Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Military under fire over Boko Haram response

06 September 2014, 15:34

Lagos - When the new chief of defence staff was appointed earlier this year, he promised a swift end to the deadly violence being waged by Boko Haram extremists.

"If we do our work cohesively, I can tell you we will finish that thing (the counter-insurgency) in no time," Air Marshal Alex Badeh said at his investiture on January 20.

Eight months on, Boko Haram look stronger than ever, having seized towns and villages in the northeast at a rate which has drawn comparisons to Islamic State militants' rapid gains in Iraq.

Also Read:Boko Haram attacks 'a challenge to sovereignty'

The military in contrast seems far from cohesive: some soldiers have reportedly refused to deploy, complaining they are ill-equipped to fight the better-armed rebels.

Hundreds of others are said to have shouldered arms and fled their posts; salaries have reportedly gone unpaid; and soldiers left without proper food. The military denies the claims.

On Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned that the worsening security situation must be reversed.

"The reputation of Nigeria's military is at stake," she told a bilateral security meeting in Abuja. "But more importantly, Nigeria's and its children's future is in jeopardy.

"Failure is not an option."

'It is shameful'

Nigeria has one of Africa's largest militaries.

There are 80,000 personnel on active service and 82,000 paramilitaries, according to the International Institute of Security Studies' "The Military Balance 2014".

Out of this year's federal budget of 4.962 trillion naira ($30 billion, 23 billion euros), 968 billion naira or nearly 20 percent went to defence -- the highest since the 1967-1970 civil war.

Boko Haram is estimated to have between 6,000-8,000 fighters and is largely reliant on criminality for funding and looting the places it attacks, including military barracks.

Also Read:Probe Boko Haram alleged sponsors now, says human rights lawyer

Why the militants appear to have the upper hand has left many Nigerians baffled and politicians demanding answers.

"This is not the military that we used to know," said one former officer, who participated in Nigeria's first military coup in January 1966.

"How can a rag-tag group of dissidents overpower trained Nigerian soldiers? It is shameful," he told AFP. "Our military are just wallowing in self-denial."

Years in the making?

The military woes are all too predictable for some.

Former army general-turned-lawmaker Ahmed Saleh believes the rot set in after a failed coup attempt against military ruler Ibrahim Babangida in 1990.

Babangida got rid of experienced senior officers and handed more control to the military high commands in Abuja, leading to "decay" in the ranks in terms of training and skills, he said.

Front-line operations were impossible without weapons and ammunition shortages, he was quoted as saying in the media on Friday.

Also Read: Warplanes strike Boko Haram in Borno State

"We have a duty to rebuild the armed forces and unless we understand these basic facts, we are not going anywhere," he added.

The IISS said that despite refit and repair programmes in recent years, much of Nigeria's defence equipment is "unfit to be deployed for prolonged periods of time".

Procurement has not focused on counter-insurgency while analysts blame widespread graft and management failures for the lack of improvement, despite the increases in defence spending.

Some reports have said less than $100 million of the nearly $2 billion defence budget actually gets to deployed troops.

Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst with Red24 risk consultants, said the fact that members of Nigeria's "anti-Boko Haram" unit - the 7th infantry division - had refused to deploy was telling.

It showed "just how poorly the insurgency is being addressed from a military perspective", he said.

Demoralising effect

Virginia Comolli, a West Africa security and extremism specialist at the IISS, said she was unsurprised that the military was demoralised and struggling to defeat Boko Haram.

The better equipped rebels were gaining confidence and beginning to fight more like a conventional army, "intimidating (and possibly) overwhelming... the soldiers battling them", she added.

Rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detention and torture, have meanwhile eroded civilian trust in the military, losing them a vital intelligence asset.

Also Read: U.S. plans security programme for Nigeria

On Friday, the military indicated that it recognised the seriousness of the situation, calling the insurgency a threat to national sovereignty that needed to be reversed.

Cummings suggested, however, that regional support was now more important than ever, given the frequent cross-border raids from camps outside the country.

Without regional help, "it is likely that Boko Haram will continue to expand its operational presence across Nigeria's northeast and possibly into neighbouring countries", he said.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...