By Benjamin Bekai (Defence and Security Analyst)
It is proven through the experience of 9/11 event in the United States of America that, fragmentation of security operations has no benefit for maintaining law and order in any society. It is believed that pieces of intelligence were available to individual security agencies such as the Police, Customs and the Immigration in the United States which could have otherwise been conjugated to curtail the terrorist attack. It is not surprising therefore, to note that this lesson led to a more coordinated layered law enforcement by the security agencies in most advanced societies in order to confront crime. For example, the creation of US Customs and Border Protection as well as bringing all the agencies concerned with internal security under the US Department of Homeland Security were occasioned by the aftermath of the 9/11 incidence which claimed approximately 3000 lives with 6000 others injured.
Despite the recent efforts by the internal security agencies in Ghana such as the Police service, the Prisons service, the Fire Service, Customs and the Immigration Service to ward off criminals from our society and subjugate their nefarious activities to the barest minimum, the fight is yet to yield the expected results arguably due to varied reasons. Lack of proper coordination among our security forces, in my view has purely been the bane behind this ill-result which require urgent attention by policy makers.
The emergence of new forms and scale of crime such as kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, trafficking of illicit goods such as narcotics and arms, murder as well as cybercrime within the Ghanaian society have become very complicated and more profound in recent times aided by the use of technology and sophisticated weaponry. This calls for a more integrated and coordinated efforts from all the agencies involved in securing lives and properties in our motherland.
Unfortunately however, security agencies in Ghana have not sought to approach the fight against crime in a coordinated manner and are busily practicing the opposite. It appears that all the above named services have not done much to harmonize their operational tactics and strategies, jointly train and to share intelligence amongst themselves. It is a common knowledge that there is profound and conspicuous level of tension, power play and competition between and among these agencies frequently exhibited in public domain. Recent clashes between officials of Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Immigration Service readily comes in mind. This resulted from an operation which led to the apprehension of some Nigerian nationals who were allegedly engaging in cybercrime. Also, there has been several clashes between police officers and military men in some parts of the country. In similar development, there are occasions when Customs officers and Immigration officers have engaged in similar brawls. This is certainly not healthy for our security ambiance and safeguarding our teething democracy.
The dictates of scarce logistical support conflated with constant evolution of new threats as well as the abuse of cyber space makes it not only difficult but nearly impossible for any single agency to fight crime in isolation. Security is a shared responsibility between all security actors and the citizenry. Best practice therefore calls for a more integrated and coordinated approach as a panacea against crimes in our society.
Causes of Lack of Coordination
Owing to the above, it is important to investigate why the security agencies are failing to unit in fighting crime.
Lack of Legislative Harmony
Each security agency has been mandated to operate independently with a separate legal framework which are either conflicting each other or duplicating functions of these agencies. There is an absolute lack of legislative harmony and consultation of existing laws when new laws are being formulated. For example, whereas both Customs and Immigration are mutually responsible for combating cross border crime with separate legal mandates (that is Customs concerned with the control of goods across borders and Immigration concerned with the control of migrants across borders), none of their operational laws seek to coordinate the activities of these agencies at our frontiers. The respective operational laws of our security services are completely independent of each other and the result is nothing less than competition with its attendant gaps.
Lack of Joint Trainings and Exercises
One factor that seeks to promote institutional harmony and coordination within the security sector is joint trainings and exercises. There is a complete disjointed training for our security officers in Ghana. Even though there are peculiar training needs for each service, there is always a converging point required by every agency and this must be done conjointly to promote interoperability. In other jurisdictions, security training centres are owned and operated by the central government and available for all security services to train together in areas of common interest. This does not only reduce cost but also ensures that all officers within the respective agencies receive common training which are needed by all of them such as weapon training, unarmed combat, intelligence gathering, etc.
Personal Egos and Sense of Superiority
Most frictions that occur among security officers are caused by the sense of superiority and personal interest by the actors involved. Even though there is a ranking parity among the security agencies, some personnel disregard this and refuse to take instructions from other senior officials because of self-smugness. In a similar instance, certain security agencies feel more superior and relevant than others and find it very difficult to cooperate among themselves. For example, a Chief Inspector of Police may be reluctant to take orders from an Assistant Superintendent of Prisons due to the sense of institutional superiority. Whilst this is not helpful, it must be said and understood that every agency is very unique, relevant and plays significant role in our security discourse.
Pursuit of Individual Interests
Closely related to the sense of superiority is the pursuit of selfish and individualized interest as opposed to the national interest. Most of the frictions that occur among the security services do not point to the interest of the state but rather to the corrupt interest of individual officers. The quest for corruption creates an instance of over protecting institutional mandates to avoid transparency. Agencies are not willing and ready to share intelligence with other agencies because that will expose them in the future.
There are frequent policy inequalities that seek to favour some security agencies more than others. This does not creates a common platform for the security agencies to operate and eventually create unnecessary competition among themselves. Provision of logistics such as body armours, uniforms, vehicles as well as critical infrastructure such as residential accommodation are not equitably distributed. Eventually, some agencies feel more relevant than others. It is proposed that there must be proper need assessment for all the security agencies mentioned under the Article 83 (1) of the 1992 constitution of the republic for proper retooling for effective delivery.
Even though there are inherent solutions in the aforementioned causes of uncoordinated security services in Ghana, it is imperative to clearly highlight a few apparent ones as follows;
Reactivation of Joint Operation Centres
There must be steps to revive the malfunctioning joint operation centres (JOCs) to ensure that they are properly manned and well represented by personnel of all the security agencies mentioned in the country. This will ensure effective joint planning and monitoring, as well as guiding the execution of all security operations.
Digitization of Intelligence Sharing
There must be a common digital platform that links all the security agencies together and enable them to share intelligence and access same for operational efficiencies. For instance, the Customs officer in Bunkpurugu should be able to share intelligence about some suspected criminal activities at the border with other security agencies in other parts of the world through a digitized medium in real time.
Re-orientation of Security Personnel
Personnel of all the security agencies must be jointly trained with common skills and competencies required for similar operations such as weapon training, intelligence gathering and other such areas which are common to them. They must also be orientated to appreciate the role of each other and accept the fact that all agencies are relevant and vital in the fight against crime. They must be trained to eschew act of unprofessionalism that breeds unnecessary competition, corruption and pursuit of egoistic interest at the expense of national interest. Additionally, the national security secretariat should constantly organize joint simulation exercises to test the interoperability of the security agencies.
The Need for National Security Policy
There is an urgent need for a national security policy that seeks to harmonize the various mandates of the security agencies. This will set the right framework through which specific policies will be drawn to clearly outline areas of common interest, reporting lines and standard operating procedures. This will also highlight on institutional capabilities, needs and requirement to guide policy directions.
The 21st century criminals are more resourced, advanced and highly united in all their operations with a constant look out for gap exploitation. This means that non-state actors responsible for ensuring security internally have no other option than to present a united front in other to counter crime. Whilst each security agency plays a vital and unique role in this regard, there is a greater benefit of synergy if they collaborate with each other to fight for the larger national interest as against personal and egoistic interest.