Thursday, 29th September 2022
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‘The enemy has gotten bored of attacking soft targets and is now attacking hardened targets’

What is your take on the leadership of the Nigerian military, in view of the rising attacks on military formations in the Northeast? What does it tell of the military and leadership? The leadership of the Nigerian military has been highly applauded for competently combating the Boko Haram threat. The heads of the Army, Navy…

A Security Consultant, Dr. Ona Ekhomu

What is your take on the leadership of the Nigerian military, in view of the rising attacks on military formations in the Northeast? What does it tell of the military and leadership?

The leadership of the Nigerian military has been highly applauded for competently combating the Boko Haram threat.

The heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force have been very effective in providing executive leadership to their respective services.

Nigeria has adopted the integrated battle strategy, where the army and air force fight in tandem. The common denominator here is the application of air power as a force multiplier in combating insurgent attacks.

The Metele attacks, the primary attack on the military base and the secondary attack on first responders, do not flatter the record of the military leadership.

Indeed, the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks targeting military installations does not make the military leadership look good.

This is probably responsible for the loud calls for the replacement of the military leadership. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the solution to the problem.

Knee-jerk reactions are usually not very productive, because they are intuitive and not well thought through. However, there is a need to understand the threat of jihadi resurgence and strategise to combat the threat.

How does the attacks affect the morale of the solders, especially those in the battlefronts?

The Metele attacks and other similar attacks on military bases in the northeast have extremely negative morale consequences for the troops.

A high morale is important for a fighting force, as they must believe in their own invincibility to engage an enemy. So, a situation where many soldiers are killed deflates morale.

Unfortunately, morale appears to be sagging among the frontline combatants.

There have been complaints of inadequate combat rotation, leading to fatigue and grumbling, as well as inadequate arms and ammunition in the arsenal of our troops.

‘You never bring a dagger to a gun fight,’ goes the saying. If Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA) are bringing fresh gear to the battlefield, then our men ought to have even better munitions of war.

Sophisticated weaponry in the battlefield confers tactical superiority on the side wielding it.

Reports of our troops not having adequate battlefield equipment reduce the troops morale. They are also affected by the way family members of fallen soldiers are treated.

The military ought to pay huge sums of monies to survivors in recognition of the supreme sacrifice of fallen men.

Other pecuniary issues include allowances to fighting men and other emoluments. The way I look at it, the great sacrifice of the troops should be matched with great rewards.

Politicians should receive salaries paid to soldiers, while soldiers should receive politicians’ pay, because the risk that soldiers bear on behalf of society is greater.

What could have happened to the huge sums of money budgeted for military hardware, considering that some of the survivor-soldiers reportedly link their predication to lack of adequate/modern and superior firepower?

The issue of military hardware budget relates to the armaments procurement programme and process of the government.

Nigeria needs a coherent armaments policy that would ensure our troops continue to receive updated weapons to conduct the business of defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Nigerian nation.

There are reports that our troops are still using the AK47 rifles procured during the President Shehu Shagari administration and the T-17 Tanks procured by President Goodluck Jonathan.

There has not been a consistent, coherent and strategic armaments procurement programme since 1983.

President Jonathan’s armament programme was strictly in response to the Boko Haram insurgency and formed a part of the CT/COIN Strategy.

President Muhammadu Buhari has recently made a down payment on the Super Tucano plane, which is due for delivery in 2020.

A proper threat assessment will reveal that an aggressive armaments programme is required right now to enable Nigeria prevail in the battlefield.

Is corruption not still in the military, given the above?

I don’t think that a prima-facie case of corruption has been established. There is obvious deficiency in planning and execution of armaments policy, but it might not be from the military organisation.

After all, it is politicians that award arms contracts in Nigeria, not the Generals.

We must have clear evidence of stolen, missing or misappropriated funds to make an allegation of corruption.

Should we rely or blame another country (Chad, in this case) for not protecting its borders and allowing the insurgents free way into Nigeria to wreak havoc on our soldiers?

Nigeria cannot blame its neighbours for insecurity at its border region. As a sovereign nation, Nigeria has responsibility to adequately protect its borders.

If the threats exceed the capability of the Immigration agency, then the military steps in.

The case here is that the military alliance between Nigeria and its neighbours, under the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has to be fine-tuned to operate properly.

The Chadians cannot be expected to love Nigeria more than Nigerians, so Gen. Leo Irabor, who heads the MNJTF, should effectively deploy the troops to counter jihadists who make armed incursions from Chad to Nigeria.

I am quite troubled by intelligence reports that Francophone youths are queuing up to join ISWA. These jihadists might one day show up in the Northeast, if care is not taken.

We must not be careless with our security by relying upon neighbouring countries- Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin- who are quite envious of Nigeria and have no reason to help us.

All nation states act in their self-interest, except Nigeria, which acts like Santa Claus.

What is your candid opinion on the war against insurgents by the present government?

In my professional opinion, the current government does not have adequate understanding of the grave threats that Islamic jihad poses to Nigeria.

With almost 50,000 lives lost in the Northeast, the Borno State economy in runs and humanitarians activities dominating the region, the government still thinks that Boko Haram/ISWA is a negligible threat. It is definitely not!

It remains the existential threat that it was under Jonathan. Unfortunately, that government also underestimated the threat.

What is my evidence? The linguistic mood of the administration creates a wrong perception of the state of the war.

Insisting continually on degrading, technical defeating, etc of the insurgents is tantamount to psychological dissuasion.

A situation where target-hardened military installations have been attacked one after the other with scores of casualties cannot be said to be a fluke.

Clearly, the enemy has gotten bored of attacking soft targets and is now attacking hardened targets.

We have a situation where Ibrahim Shekau’s Boko Haram fighters are attacking the civilian population close to Maiduguri, while ISWA fighters are taking on military targets and IDP camps in the north.

The Al Barnawi faction is also carrying out attacks. ISWA is executing aid workers and Leah Shaibu is under death threat.

We need new thinking on this war. I was glad to hear the President admit on November 28 in Maiduguri that we are at war, a position stated by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State in 2014.

What remains now is adequate resourcing, motivation and leadership.

Buhari, at the opening of the COAS Conference in Maiduguri, promised to procure modern fighting equipment for the military. This is determined enemy, and he must be defeated in the battlefield.

Is it wise at this point to release so-called repentant insurgents into society, especially close to the general elections?

I have long said that releasing “so-called” repentant fighters is a mistake. Jihad is based upon religious beliefs. People live and die with their religious beliefs.

We are merely recycling extremely dangerous terrorists and extremists under the label of rehabilitation, reintegration and disarmament.

Productive intelligence analysis will reveal that the resurgence in Boko Haram attacks is partly a result of the “catch and release” policy on its fighters.

There should be a good policy and careful procedures for evaluating captured or surrendered Boko Haram fighters.

When we take them off the battlefield, we should keep them in custody and incarcerate the hardened fighters.

The Federal High Court in Kainji adjudicating Boko Haram cases recently jailed a man who said if he is let go today, he will go back to join his jihadi colleagues.