Military Aid to Civil Authority/Military Assistance To Civil Power

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COURTESIEs: Commandant, Deputy Commandant, directors, Directing staff, Lead Lecturer, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. Permit me to thank the authorities of the National War College, for the invitation extended to me to participate in this seminar on “Military Aid to Civil Authority/Military Assistance to Civil Power”. A few months ago, I had the privilege to participate in an earlier program of the college. What struck me then, and which has been re-inforced this second time, is that our National War College is a very serious institution, that is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. My interactions with the participants at the seminar last time also revealed to me, that the pursuit of knowledge here is for the overall upliftment of our society.
This is why I have felt so happy to return to these premises today.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, last time that I was invited here, I had a much simpler task of talking about the media. It was simpler, because the media are my forté, as I have worked as a journalist and broadcaster over the past twenty-eight years of my life. I have also studied the interaction of the media with society and social issues,
and I have often felt that I could comment about the world of the media, almost effortlessly.

I face a greater challenge this morning in being told to examine ‘Military Aid to Civil Authority/Military Assistance to Civil Power’. It means that I would have to rely, along with my media competence, on another side of my professional training, that of being a student of Political Science. I feel a bit more modest and circumspect about my
competence in this area. But as the saying goes, “who dares wins”. I will dare, and in so doing, seek your indulgence, especially if you find me not measuring up to the exacting standards of this institution. But you can be assured that I will dare.


In this paper, I have tried to understand some of the issues involved in Military Aid to Civil Authority in the context of the evolution of our country, Nigeria. To illustrate our understanding, I have taken a look at the colonial origin of the Nigerian military and their uses in the pacification campaigns carried out, in the conquest of the territory that
became Nigeria.

We also attempted to understand the evolution of this process with the attainment of independence, especially the role that the military played in internal security operations during the 1960s, especially in TIV land of Northern Nigeria. It was in fact, one of the sequences of events which culminated in the coups d’etat of 1966.
Subsequently, the civil war was fought, and Nigeria endured a long period of military rule from 1966 to 1979, before another attempt was made at instituting a civilian, democratic government in Nigeria.
There were also elements of military aid to civil authority during the period, the most dramatic being the deployment of the military to suppress the Maitatsine phenomenon in Kano.

As we all know, the military returned to power in 1983 and would stay on the mantle till 1999. There was an increased politicization of the military during the period and in the period after 1999, there were several internal security operations which the civil authorities have called upon the military to carry out some of these include the events at Odi, Zaki Biam and counter-insurgency operations in the oil
producing, but restive region of the Niger Delta. Of course, the evolutions we are talking about include the humanitarian sector of the state. These include the gradual building up of capacities for emergency management in the country. There have developed practical ideas to co-opt the expertises, organisation and discipline of the military in a National Emergency management process.


This part determines what the theoretical literature says about the linkage between civil-military relations and aid to the civil power tasks. According to Eric Lerhe (2004), Huntington and Jarowitz are not immediately helpful, as they concerned themselves primarily with the central paradox or “problematique” of civil-military relations, because he says that western democracies no longer fear the danger of a coup largely because their militaries have completely accepted the central principle of civil control of the military. Huntington says that this level of civil control resulted from “professionalizing the military, by rendering them politically sterile and neutral” (Lerhe 2004: 1). Lerhe also quotes Jarowitz as adding that the military in the western democracy “is subject to civilian control, not only because of ‘rule of law’ and tradition; but also because of self-imposed standards and
meaningful integration with civilian values” (2004: 1). He went further to explain that Huntington calls for a general
“minimising of military power” to re-inforce the restraint professionalism provides, with emphasis being on restricting the military’s political power. This helps to provide a form of vertical’ civil control that ensures that the military does not have final authority, but is subordinated to a hierarchy of, first, defence minister, and then, the head of government (2004: 2).

Huntington is therefore analysed as implying that the military should not be allowed to stray far from its own area into that of the civilian police. Jarowitz far more directly opposed using the military in domestic policing operations, largely for civil-military relations concerns. Jarowitz says that “civilian supremacy in the United States has rested on the assumption that its national military forces were organised and controlled separately from the local and more decentralised police forces” (2004: 5). He will however allow the use of the military in those tasks only as the reserve instruments of legitimate force. Eric Lerhe notes that later theorists were not content with these arguments. He quotes Bland for example, as arguing instead for a more complete ‘paradigm’ of civil-military relations, “that releases Civi-military relations theory from the grip of undefinable ‘professionalism’.

He then argued that Haydon and others lacked precision in their critique of Canadian civil-military relations, but there exists a strong argument for establishing more exacting standards for them. The benefit of the approach is because Canada had employed its military in some 109 occasions in aid of civil power or to quell insurrection.
Foster outlines a prescription for good civil military relations and says it rests on the military, the civilian leadership and the people living up to each other’s expectation. In his outline, the civilian authorities expect the military to provide:

  1. Operational Competence
  2. Sound Advice
  3. Unquestioned Obedience
  4. Affordability, and political sensitivity – that they must avoid activity which imposes political costs on the civilian leadership.
  5. In turn he said the military expects the civilian leadership will bring:
  6. Executive competence- that is demonstrates ‘courage,decisiveness, integrity and vision.
  7. Clear strategy guidance
  8. • Pollical acumen-to get things done, and appreciation and support.

This latter means a general recognition of “he military’s purposes and uses, its capabilities and limitation, its needs and concerns.” For Bland, the division of responsibilities between the civilan leadership and the military is never sharp and instead a “shared responsibility is evident in all civil-military relations”. He then outlines basic principles that the civilian authority controlling policies must deal with, and these are:

* National goals
* The allocation of defence resources and the use of force

The military on the other hand would have authority over:

* Military doctrine
* Operational Planning
* Internal Organisation
* Promotion below the general and flag
* Rank, and
* Tactical direction of units

For Major General Bruce Lawlor (2001: 1) the Commander of the American Joint Task Force-Civil Support, providing military support to civil authorities, is not new. He says that for several years, DoD officials, under a variety of existing federal statutes in America, have employed federal military forces to help state and local civil officials to cope with emergencies. He illustrated this with the fact that in 1992, more than 22,000 federal troops were deployed in south Florida to help civil officials deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. In 1995, he said that nearly 800 federal troops provided assistance near Los Angeles following the Northridge earthquake and about 400 assisted following the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He says that in each instance; federal troops deployed under the overall direction of a lead civilian federal agency to assist state or local leaders care for civilian populations distressed by national or man-made disasters.

General Lawlor said that the procedures governing use of military forces for domestic missions are well established.
Central to their employment is an understanding that military personnel serve in a supporting role and carry out relief missions as designated by the civilian federal agency responsible for the federal assistance effort the lead federal agency. Normally this is FEMA (2001:2).

He then outlines the four core principles of the JTF-CS. Two of these include that the chain of command and civilian oversight within the DoD will be clear and that the body all work in support of a lead federal agency, such as NEMA.
The India Army Aid to Civil Authority Annual Report also underlines the fact that: Apart from their main responsibility of defending the borders of the country, the (Indian) Armed Forces render assistance to civil authorities, when called upon to do so, for the maintenance of law and order, essential services and for organising relief and rescue operations during national calamities. (ND: 1) For Michael Pugh (2001) there are several dimensions to civil-military relations in peace support operations. And as he puts it, This relationship is interesting because it has manifested a shift from detachment, suspicious and ignorance-in which interaction was based essentially on a duality of roles and culture-towards level of civil military cooperation (CIMIC) that is becoming institutionalised (2001:1).

So from the review of the literature in the area, it seems clear that while civil-military relations have often been a problematic area, it has evolved over the years. This is especially true in democratic societies, where the doctrine of military subordination to civil authorities has been institutionalised as well as being largely accepted in practice.
The practices are the order of the day in Canada, the United States and in India as our examples have shown.

The Nigerian army evolved as armies of the British colonial occupiers of Nigeria. The constabularies that the Royal Niger Company established were used primarily as instruments for the colonial subjugation of the territories that eventually became the British colony of Nigeria, and would at independence, became the Federal Republic
of Nigeria. These forces were employed in punitive expeditions and pacification campaigns that often led to the loss of Nigerian peoples’ lives as the British pressed for the institution of their rule in Nigeria.

At independence, the new post-colonial state inherited a military steeped in doctrines formulated in the wombs of colonial society. The unsettled political situation of the first republic saw the Nigerian army being sucked into the internal security regime of the civilian government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, as we saw in the operations in TI land. The army clearly continued with the colonial tradition of pacification, which led to loss of lives and the alienation of the people. But it also removed the non-political veneer that had been carved for the colonial army. Before long the military would be seizing the reigns of power after the coups of January and July, 1966.

There is also the added element that the military in Nigerian has built a long lasting tradition of participation in Peace Keeping Operations from the early efforts in the Congo, the Tanzania intervention in the 1960s, and up to the multi-faceted peace processes of today. These operations have helped over the years to build capacities for the
Nigerian military in areas of civil-military cooperation, along with the technical competences associated with the military. The long years of military intervention in the politics of Nigeria underdeveloped the capacities in these vital sectors. Military rule by its nature, suffers a lack of legitimacy. The cloak and dagger reality of military intervention in politics also erodes decisively the capacities of the military to enhance its professionalism and therefore the interface with civil authority is often underdeveloped. The military is the authority, and cannot therefore be subject to civil authorities, as we have noticed in the review of the relevant literature.

As a manifestation of the illegitimacy of its rule, the military more often than not, deploys for internal security duties that should ordinarily have been police functions. The tension associated with lack of legitimacy cannot provide the necessary ambience for the entrenchment of professionalism and the building of such institutional mechanisms that can help the fostering of military aid to civil authority. Between the 1980s and the period of the handing over of power to a civilian government in 1999, the politicisation of the military had reached its most destructive heights in our national history. The revelations at the Oputa Panel showed clearly the level of the rottenness that the years of military rule had done to the institution itself.

The return to civilian rule in 1999 kindled a lot of hope in Nigeriansabout the possibilities ahead for the country. However, the process of demilitarisation and rebuilding of civilian authority capacities has had mixed successes. The injustices at the heart of the Nigerian state, which years of military rule had distorted further, came to haunt the new civilian administration, almost from the beginning, as we saw in Odi, Zaki Biam and the restive communities of the Niger Delta.

The newly elected President whose roots are planted in the military, and an erstwhile military dictator himself, often fell back to the more punitive attitudes of his roots in dealing with internal conflicts. The incessant deployment of the military to put down such conflicts, do not hasten the transition to more democratic, political, painstaking
consensus building techniques that democracy entails, and which helps the fostering of military-civil authority.
But I do not think that all is doom and gloom, because since 1999, there have also been a re-emphasis of the professional attitude in our military. The doctrine of subordination to civil authorities has more and more been emphasised. De-militarization is being gradually carried through in the civilian sector, while the military has been re-training its officers and men, to re-emphasise professionalism, re-kindle regimental traditions and foster depoliticisation and subordination to civil authority. These are practices that are constant with the demands of democratic societies.

It is to be emphasised that the only ambit that can help the floweringof military aid to civil authority is a democratic society. This is because, ab initio, there is no crisis of legitimacy, as in theory, the civil authority has the mandate of the people of the country to rule. This includes a mandate to call out the military to assist in cases of
natural or man-made disasters, or to help to put down internal insurrections.

In recent years, civil authorities in Nigeria, especially with the emergence of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), have come to appreciate the organizational discipline, technical abilities and related competencies that are available in the Nigerian military. I also know that the military are now being  incorporated into national emergency management contingency. These developments are heart-warming because they are taking place in the context of a gradual, if tortuous, consolidation of the democratic process in our country.

To sum up, the prospects for the enhancement of military aid to civil authority/military assistance to civil power has continued to improve in the past few years in Nigeria. The conditions for their perfection are located in how well our political class performs responsibly their duties as the harbingers of the democratic process in the country. If we consolidate our democracy, then we would enhance the professional competencies which the military can bring to aid civil authority in twenty-first century Nigeria.


a. Lerhe, Eric Commodore (Ret’d) 2004: “Civil Military Relations and Aid to the Civil Power in Canada: Implications for the War on Terror. CDAI-CDFAI 7th Annual Graduate Student symposium, RMC, October 29-30, 2004.
b. All quotations about Huntington and Jarowitz are from Ibid.
C. Quotations from Bland and Foster also from Ibid.

       a. Lawlor, Bruce, M. Major General (2001): “Military Support of Civil Authorities-A New focus for a New        Millennium, taken from
d. Indian Army Aid to Civil Authorities: Annual Report taken from 1.htm.
e. Pugh, Michael (2001): “Civil-Military Relations in Peace Support Operations: hegemony or emancipation? Seminar on Aid and Politics, London, 1 February, 2001.

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