By Dr. Peregrino Brimah
I was invited to join a team to brainstorm on the security situation in Nigeria early last year when Boko Haram had made its most dangerous advances, occupying most of Borno state, and daring to attack military barracks’. At this time, Nigeria was on the verge of losing Borno completely to the terrorists.
On May 8th, 2013, we released the article through the media, it was captioned: “Nigeria At War.” It can be recollected that at this time, the president of Nigeria was in Namibia en route to South Africa. With the events in Nigeria including the attacks of military barracks’ and the release of our important intelligence article, the Nigerian president was forced to cut short his trip and return to Nigeria. On May 14th, he declared a State of Emergency.
It can be recollected that during the days between, there was much debate in Nigeria about the need for this, with virtually every politician kicking against the declaration, advising the president not to listen to those advising it who “did not have the interest of the nation at heart,” as our push was categorized.
We still believe our analysis was correct and the state of emergency was the critical course of action at the time; however, it must be pointed out that along with the declaration of the state of emergency, we listed several other recommendations in our prescription which were either partially followed, or not followed at all. This lack of commitment to full action has at this point ended up undermining the effort.
Though long, it is necessary to quote our full eight point recommendations made last May, at a time when we had a different feeling about Nigeria and the government:
Outline Nigeria Must Commence in Full Wartime Response (May 8th, 2013)
1. State of Emergency: Nigeria must immediately declare a full state of emergency in Borno and parts of Yobe States. The governors must be retired for the time being till the situation is put under control. Over 1,600 people have been killed by Boko violence in Borno and about half this figure in Yobe, the two states at the center of the violence.
2. Full military deployment to Borno State to man the borders and coordinate search and eliminate missions into the bordering territories of Chad, Niger and Cameroon, this in concert with Nigeria’s neighbors.
3. Nigeria must immediately engage with the leaders of its North eastern neighbors. The leaders of Niger, Chad and Cameroon have been complacent in seeking out and squashing terrorists’ training camps on their terrain. The failure to take a determinate action against the terrorism brewed on their soil is related to their fear of being prey to Boko Haram. However they must recognize that such a growing threat to Nigeria will soon affect them regardless. Joint military forces must sweep the border areas linking the four countries.
4. Nigeria’s citizens in the north east must be informed to evacuate. Temporary refugee camps should be created to accommodate the families during the war against this rebellion. Borno is a war front and civilians cannot be left in the crossfire till the situation is solved. Nigerians cannot be left to live in a region being taken over by terrorist governments. Marte, Magumeri, Mobbar, Gubio, Guzamala, Abadam, Kukawa, Kaga, Nganzai and Monguno Local Government Areas have largely fallen under Boko control. Evacuating citizens will be properly registered and searched as they depart to permit full combat.
5. Mobilize the full strength of the Nigerian armed forces, Air, Land and Water. Nigeria’s air force must immediately be deployed to Borno. Jet bombers and helicopters must be recruited. The predominant land force cannot combat a superior rebel army without concordant assistance of air operations. Presently the lives of the military are being sacrificed in reckless disregard. No war of the current dimensions are fought without adequate aerial support.
6. Security overhaul including at the very least, acquisition of advanced counterinsurgency hardware and know-how should be prioritized. The national assembly should as a matter of urgency approve a supplemental budget towards this objective
(Drones, Advanced helicopters, Military jets, Armored personnel carriers) Drones: Drones like the ScanEagle can be purchased for just $100,000 a unit. Nigeria should immediately begin the process of procuring surveillance and attack drones. This is affordable and critical.
7. Sealing Nigeria’s Borders. The NewsRescue article of April 12th, fully detailed the insecurity issues of Nigeria’s borders. The current Nigerian government must immediately and aggressively secure its borders and plan long term maintenance of this measure.
8. Prisoners: Arrested Boko Haram fighters are war criminals. They must no longer be imprisoned in the vicinity. We recommend quick expedient trials and prosecutions. We also strongly recommend the transporting of all prisoners outside Nigeria to foreign prisons.
It can be seen reviewing these recommendations that the president of Nigeria and the security department only partially flowed few of them at best. We had recommended the governors be ‘retired’ for the time being. The president of Nigeria was afraid to do that, as he did not have the guts to oppose politician’s desires, even if in the interest of life. Hence he left a situation that was convoluted, with two leaderships and the ability to trade blame and deny responsibility. It was important, as we recommended that the governors were retired for the mean time, otherwise the governors and not Abuja should have been in charge of directing the military operation.
The above appreciated; the time has come again for a renewal of the state of emergency. Of course, once again, the northern governors do not want this. The truth is, this time they have a point. The last state of emergency was not an actual state of emergency; there was no emergency declared in the states. It was simply states with military action and on and off curfews, which can be continued without an official declaration of the three words.
The true position today is different from last year. Very so. Today there is decreasing confidence in the government and unfortunately, also in the current military division in the north. The Joint Task Force was highly effective and worked with the people, gaining their trust and collaborating harmoniously with the Civilian-JTF. This led to remarkable success in eliminating Boko Haram considerably. However for unexplainable reasons, just as the mortal wounding of Shekau was announced August last year, with his death on August 20th, reported by Nigerian and global intelligence departments, the president of Nigeria suddenly withdrew the effective JTF and replaced them with an army division.
The army division was unable to continue the success of the JTF and was also unable to effectively partner with the Civilian-JTF and Boko Haram started forced abductions and conscriptions of more soldiers, effectively recouping. Secondary to this there has been an inevitable development of distrust in the army and the federal government. Coupled with media releases of alleged security sabotage, including pre-attack troop withdrawals and possible troop on troop ambush, the situation and our options for addressing the terror crises are drastically different and must be updated in consideration of these peculiar challenges.
Candidly, more than any other part of Nigeria that clamors for regional control, the affected parts of the northeast should be screaming for this. This is the new, undeniable recommendation for controlling Boko Haram terror. Other regions desire regionalism for resource awuf (abundance), the northeast desperately needs regional control for security and protection of the lives of its citizens if it truly cares about them.
Nigeria fails to function as a nation. We are unable to utilize our security departments and military. Our president lacks the wisdom to direct the administration and to select apt and committed defense ministers and heads of national security. Under control from Abuja, our military mission in the north will not be trusted, will be discombobulated and will not be capable of success. The Nigerian president in Namibia, this 2014, mentioned addressing Boko Haram with ‘kid gloves,’ a 4 years long, well proven deadly rebel force of several thousand fully armed combatants—with kid gloves! Amnesties are still being thrown at these killers. Abuja does not understand the problem in the northeast and avoiding saying they actually are pleased by it, we can confidently say they do not care about it.
There is also not much confidence in our northern politicians. They cannot lead the effort against Boko Haram. It is not a job for fine, manicured men. That’s apart from the governor of Adamawa, rtd. Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako. Nigeria’s north and northeast needs a warrior leader who will work with and arm locals—with the creation of an armed version of the Civilian-JTF, working with the Nigerian military under his command, to finally wipe out Boko Haram once and for all.
This local, Kanuri preferably, military commander, will be the head commander of all affairs of the state(s) for the period of this war. We should forget about our trying to address this as a modern state. We are failed. We cannot even wipe our behind, talk less organize a military response to terror.
Nigeria’s security department is yet to solve a single case of murder, talk less track 100 military uniformed marauders ravaging the middle belt or Boko Haram terrorists. Our departments fail. Our intelligence units fail even in urban combat. Hundreds of cattle are stolen in the heart of Nigeria, carted in Lorries and they cannot be found. 200 girls are stolen in four Lorries in our cities and this can be done successfully and these girls can be hidden successfully too in open forests, and not found.
Spots can exist with over 700 vehicles hidden from the sight of our armed—air forces. The truth is, either the armed forces are sabotaged or they are really not up to the task right now. Right now, our local hunters need to be employed. We need a local, traditional-smart warrior leader to direct this effort and clear out that bottomless Sambissa forest.
We need a security force in the north that can be called and depended upon by the locals; a force that will answer the calls of villages under threat without eight hour delay or responding that the village is “not in their jurisdiction.” A locally controlled defense force so that Abuja would no longer be accused or blamed of pulling out forces before massacres; and also so that maniacal Abuja cannot threaten to pull out forces to “demonstrate their value.”
As a matter of urgency, the northern governors, if they do have the interest of their people at heart and care about the life of their people—which Abuja simply does not—should decide who their warrior leader(s) will be. He could be a retired army general like Sarkhi Mukhtar, Yar’Adua’s NSA, or any other reliable, competent northern or Kanuri military youth, or even a current Civilian-JTF leader. Give him his choice of security personnel, from the army, weapon trained and armed Civilian-JTF and any other type of security tools he needs. Put him in charge of directing all affairs of the states, including sentencing politicians and sponsors to prison or death, and the control of security and budget disbursement, especially utility of the security vote; and let him end the crises plaguing and embarrassing the northeast once and for all.