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That brutal attack on Nigerian Army

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[FILE] Armed Forces Special Forces Battalion at their base in Borno State (NorthEast).

The recent brutal attack on men of the 157 Task Force Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Melete Borno State by savages of the Boko Haram sect calls for national concern.

Fittingly, across the country, there has been intensely expressed outrage over the tragedy.

The President and Commander-in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, has condemned the attack but has been curiously silent on calls to probe the military high command operations in the area.

He has since summoned the service chiefs, dispatched the Minister of Defence to Chad and visited Maiduguri to reassure troops. 

Besides, the Senate has also taken exception to the ‘monumental loss.’

It has ordered its committees on Army and Defence, to investigate the killing of 44 soldiers and examine the welfare and wellbeing of the troops deployed to the troubled region.

There is a slight discordant note from the Senate Army Committee. The Vice Chairman has asserted that the committee had been ‘lackadaisical’ in its oversight functions.

This is not a time for blame game. It is time for action to save lives and put the North East back on the track of development.     

At the core of it all is how a ‘technically-degraded’ insurgent group could muster enough strength to wipe out 44 men of the army in one fell swoop.

Was there failure in intelligence gathering? Were there no surveillance aircraft deployed in the combat zone?

Did somebody sleep on duty? Did the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army fail the fallen men? Is there a possibility that institutional failure gave room for this tragedy and is there likely to be a repeat experience?

How many men lost their lives? Forty-four or more than one hundred men as some independent sources have claimed? Has the response of the Army High Command been adequate? 

Death is one of the by-products of war. Soldiers are especially vulnerable.

However, a well-motivated army is one that is adequately kitted against such disasters as the nation experienced in Melete. Life is precious and sacrosanct. Our first instinct is to protect life.

This, the Nigerian Army has failed to do. We recall that about three months ago, an Army captain and 70 other men were arrested on the orders of Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai because they allegedly mutinied against the army high command.

Mutiny is a serious offence within the military. Once handled with kid gloves, it could spiral into mass revolt.

But the war with Boko Haram calls for a dispassionate and thorough analysis of the operations and the equipment available to our soldiers, their welfare, morale and leadership.

Something, definitely, is amiss, which the nation deserves to know through the leadership of the armed forces.
  
The mutiny against the Army took place at the Maiduguri Airport where the soldiers had complained that, ‘thirty soldiers who were sent to Gamboru died within three days because of the heavy rainfall, which worsened the terrain already mastered by the insurgents.’ They had also complained that they were suffering from war fatigue ‘as most of them had been fighting Boko Haram insurgents for years without rotation.’

While we do not support mutiny in any form, it stands to reason that the fears of soldiers trained to fight till death must be allayed.

Some of the insinuations coming from relatives of dead and fighting soldiers are not right. Indeed some persons have published the ethnic spread of the fallen soldiers.

This is dangerous in our polity, especially at this volatile political period. This perception can be wet blanket and a blight on the morale and reputation of the military.

Therefore, the army authorities must do something immediately about the morale of soldiers who have been deployed to the North East.

In the guerilla war that is on-going, the Nigerian Army is fighting both defined and undefined enemies. Fake news is a challenge that modern warfare must manage.

Serving soldiers must be careful not to jeopardise war efforts through disseminating morale-killing news, true or otherwise. 

Meanwhile, the Commander-in-Chief too ought to pay close attention to the prosecution of the war. Guerilla fighting is difficult to contain fully. But it can be better managed than what we currently see.

It has been suggested that the foreign insurgency group, IS had infiltrated Boko Haram. If this is true, we must change our tactics.

Although we do not expect the military to give full disclosure of style and tactics to the media, the nation would like to see a change in the war prosecution that would really technically incapacitate the scoundrels.

The nation would also like to have facts so that the rumour mill does not become pregnant from the wild imaginations of mischief-makers.

All told, the rate at which our soldiers are being routinely killed is unacceptable. Also, the frequency with which the insurgents kill innocent citizens these days is alarming. Every life is precious. No life can be replaced.

The death of our citizens through acts of omission and/or commission diminishes our sense or feeling of self-worth. This has been a bugbear since 2009.

So, while we welcome the concern of the Senate on the attack on our soldiers, we call for definite and decisive actions to prevent further attacks. The investigation by the Senate must be carried out without fear or favour.

Oversight functions of the legislature are crucial to individual liberties and corporate survival of the nation. That should neither be politicised nor commercialised at this time.

The Army high command has declared that it is yet to receive the approved one billion dollar funds, which the Presidency requested about a year ago.

Is the revival of Boko Haram an indication of poor funding and lack of fighting equipment? We can assert with utmost confidence that the Boko Haram that vanquished a battalion of the Nigerian Army is anything but technically defeated.    

No doubt, life in the North East remains bleak and dangerous. The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps are overburdened. Waterborne and other forms of diseases are rampant in the area. 

Kidnapping and other forms of violence are prevalent in spite of the presence of the military. The military high command should revamp its operations too.

There should be a ‘never again’ spirit in the air that would percolate down the line to the men and officers on this operation.

It is our considered view that if the men with boots on the ground see and appreciate the level of professionalism in conducting the war, there would be less disenchantment.  

Finally, we mourn and sympathise with the families of the deceased. These families should be promptly compensated and all the rights of the dead respected.

There have been situations where the families of fallen soldiers have been left to suffer for too long. That itself is a morale killer.

Elsewhere in the world, nations go the extra mile to honour the memory of those who died fighting for the state. And so, our fallen soldiers deserve no less.


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