The Nigerian Military
The Nigerian military deserves praises for the resilient manner they have carried on in the war against terrorism, banditry and Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in many parts of the north, while at the same time still struggling to put an end to various criminal malfeasances around the country. The truth is that whether the fight is against Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, deadly kidnappers or cattle rustlers, it is tough for all arms of the military; and the worthwhile strategy it can adopt now is to seek a permanent end to the war on all fronts.
One reason for this, apart from huge cost of procuring and sustaining wars, is reports of intermittent attacks on military formations, as well as now regular killings of security officers including military personnel. Such reports achieve two major ends: boost the morale of criminal elements who may interpret the attacks as tantamount to victory against the Nigerian security forces; and two; it tends to demoralise serving officers and men when their colleagues are suddenly neutralised.
There have been many reports of attack on formations and troops in recent months even though some are not confirmed. The attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna is one of the most prominent. But report of another attack on Nigerian troops on Friday, September 26 in the Marte-Dikwa axis of Borno State is a sad reminder that the war on terrorism in the North East is far from being won. Coming on the heels of similar attacks and ambushes in recent times, it becomes embarrassing for the Nigerian security apparatus; yet, it is a wake-up call to do a more intense and far-reaching audit of the information and communication processes of the war effort.
Before the Friday ambush, bandits carried out a deadly attack on troops in Zamfara State leading to the death of security personnel on September 13. The Zamfara attack was blamed on communication failure among the different formations following the shutdown of public communication network as part of efforts to rid the state of bandits. Indeed, the bandits reportedly took advantage of the lack of security communication gadgets as “only the top commanders have military radio or walkie-talkie.”
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Farouk Yahaya, while speaking at the combined second and third quarter COAS conference, said he would no longer accept excuses from commanders as they lead troops in tackling security challenges facing the country. He said commanders must glean from his ‘‘Command Philosophy’’ to ensure that operational and administrative proficiencies of Nigerian Army units and formations are sustained and improved upon. He also said that efforts were on to provide the army with combat enablers to enhance and boost its operations towards addressing the logistics constraints. The combat enablers, assumedly, should include welfare of the troops and top-notch information and communication gadgets for surveillance and reconnaissance to back up the fire power.
The speech from the COAS should ordinarily be reassuring to the troops and to Nigerians, but similar promises have been made on occasions by various political and military leaders with little or no changes noticed. For the sake of these men who are laying down their lives to keep the rest of the country safe, these words must be followed up with concrete actions. The country cannot continue to waste the lives of our troops through poor planning and lousy equipment deployment. The surprise attack could have been tolerated if it only happened once but the regularity of the incidents has become worrisome and deserves urgent attention.
It is saddening that the base attacked in Zamfara is a forward operation base that ordinarily should be a high tech formation because of its role as a key site for reconnaissance and logistics. Yet there was high casualty of troops killed, weapons stolen and houses set on fire. This scenario happens regularly when terrorists overrun local communities; but it is difficult to explain or excuse in military settlements.
As Nigerians were still smarting from the ugly incident, dozens of military troops relived for a pass after several months on the war front were reportedly ambushed and killed by suspected Boko Haram members linked to the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP). The troops were on their way to Maiduguri but ambushed around Marte, about 180 kilometres from Maiduguri. According to news reports, Boko Haram fired rocket launchers at the military trucks. Apparently, the troops were taken by surprise by the enemy acting on leaked information about troop movement; but even then the ease of the terrorists’ operation signified something amiss in the alertness and preparedness of the soldiers.
Military authorities must put their houses in order, to stop these avoidable attacks. Apart from weapons and munitions, communication and surveillance gadgets must be deployed and put to maximum use. Nigerians cannot accept that Boko Haram and bandits are better when it comes to logistics. There have been suspected cases of fifth columnists within the military formations who act as informants to the enemies. Incidents like these show that a house cleaning through intelligence actions is ever so imperative. In modern warfare, drones and other communication gadgets have become imperative.
Given the asymmetrical nature of the ongoing warfare, information management and communications gadgets must be given priority in support of the common strategies that form the core of regular training of troops. Leadership of the military must lead in this direction with maximum support from the political leadership. This is important to assuage apprehensive Nigerian citizens and more especially the families of these gallant soldiers battling to keep others safe.