Equipping the armed forces for optimum performance

CDS-BADEHThe revelation in the valedictory speech of retired Chief of Defence Staff  (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, that the military forces with which he fought the Boko Haram insurgency were ill-equipped for the onerous and risky assignment is only a confirmation from the highest military level of what had been widely known within and outside Nigeria. 

But it is useful information against any doubter  and as an explanation of why the Nigerian military that fought so gallantly to  rescue  neighbouring  countries  from  the control of warlords and possible disintegration proved  for so long incapable of  safeguarding its own territorial integrity. 

The situation of insufficiently trained, under-equipped, and poorly motivated soldiers sent to confront well resourced religious zealots who, to boot, were better armed was enough to frighten many a soldier into desertion. 

Not a few actually did and they are now on trial for unprofessional conduct.  Not only the military forces but all Nigerians have been thoroughly disappointed to the point of embarrassment. Thankfully, President Muhammadu Buhari is poised to change the tide.

Marshal Badeh said he headed a military that ‘lacked  the relevant  equipment  and motivation to fight [the] enemy’; that ‘fifth columnists  in the military and other security agencies …leaked operational plans and other sensitive military information  to the terrorists’, and that ‘the activities of these unpatriotic members of the military not only blunted  the effectiveness of the fight but  also led to the needless deaths of  numerous officers and men…’.

On the other hand, with at least a billion dollars (excluding sundry allocations  such as  the  tens of millions of dollars seized by the South African government) that was allocated by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to arm  the military, the erstwhile National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) has insisted that although the military equipment procured in  his time arrived late in the day, still it turned the tide  against the insurgents and  made it possible to regain  most of the  local government areas taken over by Boko Haram.

In reaction to Badeh’s admission, Borno State Elders’ Forum has called for a judicial commission of enquiry into the funding of the military. There is good reason for this. Defence spending has taken a huge chunk of the federal budget in recent years even though Nigerians, at least until now, did not see much to justify this expenses. In the 2012 budget of a N4.749 trillion, defence/security was allocated N921.91 billion. In 2013, N348.91 billion went to defence in a federal budget of N4.92 trillion.

The 2014 federal budget of N4.962 trillion allocated to the defence sector ‘about 20 per cent, totalling N968.127 billion because of the growing insecurity situation in the country’ in the words of the then minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.  Besides this sum, the minister reportedly said that extra  money was being allocated for other requirements that include those for  joint task force and special  operations against terrorism. ‘No amount of budgetary provision can be enough  for the military (because)  the military all over the world  that engages in war does not always have enough particularly in this new type of war against terror which requires equipment to assist them,’ it was said then.  

But firstly, put together over the past several years, these financial allocations constitute a very huge sum that, in a different clime, would make all the difference to whatever it was committed. 

Secondly, the point cannot be made enough  that defence spending  as demanded by the exigencies of the moment must at all times  meet the  highest standard of  probity, transparency, and  value-for- money.  Above all, public money  spent on arms and  other resources must translate to  results on ground meaning that  the  nation’s  military  should be seen to record commensurate success against a relatively rag-tag band of fanatics. While not denying that the insurgency was contained in pitched battle confrontation, Boko Haram changed tactics to focus on soft targets – with terrible impact – in market places, motor parks and places of worship.  

In sum, Nigerians simply did not witness battlefield achievement to match expenditure. That defence spending is considered a national security matter has become an excuse for blatant opacity in such transactions and for anyone with such inclination an opportunity for mindless corruption.

It is gratifying that President Buhari, armed with a military background and experience, has pronounced and even effected a change of tactics against Boko Haram. He has moved the military high command close to the theatre of action and he has taken personal charge of the diplomatic effort to secure the collaboration of neighbouring countries as well as strengthen the regional cooperation necessary for a more comprehensive and more effective engagement of the insurgents.

With a view to capturing the minds of local communities from where the fanatics recruit personnel, he has approved a substantial sum to alleviate the suffering of internally displaced persons. These commendable moves are just one aspect of the fight against Boko Haram.

The other is certainly to ensure that whatever funding goes for defence is in truth spent on the men and the materials required for defending every inch of Nigeria and its people.  The latter may turn out the tougher than the former. If this government is to get the military to perform at its optimum against Boko Haram, Buhari must be prepared to take on and stop corruption in defence spending.

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  • bigbang

    The Nigerian air force is not good.

    We need
    1. More Attack Hellicopters
    2. 4th or 5th generation fighter jets
    3. More Radar systems
    4. Air defense system to protect our air space
    5. Air surveilance technology.

    The strategy should be to use the air force to back the troops on the ground. We need to be more mobile. We also need to redesign DICON for mass production of armored personnel carrier vehicles, ammunition, military uniforms, riffles, night vision goggles, and body armor. We can also export things likes military uniforms, body armor and night vision goggles.

  • Babalakin

    The military top hierarchy should stop lying and putting the blame of their failure to curb Boko Haram on lack of weapons. It’s blatant lies! That Boko Haram that is not an army could give us such big problem is a disgrace to the Nigerian Armed Forces and its leadership especially. Military equipment if well maintain are one of the best designed and manufactured devices in the world and they can be in good operational mode for decades. So all the military hardware we have acquired over decades is not enough to fight Boko Haram? A good maintenance policy would have made the difference in all the weapons the Armed Forces have. Incompetent leadership and corruption (example caring cash in jet to buy arms, COAS looting army funds, poor strategy, poor espirte-de-corp etc) are the cause of losing the fight and not equipment.