This screen grab image taken on January 2, 2018 from a video released on January 2, 2018 by Islamist group Boko Haram shows Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaking in his first video message in months amid a surge in violence casting doubt on the Nigerian government’s claim that the jihadist group is defeated. Shekau’s message comes during an acceleration of Boko Haram attacks and just days after the jihadists killed 25 people outside Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Islamist insurgency. / AFP PHOTO
You just came back from the North-East alongside some of your colleagues amid the resurgence of Boko Haram. It is 10 years since the insurgency started. How was it there?
Well, the narrative is not too different from the information we already have out there. We did observe that the issue actually borders on the same lines of manpower deficit, funding, logistics, equipment welfare and maybe training. We did observe that funding is at the centre of whatever deficit we are talking about. We arrived at a conclusion that we, as a nation cannot rely exclusively on budgetary allocations to fund our defence sector. There is going to be some level of out-of-the-box thinking to be able to identify other sources of funding and see how we could exploit them. For instance, we could leverage on the success of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund to establish a National Security Trust Fund for the defence sector. By doing this, we could manage, to say, one per cent of the gross earnings of the various IOCs (international oil companies), banks, formal and informal sectors and even citizens should go into the fund. If everyone contributes just one per cent of his gross earning, this will go a long way to address issues we are having in our defence and national security, Secondly, we could try to establish a military investment complex by leveraging on the Chief of the Army Staff initiative on vehicle manufacturing and combat protection equipment. We could also harness all sorts of the instrumentality of national power to build our own military-industrial complex. All these will go a long way in helping the funding. We could look inwards just like the President has said that the law enforcement agents should source their uniforms locally. The same thing could apply to boots and other security uniform accessories. Looking at the manpower sector, we observed that there is a serious manpower gap waiting to be filled.
Still, on the manpower gap, you spoke about, I know that you have always spoken about enlisting retired military personnel back into service. Do you still stand by that suggestion?
I sold this opinion to the members of my team. I said that some of our current reserve elements could be drafted back into service with some attractive incentives to help in a short term, to address the manpower issue we have, while, in the long run, we look at how we can strengthen our training institutions by establishing some of them in different parts of the country, and expand their capacity so that, rather than just having a few of those training institutions, we will just be training up to two or three times in a year, so that 8, 000 to 9, 000 men, fresh recruits, could be trained to fill the manpower deficit. One thing we need to understand also is that the present Chief of Army Staff has established more Army units in the states. However, they remain minimal because there is a need for serious manpower strengthening in all these formations that we have established, but that is to say that it is commendable because it is the first step to doing manpower review, and, as a matter of fact, to be more pronounced. By so doing, we hasten to put in place the way to address it because, as it is, the level of urgency attached to the first generation to meet manpower development in Nigeria does not meet a commendable level, not until we sort this out for a long term. That was our observation and also including equipment and logistics.
Is this really enough to tackle the challenges?
As a matter of fact, equipment and logistics can never be enough when you run an army during wartime, because, along the line, if the enemy or insurgent decides to come with far more superior armaments, that means we have to go shopping for more superior armaments. The situation on the ground is that the firepower from our men might be inferior to the firepower from Boko Haram insurgents because we are a regular and professional army. The weapons we carry, our lines of engagement and so on are informed and dictated by our operational tenets. And the lines of action or whatever drives your action is also regulated by the rules of your engagement, professional cadres and ethics. All these regulations, the insurgents do not have because they are not professionals, but some ragtag elements that came together with sudden intent; and here they are executing it. For instance, you can see them firing an aircraft weapon on human beings, using it in what we call ‘direct role’ which is against the dictates of the law of war, rules of engagements and others.
These are some of the things we observed that some of our men are suffering, who are just disciplined, professionals and the regular army. We also saw the insurgents picking on the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations who were treating wounded people because they are not professionals. On the issue of welfare, troops in the forward lines are paid N1,000 as operational allowance per day. We think this is not fair enough for a man who lays down his life for the nation to receive just N30,000 for a whole month. It doesn’t boost their morale because whatever that they are being paid for is statutorily voted for and the military authorities cannot go beyond that.
Do you think we need a new strategy to win the war against terrorism?
Whatever strategy we need now requires out-of-the-box thinking. I must tell you this, what is done now is what any regular commander would still put on the ground. For instance, we are yet to attain our separate end states in joint force integration up till this moment. I expect to see far more synergy between the air and the land components. Such synergy will go a long way in impacting positively within war theatre because the air force has actually become an invaluable tool now. We badly need it.
Who initiated the trip and how many of you were actually in the team that went to the North-East to observe the operations of the military against Boko Haram insurgents?
The trip was actually initiated by my humble self,
and I got into a discussion with my colleagues on how my security company
wanted to go to the North-East to see what is going on there. To my surprise,
they were interested, alongside other security companies and NGOs. We came
together and planned and commenced our journey. It is a fruitful venture
because it changed the perspective from which a good number of my colleagues
who were on that trip were looking at the entire performance of the military in
the North-East. Now they have a better sense of appreciation and this will
impact on the way they comment on the situation in the North-East. Unlike in
the past, people were just commenting blindly.