Friday, May 16, 2014

Counting the costs of government's inefficiencies: the enervation of the military

Nigeria's Military's  inability to successfully combat and defeat Niger- Delta militants and recently  Boko Haram insurgents belies its success as  ECOMOG's lead peace-keeping force. For a corp that is regarded as the pride of Africa, the army's routing by insurgents illustrates the that the military is unable to perform its primary duty of guarding the nation.I agree with president Jonathan that the army is ill-equipped and that this is due  the neglect of the military by successive  governments. 
The foundation of Nigeria's military pre and post independence  is deeply flawed and rather than  re-build a military that can defend and protect the  nation's territorial integrity, Nigerian governments since 1966  further weakened  her defence corp by delibrate actions and inactions. 
The responses to attacks in the North  reveals that the army is thinly spread, soldiers are poorly trained and underfunded and defence allocations- which forms a huge part of national  budgets (since 2012 over 1.5 trillion was allocated to the military) has been mismanaged. 
A look at Boko Haram's recent attacks show a concentration at Bama,Damboa, Konduga,Gwozo and Chibok areas of Borno State.  Obviously, these areas should be designated hot spots yet the insurgents have successfully attacked these places  over and over again. Even when people on the ground know an attack is imminent, the military is unable to respond and prevent the attack. 
For instance, in the Gamboru attack of the 5th of May, it was reported that the attack occurred 1 hour after the military men stationed at the border left on a tip off about  the location of the missing girls. The attack lasted 12 hours and there was no military response. The revelations arising from the Chibok abduction and previous abductions of females lend credence to military complicity in the attacks. For instance, in the  taped video shared by the insurgents, the leader speaks against a  background of an Armoured Personal Carrier (APC) painted in military colours- first, can this vehicle not be traced? Second, there should be paper trail on the vehicle. This begs the question why there would be military collaborators and the only reasonable suggestion is pecuniary motives. If members of the defence corp willingly aid insurgents, then this has to be the Military's nadir. 
The military has faced challenges since inception. Jim Peter notes that  "the formative years of the army was flawed starting with the British". The military lacked "manpower, mobility, fire and necessary logistical support" as far the the 1950s. 
By 1960, in order to address the gap of  military size relative to Nigeria's population and lack of professional experience, the colonialists embarked on a recruitment drive and employed a quota system that gave the North an advantage.  The colonialists also trained a set of army officers (the majors that conducted the coup, the class of Gowon, Obasanjo, Muritala Mohammed) at the renown Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and The Mons Officer Cadet School. These soldiers returned and were rated above their superiors that did not enjoy  these  trainings. Thus, a rift was created between along ethnicity and cadre levels. The situation was aggravated by the promotions the newly minted officers  enjoyed  with no commensurate professional experience. 
In 1966, the military transitioned from partial involvement in Nigerian politics (The army was involved in the 1964 Tiv crisis, Federal Workers strike and the 1965 election crises in the Western Region) to fully running the show.  Apart from Nigeria's democracy, the other major casuality of the politicization of the military was the military itself.
Rather than develop the professional competence of the military, successive military governments decapacitated the military to prevent counter coups. The transition to democracy in 1999 did little to positively reshape  the military as President Obasanjo undertook reforms that decentralized the powers of the Military. In 2006, a National Defence Policy was enacted but it was neither comprehensive nor implemented. 
What has been the effect of the under-development and politicization of the army? First, the nation has no military strategy. Second, the army is ill-equipped to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria. It can bark but not bite. Sadly this challenge was recognized as recently as 2006 yet nothing was done to address and close this gap.  Late Patrick Azazi ( Former Chief of Army Staff and National Security Adviser) noted that "the key to containing the threats in this dynamic multi-dimensional battlesapce is a total domain awareness... This would entail creating an effective and efficient national C4ISR (command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities to monitor all land, sea and air spaces within the confines of Nigeria's territorial land, air and sea areas.. the defence sector lacks an integrated network that is effect based and ICT driven hence it will be difficult for it to gather information, process it into actionable intelligence and disseminate it in a timely manner". 
Unfortunately, because the nation's defence is weakened, external help has come from the US, UK and Israel- the effects of opening up to foreign military aid remains unseen. 
There is still hope if the government sits up and begins the herculean task of cleaning out and sorting out rather than playing the "opposition" and ethnicity card.
He who sows wind would reap whirlwind. It is 2014 and the nation is reaping the whirlwind of the 1960s- 1990s.  It is time to reverse the tide.