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Lacuna in fighting terrorism in Nigeria

08 September 2014, 10:42 Sagir Musa

In the current security challenges facing Nigeria, the need for the entire nation to garner and sustain national and international support for the fight against terrorism by the nation’s military and other security agencies is indispensable to destroying terrorism. It is instructive to know that the Nigeria Armed forces are in the battlefield fighting the most difficult and challenging battle - fighting insurgency - asymmetric warfare with an enemy that usually strikes in built up areas. Fighting in built up areas is tasking, cumbersome and hazardous.

There is limited view of space and fire, visibility and maneuverability is limited and ambush attrition losses are high. Buildings provide good sniping posts, while alleys, refuse dumbs and sand filled streets like in most of the north east are ideal for booby-traps. This contributed to the lost of military and other security personnel on a periodic basis through ambushes staged by terrorists.

Therefore, a nation facing this type of insecurity require all and sundry to cooperate and support her security agencies and the government to destroy terrorism/insurgency. Despite the important roles of the media to the success of this war, there is seeming lacuna in this regard. The media support and encouragement needed to slate the insurgency in Nigeria has left so very much to be desired and that is what I see as a LACUNA in fighting terrorism in Nigeria.  

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The lack of the required media support and cooperation stemmed from the way the Nigerian media reports on terrorism and military anti and counter operations. The Nigerian media coverage of terrorism in Nigeria seems to be a deep rooted reflection of the historical event which have guided military and media relationship up to today. After all, many correspondents for many years have shared the same real or putative challenges that field reporters do today, such as a perceived lack of access and censorship by the military.

Correspondingly however, on a scale unprecedented in our history, politics and propaganda becomes criteria in news coverage of the military’s fight against insurgency. And by so doing the media seems to have resorted to poor coverage of military operations due to lack of balance or context, lack of context as a result of brevity, lack of knowledge on the part of the reporters, over emphasis on sensational (poor) news at the expense of substance, context and bad news judgment - some are openly political and partisan. Thus, media’s poor reportage of military operations in Nigeria has gradually and effectively buries major successes achieved by the military in the war against insurgency and negatively affected local and international support required to successfully prosecute the war. It also negatively affected the morale and fighting spirit of troops in the field.

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It is on record that between October 2012 to March 2013, the military has successfully downgraded terrorist activities in Nigeria but subsequent development could somehow not guarantee the sustenance or exploitation of those efforts. Hence, terrorist’s activities resurfaced in a more organized, daring and most dangerous dimensions. Because of lack of knowledge, focus, context and balance, the media could not see through and dissect this development in its proper context or perspective.  Most of the media report on military operations against terrorism are shallow, dubious, politicized and lack perspective - ended up projecting, celebrating and glorifying the terrorists and their activities without commensurate celebration of the successes and challenges of those who stake their lives in defence of the nation.

To ameliorate this, the Nigerian Armed Forces must give sufficient importance on planning for the media and priority directed at public relations. At the moment, It is critically important that the Nigerian military be prepared to fight information warfare. Therefore, in our determination to end insurgency/terrorism, information and public relations has to be a centre of gravity and is as essential an element of mission success, as important as combat multiplier and as crucial as component of building and sustaining combat power as any of the battlefield operating systems – especially when the media like it is in Nigeria - is a significant element of the battle space. It is time for the Nigerian military to accept the media as part of the battle field in its war against terrorism and to understand, plan and prepare for it as it does for other battle elements. The best opportunity to garner and sustain local and international support for the fight against terrorism in Nigeria is by maintaining a cordial relationship with the media. How our military performs this media/public relations ventures will affect the Nigerian and international perception of the military’s/Nigeria’s success in the war against insurgency/terrorism.     

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