The raging insecurity across the country and the insurgency being perpetrated by Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) will continue to linger, as long as the Federal Government and the military authorities refuse to change tactics and yield to advice by experts.
Those were the views of some retired military chiefs and paramilitary personnel, who opined that there had been so much duplication in military operations and lack of synergy among the armed forces and their sister organisations. First to fire a salvo is a former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State and a member of the Transition Committee for President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2015 inauguration, Colonel Yakubu Bako (rtd), who explained that enthusiasm towards the Buhari administration had waned, owing to failed expectations.
Bako also noted that the Service Chiefs, who were new in 2015, were ready to make their impacts felt as of then, but now, have no new strategy to offer, having been in the position for five years, explaining that they have been sustaining the same levels of operations in the war. According to him, the troops waging the war on insurgents are also not adequately motivated and not armed with modern and sophisticated equipment, while also insisting that there is no encouragement as they see the way their retired superiors live.
He said: “In terms of sabotage, I think it has to do with the present system of oparmserations. It is an unnecessary strategy, we repeat the same thing and that brings about sabotage because the soldiers are saying we have done this before, so what next? “During our time, there was no strategy like ‘repel’.
In the NDA, there isn’t anything like a repel strategy, there was nothing like that. It is either you attack or you defend, and the best form of defence is attack. When you are overwhelmed, you can retreat and then re-attack, that’s what we were taught. “I have seen lots of duplications here and there, you have Operation Safe Haven, Operation Crocodile Dance, operations this, operations that.
All these operational strategies; are they under the GOC of that area of operations or they are independently answerable to Chief of Army Staff or Chief of Air Staff? “Lack of synergy is part of the problems we are facing in trying to tackle insurgency in Nigeria.
I expect the intelligence agencies; the Office of National Security Adviser (NSA), the military intelligence, Naval and Air Force, including the police and the DSS, to come together and map out the roles they are going to play”, he said.
Expect more attacks -Nyiam
On his part, a military strategist and one of the survivors of the 1990 coup d’etat, Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd) warned that there may be more terrorists’ attacks in the country while blaming the prolonged battle on lack of proper coordination and inter-service rivalry. Nyiam, while advocating the restructuring of the Nigeria Armed Forces to promote competence and better performance, said these factors were impacting negatively on Nigeria’s counter insurgency war which had lingered for almost a decade.
“With the reorganisation of their (Boko Haram/ISWAP) command and an overstretched army, we should expect more terrorists’ attacks. There is no effective planning guidance by which the Army and Air Force are conducting the theatres of military operations. The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) that should have ensured effective synergy had been made redundant.
“This absence of the necessary unified command has left the air forces and the land forces operating independently of one other. This is contrary to the universally acceptable practice. The plan for the use of air power has to be in sync with the ‘ground forces’. “It’s because of this repeated no cooperation between the Army and Air Force that the expected follow up of the Nigerian Army ground forces has been missing. The operations at the war theatre have been in a sorry state”, he said.
Nyiam also blamed the lack of cooperation on the politicisation of the military and promotion of clannish and primordial sentiments in the appointment of service chiefs and even the posting of field commanders at the front lines. He said that these defects in the military command and control structure have resulted in the insurgents growing stronger in their capacity to attack both civilian and military targets while lamenting that, rather than the military exterminating the terrorists and insurgents, Boko Haram and others appear to be gaining more grounds.
Nyiam also advised that, given the precarious situation in the country, President Buhari ought to have taken a cue from the pro-active steps of his Chadian counterpart, President Idriss Deby, who fired his ‘non-performing’ service chiefs after a brutal attack on Chadian troops. He also said that Nigeria could also borrow a leaf from Boko Haram, which had been changing its field commanders, in order to get more results in their war against Nigeria.
‘Adopt guerrilla strategy’
In the same vein, a former Assistant Director (Legal Services) at the Defence Headquarters and pioneer commandant, Nigeria Army School of Legal Studies, Kaduna, Brigadier General Godwin Anyalemechi (rtd), urged the military to consider the adoption of guerrilla warfare strategy, in order to defeat terrorism and other acts of criminality in the country, especially within the North East.
Anyalemechi also charged governments at all levels on the urgent need to create employment opportunities for the teeming youth population in the country, saying the current situation was fuelling drug addiction, alcoholism and other negative vices. “I do not subscribe to the view that insurgency has become a part of our national system, but what is making people feel it has come to stay is what I am trying to tell you.
The fact that there is unemployment, there is a growing youthful population, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. “If the government can provide jobs and other basic amenities, people will live their normal lives and insurgency will die a natural death”, the retired General said. On what he thinks the military can do differently to end insecurity, he said; “I don’t think that we are going to change tactics. We are not going to change tactics because, if you are changing tactics, what tactics are you going to adopt apart from the nonconventional system, which is used to fight guerilla warfare.
“These are guerrillas. You can’t adopt the conventional system because they are guerrillas. You defeat them at the warfront; they go to your back. You think they are in front, they are not. You think they are in Maiduguri, but they have gone back to Bama. “When you clear them you think you have cleared them but the infiltrators would have already gone in.
It’s not like a conventional warfront where you will say you are waiting on this sector. At times, people you call your friends become your enemy at night, so it is not something you will say you can change your tactics. “You are still going to follow them with the guerrilla system.
It is the guerilla system that we can adopt that can suppress them. We cannot win these people with arms because what they use to fight is not the conventional arms. They use bombs that they can manufacture. “Are we talking about international laws when people are dying? International law can be kept aside, because they themselves who are not respecting international laws are only bound by rules of engagement.”
Insurgency has come to stay
This was as a former State Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mike Ejiofor, feared that insurgency may have come to stay in the country as, according to him, “government is not taking the fight seriously”. Ejiofor said it would be difficult to win the war with what he described as “uncoordinated approaches” by the Federal Government. “Of course insurgency has come to stay with us.
The end is not in sight because the government is not taking the fight seriously. If we want to succeed in this war, we need to be adequately equipped. How can we be looking at the war to end when soldiers are now resigning? They are leaving because of lack of equipment, lack of training, lack of welfare.
“Recently, the President told us that we are receiving arms, only to be contradicted by the Minister of Information, that we are not getting cooperation from foreign countries. So with such uncoordinated approaches, how do you expect that we will win the war? “But everything is possible, if we change our approach. The National Assembly, the governors forum, interest groups, civil society, have fought for the removal of the Service Chiefs. At least, that will inject fresh ideas.
We can defeat terrorism -Alobi
Disagreeing, a former Commissioner of Police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lawrence Alobi, argued against the position that insurgency may not go any time soon, while noting that with the huge investment in procurement of equipment, the scourge would soon be defeated. The retired CP called for resilience on the parts of government and the citizenry, even as he urged the government to ensure adequate funding of the Police, which is the lead agency in internal security. “Insurgency has not come to stay, it will go one day. We should be optimistic, determined and resilient so that we can fight insurgency. We should not give up the fight.
The resilience should come from both the government and the people. It’s not only the government that will fight insurgency, the citizens have a role. Asked what the government could do differently, Alobi said the government should fund the security agencies. He opined that the problem lingered because the security agencies, especially the police, that are charged with internal security are being systematically destroyed. “Just like the tree, the tap root is the one that supports the tree, other roots are just supporting.
The police are the tap root of internal security. They have destroyed the police; there is lack of training, no capacity, no payment, no funding, and no motivation. “The police have been destroyed and invariably, they are destroying the internal security of the country. Give the police the required capacity, equipment, training, motivation and required manpower that they need and public support.
“Outside this country, the police have always excelled, but in Nigeria, because the environment is always hostile, the citizens are hostile to the police. The government is neglecting the police, so the police suffer and insecurity subsists and it has contagious effects and the citizens suffer. If they want to fix insecurity, fix the police and the entire insecurity would be over”, he said.