Since the crisis that engulfed the North Eastern part of Nigeria started, there has been mourning in many families, communities, states and even across almost all the regions of the country. Nigeria has also lost a good number of military officers while thousands of civilian casualties have been recorded.
When the President declared a state of emergency in three states in order to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency, many Nigerians were a bit relieved that the end to the problem was near. Months after however, the war with the terrorist group rages on with the group focusing more on innocent civilians. Villages, members of vigilante teams as well as students have suffered deadly attacks from the Boko Haram sect.
What has become the subject of many debates is whether Nigeria’s military forces are capable of winning the war against terror or not.
Findings have shown that some factors are responsible; with both the government and the military partly to blame for the inability to successfully quash the rebellious group. One of the factors is the politicization of the war in some areas. There are allegations that some “powerful” politicians are behind the group. Political statements are being made on a daily basis, further laying credence to insinuations that some forces are more powerful than the state.
The absence of a substantive Defence Minister is also not helping matters. The Minister for Defence should be someone who will be able to decipher military language, so that the Defence Ministry will live up to its billing. Presently, it is an open secret that the Ministry of Defence is not operating at its full potential.
Operational deficiencies especially within the chain of command has also given the terrorists more confidence in the war. For instance, it recently became obvious that the anti-terror fighting force had grossly under-stocked armouries. General Mohammed Yusuf of the Nigerian Army confirmed that during a gunfight with Boko Haram in Gubio, Borno State in September, soldiers ran out of ammunition and as a result, the country lost an officer and dozens of valiant men. That gave an indication that the terrorists in some cases could be better equipped even than the army as the General disclosed that the terrorists were armed with anti-aircraft guns. One other thing that worked against the soldiers according to findings conducted by Street Journal was that the aerial operation that should have preceded the advancement of the troops was cancelled at the last minute without proper communication with the soldiers who had already advanced.
Though military spokesman, Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru has stated that the terrorists are not better armed than Nigerian troops, findings have revealed that the last time the military authorities acquired weapons in large quantity was years ago, as such, Nigerian forces may be facing terrorists with weapons that may be inferior to what the insurgents carry.
While Nigerians were told that the military repelled an attack on its camp in Borno State some months ago, findings later revealed that the terrorists actually swooped on the military camp and caught the soldiers unaware. While 15 of the terrorists were killed in the shootout that ensued, not less than 12 military men were lost or unaccounted for. Even Abubakar Shekau had the effrontery to claim that his men overran a military camp and soldiers fled. In the video that has been tagged “fake” by military authorities, Shekau claimed that Boko Haram captured an Armoured Personnel Carrier and a Hilux van belonging to the Joint Task Force.
Street Journal’s investigations have revealed that the soldiers that ran out of ammunition were issued 60 rounds of ammunition each as against terrorists that have stockpiles. It was also found out that the issuance of 60 rounds per soldier goes against the Nigerian military’s ordinance that stipulates 150 rounds per soldier in such situations; with room for reserve.
Street Journal’s findings have shown that it even in war situations, Nigerian soldiers are often under-equipped. A Major who was serving in Sudan’s Darfur region was shot after he ran out of ammunition and some of his men were captured by rebels. Street Journal found out that the Major survived and was brought to Nigeria for further treatment. He was however court-martialled while he was still on hospital bed; reason being that his men were captured.
The case was eventually dropped after the Major wrote petitions to the National Assembly stating that he and his men were issued 60 rounds of ammunition in a war situation. The Armed Forces Committees in the National Assembly had to wade in, that has however not changed the situation as officers still have to run after firing the 60th round of ammo.
It is also doubtful whether the Defence Headquarters is aware that soldiers combating insurgents are underequipped despite the funds allocated for military armament.
Human blunders too have been found to be a major causative factor for most of the losses suffered by the military. An example is the August 4 attack on the camp at Malam Fatori. Investigations showed that the army was caught unawares by the Boko Haram terrorists who stormed the camp around 4.30 am. The surprise attack threw the camp into a state of confusion with the terrorists having an edge. It was gathered that the terrorists fired on as they chased fleeing soldiers, some of who ran almost as far as across the Niger Republic border.
The soldiers were obviously not expecting Boko Haram to bring the war to them in their own camp.
In some quarters, there is the belief that the military has not adopted a clear cut strategy of dealing with the insurgents. No strategy to deal with insurgency.
Another factor that is not helping matters is that just like the military, terrorists too have intelligence sections. Some soldiers work with and for the insurgents. While some of their commanders with military backgrounds like Habibu Bama have been taken out, it is fast becoming obvious that there are still soldiers sympathetic to the Boko Haram cause. As long as such soldiers remain in service, the enemy still has an edge.
In terms of policies too, reviews of the present one, if any should be carried out with the military staff colleges, the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies which graduates lots of military officers yearly should work together and draw up plans on how to combat the scourge of terror.