Interview with Operation Rainbow Coordinator, Part 1
It has been several months since the Nigerian Federal government granted Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, and Plateau states a rare permission to organize a new security force. The arrangement calls for military forces to be mixed with civilians to quell violence. With the charter, Plateau State formed Operation Rainbow, purchasing vans and equipment for the new forces. The Messenger Voice (TMV) recently met with Air Vice Marshal Bala Danbaba, Plateau State Coordinator for Operation Rainbow.
After congratulating him on his appointment as State Coordinator to the security outfit, Marshal Danbaba introduced himself as follows.
Marshal Danbaba: I am a retired Airforce officer, Air Vice Marshal Bala Danbaba. I was the Chief of Policy and Plans Defense Headquarters before I retired in June 2009. I also had the privilege of commanding the Logistics Command, Lagos. I commanded two of the Flying Schools, the one in Kaduna and the Flying School in Kano. I was also Director of Operations, Nigerian Airforce, and when I retired in June I was resting when I was asked to implement this new outfit.
TMV: How did you feel when you were appointed to the post of Coordinator Operation Rainbow?
Marshal Danbaba: I felt it was an opportunity for me to contribute my quota to meeting the security challenges confronting the state. Having had some experiences in the past, Kano when I was the Commander, again in Kaduna when I was also the Commander, and as a young officer during the Maitastine crises, I was a participant in quelling the riot. In addition to that, there are other assignments I do from time to time for ECOWAS particularly under the security and defense of Guinea Bissau. It’s one of those assignments I have been doing for ECOWAS. So actually I felt challenged to see what can be done to meet the security challenges.
TMV: So, based on your profile it would be correctly inferred that your appointment was like putting a square peg in a square hole?
Marshal Danbaba: (Chuckles) Well, it might be that the governor saw it that way.
TMV: Could you please briefly give us an overview of what Operation Rainbow entails?
Marshal Danbaba: Briefly, the outfit came as a result of detailed consultation with elders in the state, the diplomatic community, and retired Generals who came up with what we think will be appropriate in meeting the challenges if properly implemented. And this was passed to the government and was approved by the Commander in Chief for implementation. That approval came in June last year and that is what we are implementing. And it looked at security– we have a holistic approach to the issue of security but, the first thing we are trying to see is how it will work because instead of just looking at security from the physical dimension, we are looking at security from the political dimension also, we are looking at security from the economic dimension and the social dimension of security in addition to the physical. So it is slightly different from what people are used to and because we believe these other dimensions of security are very important.
It is the failure of these other ones that make you to start using the physical dimension, which are the sticks. We believe in those areas, the political dimension is properly taken care of, and the economic dimension, the social dimension are taken care of, then you use less of the physical dimension of security and that is what we are trying to put and we are implementing. Now in addition to what people are used to, the Task Force, where only the members of the armed forces are used, we have brought in the paramilitary, Civil Defense, Immigration, NDLEA, Road Safety and Prisons. Department. Now, they all have their competence that we believe can help the outfit to achieve its maximum objective. The issue of crime among youths and drugs, it is the NDLEA that comes in handy. They know where the drugs joints are, they know how manage a drug addict particularly getting him out of the drugs circle and making him useful to himself and the society and that is why we brought in NDLEA. The issue of aliens that are all over, it is the Immigration that comes in handy. They know where they are, so if we have cause to suspect somebody doing something against the state for example, we want to try and determine who he is, and it is the Immigration. What we believe is to do things according to the law, and that’s why we decided to bring in all those agencies. So you will see from the structure, it is completely different from the normal Task Force that you are used to.
TMV: Is Operation Rainbow going to be a mobile or stationary security out fit?
Marshal Danbaba: It is going to be both depending on the threat at any particular time. You have mobile patrols that are more effective and the most important thing that you need is good communication. If you have effective communication you don’t need too many check points. They can be somewhere stationary. From there they move to another place. If you need to deploy them or anything, you can talk to them on the radio. What you need is effective intelligence—it is the intelligence that you have, timely intelligence that will make the difference. So what we are trying to do is to have a robust kind of system, an intelligence system that will give us a lead, an early lead in terms of information. Because you are fighting somebody who adapts very easily so you have to be ahead of that person for you to be effective. And for you to be ahead you must have good intelligence system and that’s where the early warning symptoms come. Those who will be deployed to the wards know who is who, so if there’s a strange element within, meaning something coming we will get to know quickly so we nip it at the bud. So that is the idea.
TMV: Rumours making the rounds have it that should Operation Rainbow take off fully, the Special Task Force (STF) will be completely withdrawn from the state and the manning of it internally will be handed over to Operation Rainbow. This seems to be generating anxiety among a section of the society.
Marshal Danbaba: You see, for us to get to this stage where the approval was given for Rainbow to take off was as a result of inadequacies that were observed in the Task Force. We believe what we have, if properly implemented, will serve all the security challenges better. I have given you the approach, completely different from the existing structure. We believe the issue of security cannot just be looked at from just one direction—it must be holistic. If you don’t tackle it that way, then you are missing the point. And that’s a major departure from what are actually happening in the past.
TMV: We also learnt that recruitment forms into Operation Rainbow were recently given out to interested able-bodied civilians. In the course of their enlistment will they be trained to handle firearms? If yes, does that mean they will be armed?
Marshal Danbaba: Constitutionally, it is only members of the armed forces and few parastatals that are empowered to carry arms. That is a constitutional issue. Operation Rainbow is just a make shift, under that we have the neighbourhood watch, and neighbourhood watch, and before they can deploy we must have the legal backing from the State House of Assembly and that process is on, so every thing that we are going to do will be legally done. Now, they are not going to carry arms, they will only be trained to a level where at least they can defend themselves. They will be trained mainly on how to pick intelligence from the community. They will be our eyes and ears within that community to know what is happening. If there’s something that might generate conflict we will get to know quickly and take care of it. So they are living within their community. Their own is to let us know what is happening, but that doesn’t require arms at all. They will be trained by the police and S.S.S on simple policing like community policing.
TMV: What in your opinion as at this very moment is the general security situation in the state?
Marshal Danbaba: If you have been observing the trend in the past few months, the divisions was pronounced particularly in the markets and some areas, but now if you go to Bukuru, you can see the people are interacting it was not the case before. If you go to Rukuba market, people are buying from each other. At the meat market, which used to be segregated, people are buying from each other. And the business of peace building takes time—you cannot do that within a very short time. Confidence building is gradual and I am happy to tell you that that confidence coming back. You can see in the roads people are moving and we believe with time the more we begin to interact as we used to. That is one of the major assignments we are putting in place—to make sure that we give people the confidence to move around and do business. You have nothing to fear about Operation Rainbow if don’t have bad intentions. Our own is to create the atmosphere conducive for those that are peace loving to go about their economic activities peacefully. But if you have a bad intention of course you have something to fear.
TMV: How can you rate government’s action so far concerning security?
Marshal Danbaba: The state government?
TMV: Yes sir, and the Federal government inclusive.
Marshal Danbaba: Well. I have been out of service for some time. I can talk of engagement, which is the state security outfit. Yes the business of security is a very expensive venture that the state on its own has limitations when it comes to logistics. There are things you want to put, but of course because of the huge cost involved you can not get them at the time you want them and what you do is make the best use of the little that you have maximally. This is where initiative comes in—the little that you have, how do you maximize the usage to protect lives and property? So far so good you see if you look around we have deployed the few vehicles that we have at some flash points and we are following up that with some robust communication gadgets. Like I told you the UNDP early warning system once it becomes operational is going to cover the entire state so you can sit in Shendam and let us know what is happening through the electronic and ICT gadgets. The place will be run 24-hours nonstop. So, it’s going to save the state quite a lot of money and that is being sponsored entirely by UNDP. Our own contribution is to make sure that we provide the space, they are bringing stand-by generator but in addition to that we are putting an inverter so that the place will run 24-hours, the situation room will run 24-hours. Additionally we are also going to have another generator, so we are building in redundancies to ensure that that situation room runs continuously. The civil societies are also going to have a monitor in their own office because they have their own people in the fields too. So we will work hand in hand. The security outfit is working side by side with civil society. The objective is peace. That is the ending once we have peace. So anywhere that you have contribution we will grab it.
Check back at a later date for our second half of the interview . . .