Boko Haram, arms sale and foreign powers
For a government that has repeatedly claimed to have technically defeated Boko Haram insurgents on several occasions, it is curious for the federal government to blame, as it did the other day, foreign powers for the delay in defeating the same terrorist sect. The federal government actually lamented over the delay in effectively quelling the 10-year old insurgency, attributing the development to alleged refusal of foreign powers to sell weapons to Nigeria. In view of the contradictions, government’s statements are most unexpected, inane, vacuous and painfully discouraging. Save for their value as mere pieces of information, they are hopeless.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who affirmed that Nigeria had made attempts to acquire better military platforms to deal with terrorists, was quoted as saying that “we have been denied these platforms, and without adequate platforms, we will remain at the mercy of terrorists.”
Notwithstanding the well-known difficulties terrorism creates, the minister’s expression clearly indicates government’s resignation to the murderous impulses of insane insurgents, just as it conveys government’s sheer indifference to the horrifying state of victims. What manner of government positions its helpless citizens by word and deed “at the mercy of terrorists”?
Besides, the excuse that Nigeria has been denied platforms to deal with terrorist is a vague response to shroud inefficiency or complicity. The minister might have been referring to the alleged declaration of Nigeria as a terrorist state by the United States and the consequent refusal of weapon sales to Nigeria by former US President Barak Obama. However, it has been shown that although the US government under President Obama refused to sell arms to Nigeria citing as a reason human rights abuses by the Nigeria Army, Nigeria was not declared a terrorist state.
It has also been ascertained that, following the complaints made by former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari against this moratorium, President Donald Trump in 2018 overturned Obama’s ban on sales of arms to Nigeria. Subsequent reports indicated that Nigeria paid $496 million for the acquisition of 12 Tucano jet fighters, billed to have been delivered this year. If this is the case, who then are the people, agencies or states denying Nigeria “military platforms to deal with terrorists”? This time around what reasons have they adduced? Are there really countries or agencies denying Nigeria access to weapons, or is government seeking to cover up its inefficiency?
Granted that some countries or agencies might be denying Nigeria “military platforms,” shouldn’t government try to resolve issues leading to such refusal? Has government searched itself thoroughly and is convinced that it is blameless? Is it not expected that countries selling arms and ammunition would normally attach conditions for their transactions, and has Nigeria met all those conditions? Wouldn’t the trending narrative about alleged complicity of the Nigerian Army in the EndSARS protests another reason to deny arms sales to Nigeria?
This bad situation has been further compounded by the way government mishandled the #EndSARS protest of government, coupled with the less than discreet manner, the minister hurriedly defended the Army on its role at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. What nation will want to do serious business with a country that is so steeped in obvious mendacity? Why, in this digital age of effortless fact-checking, would anyone think that a country, which fails to manage its affairs with dignity and responsibility will attract favourable deals?
If these states or agencies sell ammunitions to Nigeria, are these weapons being deployed to the use for which they were intended? In the light of government’s suspected complicity, is Nigeria trustworthy enough to be sold the kind of weapons or military platforms requested? On a critical note, Nigeria’s ruling elite and military production engineers need to ponder on this: Why is it that the country must need foreign powers to supply arms and means to defend itself?
It is disappointing that 60 years after independence, this country has not been able to build capacity for local manufacture of weapons. This in itself is a sign of lack of seriousness and commitment to public good. Of what relevance is the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), established by the Nigerian Army in 1964 to produce small arms, munitions, explosives and even armoured vehicles? Security issues obviously are not to be advertised most times but government’s lamentations on security is sufficient to raise public alarm and curiosity as to the role of agencies such as DICON which in any event, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) two months ago with local vehicle manufacturing company, Innoson, for the production of military grade vehicles, patrol vehicles and Soft Skin vehicles for the armed forces and other security agencies.
While such pacts are useful and commendable, government should accept full blame for its tardiness and lack of vision in addressing security challenges, such that it has to throw up its hands helplessly at the eleventh hour. Nigerians need not know the details of how government safeguards national security, but they want their country secured from incessant attacks from bandits and terrorists under any pretext.
It is high time Nigeria built capacity through partnerships to execute thorough and systemic development of high quality military platforms. At this stage of her national experience, when security challenges are rife, these challenges should become impetus for innovative ballistic engineering and military hardware craftsmanship.