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To rebuild a fighting force


Nigerian-TroopsThe Nigerian military remains one bastion of the nation’s unity and strength that must be protected and empowered for the defence of her integrity. While disheartening revelations have lately been coming out of its recent past operations and leadership almost to the point of shaking a nation’s faith in its men in uniform, the current reality of a better leadership and the promise of an even greater future should compel a good investment in the military.

In his defence of the budgetary requirements of the army the other day, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai said the N160 billion allocated to the army in the 2016 spending plan is measly and far below what the army would require to reposition itself. He has estimated that the army would require about N526 billion. In his words, “If we can get N520 billion today, the Nigerian army will not be the same again. We will make sure that our barracks are rehabilitated and troops and their family members are taken care of” . This position should be well assessed even for the entire military with a view to granting the armed services all they need in a regime of probity and accountability.

It is quite obvious that the country is facing a huge internal security problem. The armed forces remain one organ of the state that is traditionally defended the country’s territorial integrity and helped maintain internal security beyond police remit. In the last five years, the military has been fully engaged with the Boko Haram insurgency in the north east of the country. The point needs to be stressed that though the war is low intensity and asymmetrical, the military has been too ill-equipped to fight the insurgents. Beyond conventional methods, the military need retraining and equipment to deal with the current situation. With change in the style of the insurgents and the global network of terrorism, meeting the needs of the military therefore, is a compulsory step the nation must take.

More money should be given to the military. However, while making a strong case for the armed services to be well-funded, important questions must be asked on how the allocation to the armed forces in general have been spent in the past and how new funds would be spent. When money voted for the armed forces is diverted, the consequences on capacity and morale can only be imagined. Of course, such obvious misappropriation and misapplication of funds meant for our men and women in uniform created room for the current scepticism over their request for more money.

The foregoing notwithstanding, the critical point must be made that the military is synonymous with the Nigerian state. As they stand today, it is deficient in size in relation to the population. Since its creation, not much significant changes have occurred and despite carving out sprawling formations, the armed forces are not really well equipped. The ranking of the nation’s military is not enviable as Nigeria is not even on the list of the best 20 in the world.

One international ranking of the world’s 20 strong militaries employing factors such as number of active personnel (five per cent of total score), tanks (10 per cent), attack helicopters (15 per cent), aircraft (20 per cent), aircraft carriers (25 per cent), and submarines (25 per cent) threw up a list of 20 which includes the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, France, South Korea, Italy, United Kingdom, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Taiwan, Israel, Australia, Thailand, Poland, Germany, Indonesia and Canada. Global Fire Power (GFP), a more liberal ranking which employs some 50 factors that excludes nuclear capability in its indicators and the total number of weapons available to any one country has ranked Nigeria 41 of 126 countries it assessed.

Also, GFP ranked the country 62 of 126 countries based on defence budget in 2015. Nigeria’s budget stood at $2.3 billion, with United States on top of the group with a defence budget put at $581 billion. Although Nigeria has the second largest army by number of troops on the African continent, yet due to political instability and lack of equipment, it has been ranked just the 5th strongest country in Africa in 2016.

The military needs to prepare for special kinds of warfare and the services must have sufficient firepower. The officers and men have to be trained and retrained in line with changing global realities of military operations. They need to produce some of their equipment through the development of a domestic military-industrial military complex, and improvement in inter-service operations between the three services is fundamental. The need to have proper structure for intelligence management as well as a focus on the welfare condition of officers and men should be accorded priority. All of these require huge capital injection.

Certainly, the resources of the country are quite limited but the armed services deserve priority attention.No doubt, long-term planning is very important and the military needs to review its size, have smart equipment and do capacity building. A re-orientation of the men and women to the notion of service to country is also an urgent need.

When the military collapses, a nation collapses. Nigeria has considerable national power that can be mobilised. The armed forces, like every other part of the country’s fabric suffers from the cancer of corruption as money is spent on what it is not meant for, and there is an erosion of leadership. However, the military deserve the respect of the people, especially the international community over time and all must be given it to restore its glory days.

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