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Babangida: It’s time to reappraise military operations, welfare, logistics in war against insurgency

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Captain Umar Babangida Aliyu (rtd)

A former military intelligence officer and Chief Executive of Goldwater and Riversand Consults, Captain Aliyu Umar Babangida (rtd), in this interview with ENO-ABASI SUNDAY, said there is nothing wrong with nations, or signatories to treaties and pacts coming together to engage in military operations that support a common interest. He also added that with innovation, imagination, meta-cognition, Nigeria could make its way out of the cul-de-sac it has found itself regarding the war against insurgents

Are there things that the Federal Government should have done to stem rising insecurity that it has so far failed to do up till this moment?
At the moment, it may just suffice to say what has been done has not stemmed the trend of security related incidents nationwide, including banditry, terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, ritual killings and cultism among others.

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Why is banditry, insurgency and kidnappings becoming commonplace in the country when President Buhari, a retired army general, who promised Nigerians safety and protection is still in office?
Regardless of the genre, these crimes are not getting the commensurate deterrent measures needed to deter perpetrators from engaging in them. If you compare the frequency and mortality rates, which these crimes unleash on the citizens to the convictions and penalties so far effected, you may just agree that the law is not severe enough in its pronouncements to deter perpetrators from engaging in such crimes.

What are the dangers of still having in office, service chiefs that have gone past their prime, and those whose contributions to ending violent crimes is not felt by most Nigerians?
The way I see it, service chiefs and their tenures, need be driven by results, timelines, and a line of sight trajectory as to what the end goals of our national security direction stipulates.

Where the president (for a fact) reserves the discretion to appoint service chiefs, the yearnings of the populace to whom he owes his right to be president should also weigh in, particularly, as a pulse shot and feedback in matters that concern the wellbeing of our nation.

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Are there specific ways, which the continuous stay in office of service chiefs, who are overdue for retirement could be hurting the war against insurgence and promoting general insecurity?
Given the present trend of calls for a change of service chiefs and improvements in our nation’s security posture, much of what is happening insecurity-wise may not be unconnected to a likely ebbing of motivation and morale on the part of the troops; particularly those who may, given the status quo, never aspire to hold higher command or offices, owing to the bottlenecks that could have been caused by the prevalent situation.  The effect of this obviously runs straight down the entire hierarchy of the three services, especially given the peculiar pyramid nature of military institutions.

With security still a feature of the exclusive list of the constitution, many are of the view that it is time to review the number of items that are on that exclusive list. How welcoming an idea is this? 
There are pros and cons to the matter of taking security off the exclusive list. What, however, remains visible, is the fact that the centre cannot adequately handle security in Nigeria. The Nigerian Armed Forces and the police are stretched thin, no mentioning other related challenges and or deficits.
There must hence be a resolution by the centre, to upgrade, and innovate on the subject of security, rather than hanging on to age old stereotypes.

Weapon shortage and plunging morale of soldiers are said to be some of the factors militating against the success of the war against insurgents. To what extent are these two slowing down the war?
Weapons and their availability is essential for any armed force, particularly in areas of operations. One important consideration also underscores this importance. Can we match expenditures on weaponry to date with results, and feedback from citizens security-wise in the North East? Is it really about weapons, or results-driven management of all resource types or both.

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In the last four years or thereabouts, about five soldiers, both junior and very senior ones have been court martialled for daring to complain that there is a dearth of weapons. What options are available to aggrieved soldier who are in the frontline when they are confronted with these shortfalls?
The Nigerian soldier is deliberately trained to be long-suffering and resilient. I can attest to that, having been one myself. That some have braved the odds to speak out publicly is in itself an indicator that a close look needs to be taken at the finer details and subtleties of military operations, welfare and logistics as it were.

As Collin Powell, formerly of the US Army once put it, ‘the day your soldiers stop complaining to you is the day you stop leading them.’ By extension, we must be concerned, or at the very least, be curious as to why a serving soldier would rather cry out to the public, than to his direct, intermediate or overall commander. This should be real food for thought for the Military High Command.

How strategic is getting neigbouring countries involved in the war against insurgency, especially now that it appears that the Nigerian Army is overwhelmed?
Is the Nigerian Army overwhelmed? More like docile, or even constrained. Nothing wrong with nations, particularly contiguous nations and, or signatories to treaties and pacts coming together to engage in military operations that support a common interest.

The President, Minister of Defence, and the National Security Adviser are all retired military officers. What again do we need to give insecurity a bloody nose?
In three words: Innovation, Imagination, Meta-cognition. Time and space will not allow me decompose these three critical attributes to national security craftsmanship and leadership here.

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