Former Chief of Defence Staff, retired Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, has said that fifth columnists within the military who leaked sensitive information and operational plans to Boko Haram terrorists, constituted the main reason for the relatively unsuccessful war against the terrorist under his command.
Badeh disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja during a ceremony to mark his retirement from the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He said that the terrorists often had prior knowledge of troops movement based on the information given to them by the saboteurs in the military.
As a result, he said, the terrorists would set up ambushes which troops often walked into, thereby, leading to the killing of many soldiers and officers who unknowingly fell into the ambush.
He said: “The activities of fifth columnists in the military and other security agencies who leaked operational plans and other sensitive military information to the terrorist, combined to make the fight against the insurgents particularly difficult.
“The activities of these unpatriotic members of the military not only blunted the effectiveness of the fight, but also led to the needless deaths of numerous officers and men who unwittingly fell into ambushes prepared by terrorists who had advance warnings of the approach of such troops.”
Badeh who described the war against Boko Haram as the most complex and challenging assignment of his 38-year-long career, said the refusal of some foreign countries to sell arms to Nigeria to prosecute the war also hampered the effectiveness of the war against the insurgents.
The ex-CDS said he was faced with the dilemma of leading a military which lacked the modern equipment needed to fight an enemy that was invisible and embedded with the local populace.
Badeh also blamed past governments for neglecting the military over the years and consequently for the partial failure of the campaign, noted that an effective military must be built at peace time.
“Permit me to also add here, that nation’s militaries are equipped and trained in peace time, for the conflicts they expect to confront in the future.
“Unfortunately that has not been our experience as a nation. Over the years, the military was neglected and under-equipped to ensure the survival of certain regimes, while other regimes, based on advice from some foreign nations, deliberately reduced the size of the military and underfunded it.
“Accordingly, when faced with the crisis in the North East and other parts of the country, the military was overstretched and had to embark on emergency recruitments and trainings, which were not adequate to prepare troops for the kind of situation we found ourselves in.
“It is important, therefore, for the government to decide on the kind of military force it needs, by carrying out a comprehensive review of the nation’s military force structure to determine the size, capability and equipment holding required to effectively defend the nation and provide needed security,” he said.
Badeh, however, noted that, in spite of the herculean challenges and low morale, a lot was achieved during his tenure, which he attributed to the fighting spirit of some patriotic troops.