Ostheimer and Gary J. Buckley's chapter, "Nigeria," in Security Policies of Developing Countries; and by Pauline H. Baker's "A Giant Staggers: Nigeria as an Emerging Regional Power" in African Security Issues and "Nigeria: The Sub-Saharan Pivot" in Emerging Power: Defense and Security in the Third World. Its participation in the ECOWAS defense pact is examined in Michael J. Sheehan's "Nigeria and the ECOWAS Defence Pact"; its maritime interests and strategy are discussed in Sheehan's "Nigeria: A Maritime Power?" and in Olutunde A. Oladimeji's "Nigeria on Becoming a Sea Power." Bassey Eyo Ate's "The Presence of France in West-Central Africa as a Fundamental Problem to Nigeria" and Ekido J.A. MacAnigboro and Aja Akpuru Aja's "France's Military Policy in Sub-Saharan Francophone States: A Threat to Nigeria's National Security" have analyzed the Franco-Nigerian security dilemma. Julius Emeka Okolo's "Nuclearization of Nigeria" and Oye Ogunbadejo's "Nuclear Capability and Nigeria's Foreign Policy" discuss Nigeria's nuclear policy options.

Data on military forces and order of battle are available in such annual publications as The Military Balance, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and the various Jane's yearbooks. Supplementary information is available in John Keegan's World Armies and in the annual Defense and Foreign Affairs Handbook. Statistics and other information on arms transfers, military spending, and armed forces are contained in the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency's annual World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers and in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's annual World Armaments and Disarmament.

Internal security and human rights conditions are evaluated annually in the Amnesty International Report and in the United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The International Law of Human Rights in Africa, compiled by M. Hamalengwa et al., is a useful reference for African states.

Country briefs on police forces are found in John M. Andrade's World Police and Paramilitary Forces and in Harold K. and Donna Lee Becker's Handbook of the World's Police. Alan Milner's now-dated The Nigerian Penal System provides essential historical background that is supplemented by Oluyemi Kayode's chapter, "Nigeria," in International Handbook of Contemporary Developments in Criminology.

Finally, specialized current news sources and surveys are indispensable for research on contemporary national security affairs. The most useful and accessible include the annual Africa Contemporary Record, and such periodicals as Africa Research Bulletin, Africa Confidential, Defense and Foreign Affairs Weekly, Jane's Defence Weekly, International Defense Review, and the most useful single source, African Defence/Afrique Defense. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of June 1991

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Nigeria Table of Contents