Before the Nigerian military becomes hapless

These are not the best of times for Nigerians. The country is battling to contain ravaging insecurity, for over a decade now, which has resulted in the deaths of millions of citizens, while stunting the growth of its economy.

Some factors are responsible for persistent security challenges bedeviling our dear fatherland. They include poor governance, social injustice, extreme spiritual ideologies, the nation’s unemployment crisis, and proliferation of small arms and illicit weapons, among others.

The aforementioned, and others not highlighted herein, are aggravating the Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, terrorism. They are also the reason why the spate of kidnapping for ransom, ritual killings, violent thuggery and cultism, armed banditry, oil theft and herders-farmers clashes, among others, do not want to abate, amid the resolute efforts of our security agencies.

Nonetheless, I have always believed that it is only a matter of time for Nigerians and the country itself to heave a relief sigh over the troubling insecurity they are contending with at the moment. Something which happened last week has however compelled me to have a rethink about that becoming a possibility, in the near future.

Appearing before the House of Representatives penultimate Tuesday for the maiden sectoral briefing introduced by the 10th National Assembly, NASS, the service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, IGP, confessed that multifaceted challenges were hampering their concerted efforts in the fight against terrorism, banditry, separatists’ agitations and other security challenges, across the country.

They, however, said they have been doing their best in surmounting those challenges to ensure adequate security and protection of lives through their several counter-terrorism operations and exercises, which they said have yielded significant results since assuming office.

The service chiefs including General Christopher Gwabin Musa (Chief of Defence Staff); Lt. Gen. Taoreed A. Lagbaja (Chief of Army Staff); Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla (Chief of Naval Staff) and Air Marshal Hassan B. Abubakar (Chief of Air Staff) and the IGP, Kayode Egbotokun, at the briefing, identified the rising cost of aviation fuel, delays in release of funding for procurements of equipment; complexity in targeting terrorists within the populace; porous borders; inadequate personnel and sabotage as part of the challenges confronting the fight against terrorism.

While speaking, Gen. CG Musa said the inability of the country to produce most of the sophisticated military hardware needed for their operations had remained a major challenge as they depend largely on other countries for their procurements.

He said besides the challenge of bureaucratic bottlenecks in the procurement processes; the current dollar crisis has further exacerbated the problem. “We don’t produce what we need in Nigeria and if you do not produce what you need, that means you are at the beck and call of the people that produce these items. All the items we procure are bought with hard currency; none in naira.

“Most times when funds are released, by the time you turn these funds into dollars, it can only get us very little. For example, during the last regime, about N1 billion was set aside for defence procurements. Out of that amount, over 600 million dollars was for the procurement of the aircraft. So, the whole money had gone.

“For any ammunition we buy; we buy them in dollars and we spend in millions. So many times, when people see that funds are being released to the armed forces, they think it is so much but by the time you convert them to dollars, you do not get so much. One precision missile for our drone costs 5000 dollars. So, imagine how many we would be able to use and how many we can procure. So those are the challenges”.

He said one other challenge hindering the fight against insurgency is that of alleged sabotage between terrorists and some compromised prisons’ officials. “In the North East when we were debriefing some of the Boko Haram elements; some were telling us how from the prisons they could plan operations on the field. They passed funds across and we asked how. They use some of the warders.

“We are not saying all of them are bad, but they use some of the warders’ accounts to transfer money and the deal is anybody’s account it is transferred to, they share it 50-50,” he said. On the activities of IPOB in the South-east, the CDS said the role of the Finland-based Simon Ekpa remained a key issue that must be looked into by the federal government, adding that he has become a menace to the country.

He said, “This individual has become a menace to this country. The country must act on it diplomatically. Finland is having a freeway encouraging him to be doing what he is doing. By his utterances and actions, he is affecting what is happening in Nigeria. We should never allow that. Our foreign service needs to step in to address the issue. It is either we invite the ambassador or somebody.

“They must explain why they are protecting him. And he is doing us more harm by his utterances. A lot of people are being killed. We cannot sit back and keep quiet.” On the way forward, he said there was a need to exploit the contemporary global shift in the utilisation of space technology and cyber warfare for national defence and security.

The CDS said so far, they have initiated the process of establishing a joint cyber warfare intelligence command where such emerging technologies will be exploited to enhance the capabilities of the armed forces of Nigeria. He also advocated greater synergy between the security forces and the civil populace through intelligence sharing to succeed in the fight.

“Security is not only the responsibility of security forces. Everybody has a responsibility to play. We cannot be everywhere. So, we need education and sensitisation programmes to educate Nigerians that security is everybody’s responsibility. If you see it, you talk about it. You just don’t keep quiet and say it is for the police. Everybody has a role. Our neighbouring countries, if you enter there as a visitor, I give you 30 minutes; they would know you are a visitor.

“Before you know it, the gendarmes are after you. There, it is different. People tend to think it is not their responsibility. We are not magicians. We need to have a system where we train from schools; let every Nigerian understand that they should take ownership of security,” he said.

He emphasised the need for good governance as a panacea in addressing security challenges in the country. He said, “The magic wand to address insecurity is good governance. Anywhere you have good governance insecurity goes down. The security forces can only produce 30 per cent. We can only provide an enabling environment.

“If other aspects are not addressed, it is a problem. Security is not just military security. We have food security, health security, social security, and education security. All these play vital roles in achieving what we are doing. If we do not put these things in place through good governance, it becomes a problem. People can’t eat. People are hungry. No matter how you tell them to keep the peace, they will not because they have to eat and it aids criminality.

“So those are the aspects we are looking at that we must have good governance and everybody has belief in the country that this is their country. He said there was the need for diligent and quick prosecution of arrested suspects by the prosecuting authorities and the judiciary. 

It is customary for the lawmakers who paid rapt attention to the defence chief and other service chiefs’ lamentations, to promise offering their intervention. Like other Nigerians, I however care a hoot about how, and when their messianic intercession will come.

But I am having issues believing that their generous aid will yield any tangible result, insofar the challenges highlighted by Gen. CG Musa and other service chiefs – during the sectorial briefing – are not swiftly addressed by the federal government and other key stakeholders in the nation’s defence and security sectors. The time to act is now, lest the Nigerian military becomes totally hapless.

Mahmud, deputy editor, PRNigeria, writes via [email protected]