Lagbaja’s strategy against insecurity

The appointment of Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja as the 23rd Chief of Army Staff was greeted with a lot accolades by many across the country. Immediate-past Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state on his Xhandle described Lagbaja as, “A new Chief of Army Staff, who, without a doubt, will wipe out terrorism, banditry, vandalism and militancy in Nigeria.” Several other Nigerians expressed optimism in his ability to do the job.

This is not unconnected with the COAS’ determination to achieve success in any task given to him. He leads in the front, right in the battle field. He is not the kind of soldier who sits in the comfort of his office, giving commands to troops. Lagbaja leads the battle against the enemies, right in the theater of war. 

Having participated in several operations across the country, Lagbaja came with a clear headed philosophy “to transform the Nigerian Army into a well-trained, equipped and highly motivated force towards achieving our constitutional responsibilities within a joint environment.” 

With this philosophy, he set out to confront insecurity that had devastated the country for over two decades and stretched the Nigerian Army and other security agencies. His operational philosophy rests on three cardinal pillars: leadership, operational effectiveness, and sound administration.

The security challenges range from attacks from the ISWAP/Boko Haram, banditry, IPOB, militant activities that had hindered the nation’s crude oil output, the perennial herders and farmers clashes, kidnapping to other forms of criminality in the country. Thus, the Nigerian Army needed to be forward thinking in training, strategy and sophistication to confront these criminality in such a dynamic environment. Lagbaja noted that, “Never in recent history is the requirement for proactive, adaptive and inclusive leadership more needed than Nigeria’s security environment of today.” 

And building on the breakthroughs recorded by his predecessors, Lagbaja has spectacularly demonstrated so much understanding of the current security challenges in the country and preempts the enemy’s next moves. He understands the importance of collaboration with sister agencies in order to deliver on his mandate. 

While delivering a lecture to students of Course 46 at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, Kaduna titled “Crafting my Command Philosophy as Chief of Army Staff, Nigeria’s Contemporary and Emerging Security Environment” recently, Lagbaja charged mid-level commanders of the Nigerian Army to lead their subordinates by example in the ongoing effort to combat security challenges bedeviling some parts of the country. He maintained that exemplary leadership will correspondingly impact positively on operational efficiency in the ongoing effort at tackling insecurity. 

So far, General Lagbaja’s robust strategy has brought ISWAP/Boko Haram to their knees. This has resulted in the killing and arrests of notorious Boko Haram commanders, their informants and foot soldiers, with several operational camps busted and destroyed. 

The COAS stated that the Army under his watch has acquired modern equipment. “We no longer rely on 1970 or 1980 equipment to fight the battle of 2023.The Nigerian Army has procured various modern equipment and also has internally built ones. We have adequate equipment to ensure troops are ready to perform their task and tackle those challenges confronting Nigeria in 2023.

“We have asked Research and Development to build some of those equipment we used to import from abroad; if you go to our command in Kaduna, you will see what the mechanical engineers are doing. They are building vehicles; very soon we may be exporting some to neighbouring countries.”

General Taoreed Lagbaja insists that the troops involved in operations across the country need training and retraining to rejuvenate their fighting spirit. The training will expose the troops to modern warfare and use of newly acquired equipment. He stated that, “the army must continue to review its tactics, techniques and procedures, and come up with implementable strategies to defeat the adversaries with both kinetic and non-kinetic means.” 

Lagbaja considers the welfare of troops a priority. He emphasised that it would boost troops’ morale and ultimately enhance operational effectiveness. He has introduced initiatives such as the Affordable Home Ownership Option for All Soldiers (AHOOAS). Lagbaja stated that the scheme is aimed at alleviating the hardship soldiers face in securing personal accommodation during post-service life.

Through the Post-service Housing Development Limited, five percent of AHOOAS scheme in each estate is for allocation to soldiers with operational related disabilities. Again, he introduced the Nigerian Army Welfare Loan in April, 2024 to improve the welfare of the Nigerian soldiers. Under Lagbaja, the Army has reinvigorated its complementary welfare flights for North-east troops to facilitate travels during leaves and passes. 

Within COAS’ one year in office, the Army has purchased over 200 gun trucks, thousands of personal protective equipment, over 100 mines resistance ambush protective vehicles and several other sophisticated equipment awaiting arrival into the country in the shortest possible time. The Army which had nurtured the desire to have an aviation wing since 1984 has purchased aircraft to be used for logistics, surveillance, training and casualty evacuation, among others. 

Significant success has been recorded in the fight against oil theft, bunkering and pipeline vandalism in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The activities of these criminals had reduced the nation’s crude oil production. However, with the strategies put in place by Lagbaja to protect the region, the federal government through the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, has acknowledged that improved security in the Niger Delta is responsible for the increased crude oil production to 1.65 million barrels per day, as against the 1.25 million bpd previously recorded.

Another disturbing security situation was the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) which had killed many and destroyed properties worth millions of naira as well as crippled socio-economic activities in the South-east. Lagbaja, on assumption of office, declared the infamous sit-at-home order by these groups over and enforced it through an operation code-named “Operation Udo ka”. With this, sanity has been restored. 

While there are still a couple of cowardly security breaches across the country, the soul of the insurgency and banditry has been destroyed. The one year in office of Lagbaja as Chief of Army Staff has given renewed hope in the ability of the Nigerian Army to stamp out all forms of criminality and protect the nation against external aggression.

Otunba Michael Msuaan, MON writes from Makurdi, Benue state