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An Army at War: A Case for Better Funding


Nigerian Army soldiers are seen driving on a military vehicle in Ngamdu, Nigeria, on November 3, 2020. (Photo by Audu Marte / AFP)

Many Nigerians have been led astray by lopsided representations in the media to believe that the Nigerian Army is an entity that leverages any chance it gets to trample on the rights of ordinary civilians. False information has also been widespread that the army has not done remarkably well in the protracted fight against Boko Haram insurgents. These are views designed to deliberately undermine the drive of the Nigerian military.

We have nonetheless seen the consistent altruism of the Nigerian Army in its efforts at keeping the country together and making all attempts to secure the country from attacks from individuals and organizations with varied interests. It will be a case of deliberate negligence on the part of any keen observer to discredit the efforts of the Nigerian Army in its fight against insurgency and insecurity over the years.

Thousands of Boko Haram terrorists have been pushed back and silenced. The military has intercepted innumerable offensives, and destroyed major operation hideouts of the sect in the Northeast.

The fact that there is little or no information flying around about bombings and the incessant killings by Boko Haram insurgents in recent times, unlike in the past, shows that significant success has been made. The army has, therefore, shown its capacity to deliver results when necessary measures are put in place by the Nigerian Government.

For some of those who believe the Nigerian Army has only maintained a thin line between securing the Nigerian polity and protecting lives and property, following the protracted fight against insurgency, it is important to note that the task before the army has largely been upset by funding. The funding of the Nigerian Army no doubt has been forthcoming, but it has only been less than proportionate to the demands of the sort of engagements needed in the space of asymmetrical warfare.

Though the army has dealt decisively with the insurgents in various contexts of engagement, its lack of adequate equipment caused by deficient funding has largely accounted for the protraction of the war against insurgency.

Recently, Senator Ali Ndume stated that ‘some of the bandits operate with AK49, the latest AKs, while the Army is still using AK47.’ He added that ‘the money that was supposed to be given to them to buy equipment, buy arms and ammunition, procure certain kits for them, only 64% of that money was released. In fact, on top of that, it was 50% that was released in July 2020. The second batch of it was released this week.’

This altogether reveals that funding is a reason behind the inability of the Nigerian Army to live up to its full potential.

Developed countries like the United States boast of one of the best armed forces in the world because they exhaustively fund their military, which is further complemented by advancement in technology. If it is better funded, the same feats of success undoubtedly can be achieved with the Nigerian Army that has shown remarkable potential.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommend at least 1.5 percent of a nation’s GDP on security. The recommendation was for countries without security issues. For a country with security challenges, the spending on the Nigerian military has witnessed a decline over the last five years.

In 2015, Nigeria’s gross military spending was $2.07 billion which was a 12.39% decline from 2014. The defence budget saw a 16.57% decline in 2016 with an estimate of $1.72 billion. This is followed by a 5.92% decline in 2017 with a budget estimate of $1.62 billion. 2018 witnessed a 26.02% increase with an estimate of $2.04 billion. The defence budget in 2019 however saw a significant -8.95% drop with an estimate of $1.8 billion, and an estimate of $1.2 billion in 2020.

With an allocation of N31.97 billion, the Nigerian Air Force took the largest share of the Ministry of Defense’s total Capital Expenditure Ceiling of N120.04 billion for 2021. The Nigerian Army followed with N27.87 billion, while the Navy got N12.04 billion.

The allocations were from the N13 trillion 2021 National Budget. The Senate Committee on Army however countered the 2021 allocated proportion to the Nigerian Army. The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ali Ndume, argued that the spate of insurgency and other related issues of insecurity in the country show that the Nigerian Army still has a lot to do especially in the trenches and tactical research and training to challenge head-on the new realities of insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, and divisive ethnic warlords spread across the states of the federation. Ndume maintained that as one of the most important agencies of government, the Nigerian Army required adequate funding to successfully carry out its mandate.

He, therefore, described the N27 billion capital allocations as grossly inadequate…‘in a budget of N13 trillion and in a period of crisis.’

Ndume further posited that the Nigerian Army was operating in 33 states and so required all the assistance it needed particularly in terms of funding in order to meet up with its primary duty of securing lives and property across the Nigerian polity. Moreover, as part of his six recommendations to the FG following the recent killings of rice farmers by Boko Haram insurgents, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State averred that there is a need to provide the police and the military with premium quality armoured personnel carriers, and other related equipment.

Other related equipment will include drones which can act as eyes in the sky. Such equipment will facilitate surveillance of the territory and alert the villagers of impending Boko Haram attacks from miles away.

These ‘eyes’ do not need to be manned as they require hands controlling them from a control room. The use of drones reduces the risk to the human pilot and preserves the human and financial resources used to train and transfer know-how to soldiers. Drones can also go beyond its surveillance purposes.

According to an analyst, ‘the wide variety in types of UAV [unmanned aerial vehicles] makes them suitable for both surveillance and combat missions, with low-cost models able to conduct surveillance operations, opening up the capability for militaries with a smaller budget.’

Predator drones were used to capture Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader, from the skies. The US has since deployed drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria in various missions in the war against terrorism.’

In January 2020, the US reportedly deployed a drone that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, an Iranian General whom the US Pentagon stated had plotted ‘to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.’

In the past, it would have taken a covert operation or a major and sometimes chaotic planting of an explosive device with the potential of killing innocent citizens; but the drone was programmed to find Suleimani and eliminate him without stretching the number of casualties. Weaponised drones, especially Reaper drones, are not cheap.

Experts opine that the starting price for the technology is about $15 million per unit, with more for adds-on. This is aside the training and the crews needed to pilot them.

This is the kind of drone that can be used to take down Mohammed Shekau and the top echelon of the Boko Haram and ISWAP, having garnered enough intel on their physical appearance, face, and mapping of their location per time.

It is important to acquire such sophisticated weapons of war, and this requires significant funding.

The expectations of the Nigerian people are well within the capabilities of the Nigerian Army. It remains equipped with the technical and combative knowledge that it used to bring peace back to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and in other peacekeeping missions.

The Nigerian Army is even more passionate about the grave pockets of threats in the North-East and the North-West as reflected in its open engagements with the media about its intelligence and funding constraints.

Nevertheless, in order to achieve the progress that the Nigeria people clamour for in the fight against insurgency, and banditry, there is a need to prioritise security funding.

Prioritising national security is important, but meeting it up with exhaustive funding is decisive in achieving victory. The nation cannot afford to underfund its army at a crucial time like this.

A significant increase in the budget for the military is a sine qua non in the war against insurgency. The relevant authorities should make the funds available on time because the procurement process for the military takes a longer time than other procurement circles in the budgetary system.

All other things being equal, there is no better motivation for a skilled soldier than the availability of sophisticated armoury, technology, and intelligence to combat threats to the sovereignty of the nation, and to secure the peaceful coexistence and prosperity of his countrymen and women.

(Chinedu Ibiam is a security consultant based in Enugu).

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