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Why Nigerian armed forces can’t fight terrorism—Tony Nyiam

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*Col.Tony Nyiam

…Declaration of war long over due

…What President Buhari should do now

By Chioma Gabriel, Editor Special Features

These are not the best times for Nigeria. In fact, Nigerians have not experienced good times for a very long time. Nigeria is passing through difficult times compounded by deadly conflict involving many armed organisations, including herder-allied groups, insurgency, banditry, criminal gangs and jihadists.

For several years, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost to armed violence which has held sway since 2011 and has displaced over 200,000.

Although there have been efforts to contain the violence by the Nigerian military, these efforts don’t seem to be paying off.

From all indications, insecurity and terrorism have been a major challenge to the Nigerian government in recent times. The activities of the Islamic sect (Boko Haram) had led to loss of lives and properties in the country especially in the Northern part of Nigeria. Some of these activities include bombing, suicide bomb attacks, sporadic shooting of unarmed and innocent citizens and burning of police stations and churches.  Kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and political crises, murder, destruction of oil facilities by Niger Delta militants alongside the attacks carried out by herdsmen on some communities in the North and South have been another major insecurity challenge facing the country. Nigeria has been included among one of the terrorist countries of the world.

Despite several security operations and dialogue efforts, a durable peace remains elusive.

In this encounter, Colonel Tony Nyiam, retd, one of the principal actors in the 22 April, 1990 coup attempt led by Major Gideon Orkar meant to overthrow the military government of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd), takes a look at the Nigeria’s military structure and tackles its inability to combat terror, insecurity and killings across Nigeria.

Excerpts:

What’s your opinion on the mass resignation in the military?

I need to begin this dialogue with a humble request. I humbly plead that the content of this interview, be carefully analyzed or reflected upon. Thus I beg for the sake of our arresting the ship of the Nigerian State which is drifting into the worst storm that any group of human beings can weather through. Some of the major threats to our existential life and consequently, to our livelihood, come from those who have been thinking for and guiding President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB). They suffer from a lack of sincerity of purpose which in turn, rubs heavily on PMB. What’s worst is the absence of understanding of their roles as members of the leadership and the higher management of national security.

PMB needs to listen more to members of his immediate family: the first lady, his first daughter who, in the course of my official duty, I knew as a teenager during my visits to General Buhari’s official residence close to the Hilltop Hotel, Government Reservation Area (GRA) Jos, and his other lovely children. PMB’s immediate family and the Comptroller General of Customs and Excise are more loyal to the C-in-C than his uncle, Mamman Daura and Babagana Kingibe who are around the President for other reasons. No one cares for PMB’s well-being and legacy after he leaves office than his immediate family. I would have thought that PMB would have learnt the underlying lessons associated with the stepping aside to transit, of two key members of his kitchen cabinet who I pray that their souls rest in peace.

PMB needs to wake up from the hypnotism or spell which they may have cast on him. Enough of hypnotizing of PMB. Many of PMB’s rigid positions that have been unhelpful to his primary responsibility of protecting not only his Fulani clan’s people but every Nigerian are evidences of the spell he had been subjected to.

I hereby appeal to the President not to be deceived by his uncle Mamman Daura’s view that zoning would no more be a factor in who becomes Nigerian President.

Who is Mamman Daura to talk of competence? He has misled PMB to be running the most incompetent government in Nigerian history. Instead of Daura looking for capable hands, he is trying to divert attention from the fraud that has been brought close to tarnish Buhari’s war against corruption.

None of the people I plead with the President to give more hearing to know my humble self. As an officer and gentleman that I am by the Grace of God, my word is my honour.

For those ignorant of the facts: J.J. Rawlings over-threw a corrupt Ghanaian High Command who had over thrown the elected civilian Kwame Nkruma Government. It’s noteworthy that Rawlings’ action, like the 22nd April 1990, Major Gideon Orkar’s uprising against rogue Nigerian military dictators was not like that of General Muhammadu Buhari’s coup against the elected civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. I used the adjective “rogue” to qualify the word military dictators because those Major Orkar and co wanted out were not elected and were not a civilian authority. And worst of all, they wanted to introduce a system of government which would have perpetuated the military in power for ever in Nigeria.

Let’s correct the mis-representation that the military is or should be loyal to the people who are the sovereign and to the national constitution which expresses their collective sovereignty. The military cannot, for instance, be loyal to a President who suspends the legitimate national constitution of his country or is constantly in breach of its provisions. The point being made here is that no military man should make the  mistake General Muhammadu Buhari made to have planned and executed a coup d’état against a duly elected civilian government.

And now, to the question you asked, your assumption of mass resignation from the Nigerian military, may need to be subjected to a fact-check, to ascertain it’s authenticity. What’s  however not contestable is the low morale of many of our soldiers sent to the North East theatre of operations. The causes of the low-morale and the consequent loss of interest in the military profession include several things.

For one, PMB’s nepotism has been taken too far. Recruitment of soldiers, admissions of officer cadets into the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA), opportunities for further training, postings or appointments to strategic positions are consistently made to favour President Muhammadu Buhari’s clan of Fulani people. The victims of PMB government’s favoritism are in the main, the Middle Belt, South-West, South-South and South East and to some extent, the Hausas of the North West, military personnel.

READ ALSO: Nigerian army commissions 373 cadets at Jaji

There are leakages of security classified information of the Nigerian combat formations in the war front to the enemy they are engaging. The Nigerian Army appears to have been infiltrated. This is causing distrust between the fighting soldiers and eroding the necessary espirit de-corps (meaning; group spirit that is the feeling of pride in belonging to a combat team).

The “recycling of insurgents” as aptly put by a pro-Federal Capital Territory (FCT) indigenes activist, Dalhatu Musa Ezekiel, particularly the perception that repentant Boko Haram terrorists shall be or have been recruited into the Nigerian Army, as fighters in a war that they have lost many of their colleagues is not acceptable to many Nigerians.

There are also recurring terrorists or bandits’ successful ambushes of Nigerian soldiers. This has become a major cause of concern, especially as the factors which make the enemy to successfully ambush our troops have not been addressed. Preventive measures are long overdue.

Combat Operations Commanders are leading their battle-field units into battle without proper intelligence. This is completely against the basic tactical training of never going into an offensive or taking defensive position without proper intelligence.

The in-hospitable arid desert regions of the far Northern Nigeria, the North East and the North West because of their openness and extensive terrain are begging for airborne vehicle support to ground force operations. These are military platform with day and night-wide area surveillance, situation awareness and communications for command and control, real-time dissemination of information and intelligence to responders, force protection, visible deterrent to dissuade ambush and other terrorists attacks, public safety and intelligence collection and archiving.

There are unmanned heavy lift star system drones which, if required could be armed with weapons which apply fire to hostile targets, using the radio command of the drone controller located at the Aerostat deployment site.

There is need for aerostat radar that can detect, geo-locate and track potential threats at long-range and also cues the on-board long range camera to image the threat location to obtain day/night video of the target for visual identification.

Nigerian combat units do many times find themselves fighting with terrorists or even bandits, armed with weapons with superior fire power than what they themselves are carrying. For example, the Nigerian Army has suffered unnecessary heavy casualties for reasons, apart from having saboteurs within their ranks, such as using thin-skinned vehicles as mode of transportation in battle against fast running Hilux SUV or motor cycle, mounted terrorists or bandits, armed with Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs). This has led to the entrapment of Nigerian soldiers in the enemy’s laid ambush killing ground. One of the best prevention against this Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) kind of tactics is the long overdue need for adequate number of Mine Resistant and Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.

The soldiers have poor military equipment and hardware in general and poor maintenance culture. Even with the little Nigerian Army’s equipment, there appears to be no effective line of military hardware, maintenance. Possession of an efficient line of equipment maintenance will help combat units to be able to be quickly repaired and put back for operational use in the battle field

The military has a high impact of corruption on the allowances and welfare of fighting troops and on the quality of their arms. Besides, mid-career and junior officers, the rank and file (that is the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and the other ranks) feel that the war in which most of their colleagues have lost their lives has become a source of embezzlement of public funds by some of their top senior officers.

No doubt,  PMB’s persistent double standard, absence of sincerity of purpose and consequently, lack of the political will to address the national security threat arising from AK47 armed Fulani militia’s numerous and continuing invasions, rapes and displacement of indigenous Hausa and Middle Belt people from their ancestral lands is a contributory factor. There are also these terrorists probing attacks in the three Southern regions.

A soldier in the war front, sacrificing his existential life becomes heavily disturbed when he hears that his family and home community are being attacked by his C-in-C’s kith and kin. And PMB’s government whose primary responsibility is the provision of security and welfare is treating these invaders many of whom (in the words of the President himself and Kaduna Governor El-Rufai,) are “foreign invaders” is dis heartening. The armed Fulani militia is recently attacking and murdering innocent children, women and men of Southern Kaduna farming communities.

Due to the undue politicians’ interference in the processes of recruitment into the Armed Forces and admission of officer cadets into the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA), we have a high proportion of personnel of the Armed Forces who went into the military for reasons which do not make them patriotic combat soldiers or sailors or air men. It’s these kinds of opportunists who would, when the going gets tough, opt out of military service.

The declaration of war is long overdue as this would necessitate a war budget. PMB can learn from General Yakubu Gowan’s employment of, on the basis of merit, a statesman like Chief Obafemi Awolowo to design and mid-wife the war budget and the required financial self-discipline. An economist like Bismarch Rewane can also on the basis of merit be head hunted to join the present Honorable Minister of Finance to manage the war-focus economy.

PMB will be creating a legacy for himself, his children and grandchildren, by giving Nigerians the inalienable human right of determining how their Nigerian State is to be constituted. It’s a pity that the Nigerian leaders cannot see the connection that exists between the lack of a legitimate Nigerian national constitution and the recurring national insecurity. A legitimate national constitution is one that has been approved by referendum conducted in each of the regions or states, or provinces of the nation state.

What else is not being done right?

The answer to the question, what else is not being done right can be found in the under mentioned response of what is necessary to be done to make Nigerians and residents of Nigeria feel secure and safe. The highlights of what’s necessary to be done will be broken into what’s immediately needed to be done and what’s in the medium or long term would be required. For a holistic answer to your question, we will consider many levels of national security challenges management that need to put into effect.

There are problems with politicians who are to give political leadership to the armed forces war efforts.  This is the highest management of national security.

We need to look at the higher management of defense and the national security responsible for determining the military strategic direction and also the high command responsible for the tactical executions of military plans

There are many things PMB needs to do. What’s necessary to be done needs to be examined in terms of the immediate necessities, the medium term and long-term needs?

There are actions the commander-in-chief need to carry out. He needs to improve the presidency decision making processes by urgently setting up results oriented national security Threats Assessment Group (TAG) so that responses to challenges are well informed by sound actionable intelligence.

He should also establish Aso Rock in-house ‘War Room’ in which a carefully selected Crisis Management Think Tank (CMT2) using the intelligence assessment produced by TAG to brain-storm and come up with a well thought out draft of the spiritual, psychological, social, political and economic security strategy for the National Security Council (NSC), which the President presides over.

The crisis management think tank should be   made up of eminently qualified national security studies, defense Economists, politicians (both national and international), emeritus military Generals and Intelligence Services officers  who should be chaired by a statesman. I;m talking about people like Professors Bolaji Akinyemi or George Obiazor.

PMB also needs to make appointments solely on the basis of merit, a two-star, Major General, Principal General Staff Officer (PGSO) or the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President equivalent, to manage the Aso-Rock War Room and be the facilitator of the C-in-C’s 24/7 contact with the operations commanders in the war fronts.

Buhari should set up a more effective command and control of the Armed Forces so as to curtail the inter-services rivalry that is impacting negativity on the Nigeria’s war fighting capability. Towards doing this, a distinction needs to be made between the reporting line of management of military assets for readiness to be used when required on one hand and the chain of command of operations, on the other hand. It is this that calls for a Joint Armed Forces Operations command for better co-ordinations of the armed forces war efforts.

Moreover, he should approve within three months, the conceptualized spiritual, psychological, social, political and economic security strategy draft into a grand strategy. This is a bigger picture, or all-inclusive. This is holistic strategy needs to embrace the considerations of both the Defense against external threats and homeland security, challenges. Whilst Defense relies mainly on the conventional Armed Forces, homeland security will be made up of well trained and armed local-based, civilian Self-Defense Forces (CSDF).

The training and arming of the civilian Joint Task Force in the North East can be a pilot scheme towards making the locals of a community to be in charge of their self-defense. The other example could be the South West, Amotekun initiative which has already begun to be put into action. Social cultural associations and traditional rulers will need to be integrated into the management of these unconventional forces. For example, the Hausas District Head known as Yadakas will need to play a key role in the mobilizing of the appropriate youths into their district’s self-defense force. The grand strategic combination of the conventional Armed Forces and the local civilian self-defense forces who are better acclimatized to their homeland, will certainly improve the war efforts in both the North East and North West regions.

 

What is required of the higher command?

First, the ‘General Staff’ under the chairman of the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) needs to provide the Armed Forces with a long overdue actionable military strategy on how to do away with the military threat the Boko Haram insurgents, the AK47 Fulani militia and the bandits, pose to the North East and North West regions of Nigeria. PMB can no longer ignore the risks that come along with the higher command having no effective military strategy to give meaning to the operational tactics being, or to be, employed in the two North East and North West Theatres of Operations. Lest we forget, for the usefulness of tactics to the winning of a war to be guaranteed, the tactical manuourves must have been anchored on a military strategy that serves as the over-riding guidance of the different operational conducts of the war.

It’s imperative, therefore, that equal weighting is given to both the conventional, and the unconventional warfare aspects of the expected, well drafted military strategy. The higher command cannot continue to use, solely, boxing tactics to fight a wrestling, or kung-fu martial, expert.

What can local people do to help the soldiers in the fight against insurgency?

It is also important that the local people in the Area of Operational Responsibility (AOR) be recruited and trained in unconventional warfare tactics. This is essential to smooth out the asymmetries such as using one boxer to fight 3 wrestlers.

We need to invest in unconventional forces who are recruited from the local people, trained and armed, by the Nigerian Army. These locals need to be the youths of the indigenous Hausa and Middle Belt Communities. They are more acclimatized to the hostile semi desert environment in which a trooper from the North Central, and Southern, regions has often found traumatic. These are places where sand storms reduce visibility to almost nothing. These are parts of Nigeria where men not well trained and do not have the required endurance which allows them to anticipate and react effectively to attacks, cannot survive.

Counter- insurgency operations in the far North require manpower-intensive military operations for the Nigerian State to be able to dominate ground. It is because of the lack of the adequate conventional armed forces that I am emphasizing the employment of trained locals in the war. Muscular regular armies have been found, the world over, to be ill-prepared to counter a bitter insurgency for too long. As has been observed, the Boko Haram insurgents have always avoided attack in a matched competition. They probe points of the Nigerian Army weakness instead, and with the help of their collaborators within the Nigerian Army, they hit.

The second immediate step that needs to be taken is for the Defense Headquarter (DHQ) guided by a sound appreciation of the military threats assessment, and the consequent military strategy to come up with a National Security Planning Guidance (NSPG) which will spell out what’s to be immediately done and what to do in the medium term and to, in long term, put into effect.

Many people are of the opinion that President Buhari is being manipulated. Do you think so?

There is no doubt about that.  Some have been misleading PMB. They are illegitimately and contrary to standing military practices, keeping on, except for the Chiefs of the Air Staff (CAS), the Navy (CNS), and the IGP, non-performing Services Chiefs. It’s noteworthy that except for the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) efforts to win the North East and North West Campaign, the Nigerian State is fast sliding to doom.  One of the Armed Forces Chiefs has indeed, lost much of the trust and goodwill he once enjoyed. The reference is not only to the Nigerian military personnel’s trust but that of most Nigerians. An evidence of this, is the long overdue Senates’ resolution for the Services Chiefs to be replaced. Why does PMB government create problems for itself? Like appointing characters who are known to be chiefs of corruption to lucrative offices and expecting them to run the offices transparently.

An example of Buhari’s fighting corruption without tackling its structural root cause is the conveniently setting aside the built in checks and balances in the resources allocation and procurement of military hardware in the Ministry of Defense (MOD). This has given some Services Chiefs free access to public funds.

So corruption is impacting the fighting capacity of Nigerian soldiers?

The Service Chiefs receive allocations. They are themselves the buyers of their armed forces’ needs  and  the same time, accountable only to themselves after they have met the cabal and the relevant national Assembly Committee’s conditions. By these kind of ongoing corruption practices, the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) is made powerless in a Defense Headquarters (DHQ) where he’s supposed to be the boss. And what’s worst, the Permanent Secretary (PS) is made to be the Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) of the MOD only so in name. So,  instead of the head office of the MOD being the one to oversee resources allocation within the Federal Government department  and being in charge of the procurement of the services’ approved needs, whilst each of the three services do the check-out, to ensure that what they had specified to be procured, and the quality, are up to their expectations, a Service Chief is now like an accuser of a crime being the judge of his own court trial.

It’s this witnessing  or perception that funds allocated for the right military equipment purchases, and funds allocated for the far-North theatre of war operations are being embezzled, that is, one of the major causes of low morale.

Another form of corruption causing disgruntlement within all the military, intelligence services, the Police and the immigration services is nepotism and its consort, favoritism. The nepotistic way some people are being favored in the areas of recruitment into the services, promotion, postings particularly appointment to positions that are seen as lucrative is a major cause of the loss of interest in their military profession by many Middle Belt, South West, South South, South East and increasingly Hausas, military personnel.

The most discouraging to the Hausas, Middle Belt, South West, South South, and South East, soldiers have been their sacrificing their own lives for the Nigerian State and being rewarded with the persistent killings of their children, wives and aged parents or family members, by AK47 armed Fulani militia. There are evidences of invasion, rape of women, killings of children, burning of the houses of the indigenous Hausa and Middle Belt land owners, and in the rest of the federation. The Middle Belt, Hausas and the Southern regions people are fed up with the repeated unfulfilled promises to safe guard their lives and properties.

So, how would you sum up the Nigerian State under the watch of this government?

The credibility of Nigerian State under PMB’s watch is being grossly undermined by at least one of his close associates. PMB needs to restore the credibility of his fight against corruption.  The foregoing highlights of the tip of the ice-berg plus what our younger brother, Alhaji Dokubo Asari had recently said about the hypocrisy in the Buhari’s war against corruption is as good as what I can additionally say. I have sent you the video of Asari’s intervention. I hope the reference to Asari answers the question on: why are the top Niger Delta leaders keeping silent on the issue of NDDC probe?

What has been pointed earlier are the dark clouds that have darkly beclouded the possibility of PMB hitherto understanding the grand strategic visions.

Whilst wide spread affection remains for the military mid-career and junior officers, the rank and file, the Nigerian people’s faith in the Service Chiefs has been severally wounded, especially for the events on ground which the Hausas and Middle Belt and other people from the south  are experiencing. There are the openly available evidences of PMB treating the AK47 armed Fulani as sacred cows.

The Chief of Army Staff is perceived as sending soldiers into areas of operations without, not only the proper kits but proper intelligence. That is, blindfolded and to worsen the matter, there are leakages of intelligence about troops movement to the Boko Haram areas.

With respect to the ordinary soldiers, the war areas deployed forces have in spite of the odds against them, been performing above average. The problems of the Armed Forces are bad leadership, under-weaponized, under-manned and over-stretched. The ISWAP cum Boko Haram are diverting the military attention to the North West so as to over-stretch the military in the NW and NE regions.

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