Opinion: The nexus between national security and social protection

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By Ugochukwu Amasike
National Security in the traditional sense is connected with the idea of sovereignty, territorial security, freedom from risk of danger of destruction and annihilation by war or aggression from outside. However with progressing globalisation, and the resultant economic inter-dependence has significantly reduced the probability of external aggression.
Conversely, threats to a Country’s security are now largely “internally generated threats”, often borne out of a lack of social cohesion and economic under-development. This realisation thus emphasises the need to undertake a recalibration of a State’s security systems in order to reflect current realities, by ensuring that economic-security is taken cognizance of, and incorporated into the national social security framework of the modern state.
The economic well-being or lack thereof of the generality of a society’s population has a clear and direct impact on the security of the society. The world is replete with examples of exclusive exploitative economies nay states that are locked in a never-ending cycle of violence – both high and low intensity conflicts. The very existence of poverty, unemployment, is in itself a societal threat.
Thus, the current economic and security realities in Nigeria makes it all the more saddening that the strong economic growth Nigeria witnessed during its oil-boom years did not serve to substantially reduce the incidence of poverty in Nigeria, nor witness the expansion and harmonisation of Nigeria’s existing but fragmented social protection programmes, which ultimately would have directly impacted on the security and economic well-being of the people of Nigeria.
Societal threats such as: unemployment, mass poverty, unfair labour markets, etc, generally affect social cohesion negatively and  tends to erode any form of identification with the State. The resulting disenchantment and distancing, often witnesses the “radicalisation” of its youth, and the birth and or strengthening of criminal organisations, narcotic cartels, jihadi-terrorists, and avenging militants, etc.
Social protection programmes are commonly understood as initiatives that provide income or consumption transfers to the poor, protect the vulnerable against livelihood risks and enhance the social status of the marginalised, with the overall objective of reducing the economic and vulnerability of the poor, physically-challenged and marginalised groups in a given society.
Traditionally, social protection has been used to maintain a basic living standard for the weak and vulnerable in a society, it has also been deployed as an economic development stimulus program vis a vis the investment in human capital, which ultimately increases capacities of an individual or household and enables same to invest in their own development and ensure the future accumulation of productive assets, thus breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty, prevalent in many developing nations.
Social protection has however been more recently deployed as a tool and component of national security frameworks, with states ensuring the provision of safety nets for the poor and vulnerable, which in turn encourages them to be productive contributors to society, thus depriving terror groups and criminal organisations of an otherwise ready pool of talents and personnel.
Hence, in appreciation of these realities and the emerging societal threats to national security, progressive governments around the world have generally adopted a multi-prong approach that combines conventional security and intelligence systems, with a healthy dose of social protection programmes.
It is against this background, that a number of commentators have urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to begin to pay far greater attention to the harmonization and expansion of its social protection programmes in the Country; because contrary to the erroneous perception of ‘social protection’ as some fanciful western concept for prosperous nations, social protection is in fact an existential necessity for the security of any state in the 21st century.
The Nigerian security services, as effective and brave as they may be, can not be locked in an endless cycle of conflicts and insurgencies across the Federation; currently the Nigerian military is on active deployment in at least 15 states of the Federation. To remedy the situation, the government must develop socio-economic and socio-political solutions to the myriad of security threats confronting Nigeria. Just as his eminence Cardinal Olubunmi Okojie stated in his widely circulated letter to President Buhari, “if there is no solution to Nigeria’s problem there may be endless war. You strike one town, you gain it, and you come again to regain it.” 
It is humbly submitted that the effective and efficient implementation of social protection programmes in Nigeria would greatly aid in the reduction of growing societal threats. It is the humble opinion of this citizen that the cost of war and general insecurity – in blood and treasure, can not in good conscience be compared to the costs of implementing a home-grown national social protection programme that takes into cognizance our dynamics and current realities.
It is further submitted that Nigeria must, whilst maintaining it’s conventional military-security approach, seek to develop serious social-economic and social-political solutions for the myriad of societal threats confronting the country and jeopardising our national security, whilst simultaneously challenging the authority of the State.
The growing societal threats confronting quite frankly are a very serious problem that could very well undermine national cohesion and lead to much worse. Social protection is thus no longer a luxury, but a critical economic and security need for all nations, both rich and poor. Nigeria must needs be learn to secure its future not by the force of arms alone, but by the deployment of efficient social protection programmes for its poor, it’s vulnerable and the physically-challenged.
May God bless and keep the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Ugochukwu Amasike
Legal Practitioner,
Lagos.

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