My article in the Guardian newspaper about the Nigerian army’s ongoing battle with Boko Haram.
An intermediary who entered Boko Haram’s camp last year to negotiate the Chibok girls’ release was shocked to find their presence dwarfed by other captives. The teenagers may represent less than 10% of the total number of hostages held by the militants, amid estimates that more than 3,000 other teenagers have been kidnapped.
Boko Haram kidnaps, rapes, and impregnates female abductees not just to sow terror but also to replenish its ranks. More than 200 of the women recently rescued are pregnant, and several of the rescued children were born and raised in Boko Haram’s stronghold in the Sambisa forest.
every soldier is ready to die defending this ground…we are one family here.
The Muslims and the Christians; we are all good. We are friends, brothers. We pray together…everybody is fine, no problem.
#Nigeria Army Is “an immensely disciplined force” (British Soldier) @BBC Documentary (@BBCTheInquiry)
Very interesting documentary and interviews with Nigerian soldiers and the National Security Adviser Lt-Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd). Dasuki said:
- On the fate of Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny: “The military law is clear…There could be executions…you know what the punishment is. It is like getting involved in a military coup”. He likened mutiny to a military coup: failure attracts death.
- Says quality of some soldiers is poor. Many soldiers joined the army simply to get a job, but without any desire to go to the battlefield.
- Denied accusations that soldiers are poorly equipped; citing the fact that Boko Haram shows of massive inventories of weapons seized from the army as evidence of how well armed the army is.
- He admits to issues in weapons procurement from Western countries, and that Nigeria “hit brick walls here and there” when trying to buy weapons from other countries. He said Western countries gave “all sorts of excuses” for not selling weapons to Nigeria.
- Over time – the military being in government does not go much good. It affects the morale and discipline of the army. The “main pre-occupation of any military administration is self-preservation. Your greatest threat is the military.” Thus their capability to overthrow a sitting military government is reduced if they are not armed to the teeth. Dasuki is well qualified to comment on this issue because he has been a part of multiple military governments and has participated in a military coup.
Colonel James Hall (former British officer who spent last 3 years of his career advising Nigerian military):
- Said he has never come across a military as disciplined as Nigeria’s: “They are an immensely disciplined force. I don’t think I’ve ever come across an African army that has a clearer says of discipline at all ranks”. Says the discipline of the Nigerian military would challenge that of Western armies. However that discipline can break when subjected to extreme pressure in the battlefield.
- However there are “massive challenges” facing the Nigerian military. “They have got it badly wrong…things have got worse rather than better”.
- “Their equipment is old, broken, and is frankly not well maintained“. Soldiers are facing Boko Haram fighters who are armed with identical weapons to the soldiers.
- Communications are poor – commanders often try to communicate with their units using mobile phones (which are unreliable, and often get switched off during military operations).
- Thinks Nigeria’s military should be given pick-up trucks, APCs, and radios.
- Training: there was a time when the Nigerian army was “the best trained” and one of the best equipped armies in Sub-Saharan Africa. military takes academic training very seriously but “their tactical training is not as good as they think it is”. Troops need more combat training, e.g. coping in a firefight/combat.
This is a video clip of Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh where he said the military knows where the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls are being held. Badeh was addressing a live crowd of demonstrators in Abuja. Excerpts from what he said:
“The good for the girls is we know where they are but we cannot tell you. We cannot come and tell you military secrets here. Just leave us alone – we are working. We will get the girls back…We have Al Qaida in west Africa. I believe it 100%… People from outside Nigeria are in this war. They are fighting us. They wants to destablise our country, and some people in this country are standing with the forces of darkness. No! We must salvage our country.”
NIGERIAN ARMY – CHRONICLE OF COMMAND
|Chief of Defence Staff||Air Marshal Alex Badeh|
|Chief of Army Staff||Lt-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah|
|Chief of Air Staff||Air Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu|
|Chief of Naval Staff||Vice-Admiral Usman Jibrin|
|General Officer Commanding, 1 Division, Kaduna||Major-General Kenneth Osuji|
|General Officer Commanding, 2 Division, Ibadan||Major-General Emmanuel Abejirin|
|General Officer Commanding, 3 Division, Jos||Major-General John Zaruwa|
|General Officer Commanding, 7 Division, Maiduguri||Brigadier-General M.Y. Ibrahim|
|General Officer Commanding 81 Division, Lagos||Major-General Bata Debi|
|General Officer Commanding, 82 Division, Enugu||Major-General Shehu Yusuf|
|Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta (Operation PULO SHIELD)||Major-General Emmanuel Atewe|
|Commandant, National Defence College – Abuja||Rear-Admiral Thomas Lokoson|
|Commandant, Armed Forces Command and Staff College – Jaji||Air Vice Marshal John Chris Ifemeje|
|Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy – Kaduna||Major-General Mohammed Idris|
|Flag Officer Commanding, Logistics Command, Oghara (Delta State)||Rear-Admiral S.H. Usman|
|Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Yenagoa (Bayelsa State)||Rear-Admiral P.A. Agba|
|Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Calabar||Rear-Admiral O.C. Medani|
|Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Apapa (Lagos)||Rear-Admiral Samuel Alade|
|Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air Command, Makurdi||Air Vice Marshal Umar Omeiza|
|Air Officer Commanding, Mobility Command, Yenagoa||Air Vice Marshal Samuel Abosede|
|Air Officer Commanding, Training Command, Kaduna||Air Vice Marshal Salihu Bala-Ribah|
|Air Officer Commanding, Logistics Command, Lagos||Air Vice Marshal Mike Iloenyosi|
|Chief of Defence Intelligence (Defence Intelligence Agency)||Major-General Sani Yakubu Audu|
|Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence (Defence Intelligence Agency)||Air Vice Marshal James Gbum|
|Commander, Guards Brigade, Abuja||Brigadier-General Anthony Omozoje|
|Provost Marshal||Major-General Patrick Akem|
|Chief of Operations at Army Headquarters||Major-General J.A.H. Ewansiha|
|Chief of Training and Operations, Defence Headquarters||Major-General Bonna Awala|
|Chief of Logistics at Army Headquarters||Major-General Olufemi Adeosun|
|Commandant, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Minna||Major-General Salihu Uba|
|Military Secretary – Army||Major-General Iliyasu Abbah|
|Chief of Army Standards and Evaluation (CASE||Major-General Ahmed Tijani Jibrin|
|Director of Administration, Defence Headquarters||Major-General Obi Abel Umahi|
|Commander – Army Headquarters Garrison, Abuja||Brigadier General Barry Ndiomu*|
|Director of Policy at Army Headquarters||Major-General John Nwaoga|
|Commandant, Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre, Jaji,||Major-General Sanusi Nasiru Muazu|
|Chief of Policy and Plans||Major-General Jack Okechukwu Nwaogbo|
|Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Infantry;||Major-General Charley Okoro|
|Director of Defence Information||Major-General Chris Olukolade|
|Director, Army Public Relations||Brigadier General Olajide Laleye|
*Son of the late Major-General Charles Ndiomu
|Chief of Defence Staff||Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim||Air Marshal Alex Badeh|
|Chief of Army Staff||Lt-General Azubike Ihejirika||Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah|
|Chief of Air Staff||Air Marshal Alex Badeh||Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu|
|Chief of Naval Staff||Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba||Rear-Admiral Usman Jibrin|
There has been a lot of “noise” in the Nigerian media about President Goodluck Jonathan’s supposedly controversial appointment of new military service chiefs for the army, air force, and navy.
To cut a long story short the main talking points are:
- The new heads of the army, air force, and navy appointed by President Jonathan are (respectively): Major-General Kenneth Minimah, Air-Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu, and Rear-Admiral Usman Jibrin. They replaced Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, and Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba (respectively). Badeh is actually still employed though. Although he was replaced as Chief of Air Staff, he was promoted to replace Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim who was also retired. Net effect = one promotion and three retirements.
- Expect the following rank promotions shortly: Badeh to Air Chief Marshal, Minimah to Lt-General, Amosu to Air Marshal, and Jibrin to Vice-Admiral. Promotions at this level of the armed forces usually require the heads of the army, air force, and navy to be three star generals (or equivalent), and the chief of defence staff to be a four star general (or equivalent). Badeh is currently equivalent to a three star general, and Minimah, Amosu, and Jibrin have two stars. Those ranks will probably change shortly.
Prior to the current appointments, the new men held the following posts:
Air Vice-Marshal Badeh – Chief of Air Staff
Major-General Minimah – Commander of the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps, Jaji.
Rear-Admiral Jibrin – Director of Training at Defence Headquarters.
Air Vice Marshal Amosu – Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command, Makurdi.*
*The statement announcing the new appointments by President Jonathan’s spokesman Reuben Abati actually messed up Amosu’s post by simultaneously claiming he was the head of the presidential air fleet, AND Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air Command of the air force! Obviously Amosu could not have been in two different posts simultaneously.
People are literally foaming at the mouth with rage for a number of reasons. Namely:
- The new Chief of Army Staff Major-General Minimah is from the Niger Delta, like President Jonathan. Minimah is from Rivers State – right “next door” to the President’s home state of Bayelsa. The President is being accused of ethnic favouritism.
- Apparently over 30 (or 50 depending on who you believe) senior officers were bypassed in order to appoint Minimah. These officers will now be retired as they cannot serve under Minimah, who is junior to them.
Minimah graduated from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in 1981 as a member of the NDA’s 25th regular combatant course. Amosu is also a graduate of course 25, while Jibrin is slightly senior to Minimah and Amosu, and is a graduate of course 24. The new Chief of Defence Staff Badeh was a graduate of course 21.
What do all these references to various courses mean? The military is a hierarchical institution. It is not a hospital or manufacturing plant. When people get promoted, life does not just go on as normal. In a country like Nigeria which was under military rule for 28 years, military promotions have national security AND political implications. Heads of state have been assassinated and coups staged as a result of the mismanagement of military promotions. Therefore there is a well-established tradition that when a military officer is promoted to head any of the armed services, any officers who are senior to him are retired or removed from his operational command. This nips potential disaffection (and political crises) in the bud. It has been happening for several decades.
We do not know why President Jonathan appointed Minimah (maybe because he is a star, the best, he’s comfortable with him, he trusts him, because he’s from the Delta…). Whatever the reason, once Minimah (an officer from NDA regular course 25) got appointed to replace Ihejirika (an officer from course 18) – lots of officers from courses 19-24 had to go.
This has happened lots of times before. Several senior officers were retired to make way for Minimah’s predecessor Ihejirika! When former President Obasanjo retired Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Victor Malu (a course 3 graduate) in 2001, Obasanjo retired a lot of officers to make way for Major-General Alexander Ogomudia (also from the Delta – and four intakes below Malu) to become the new chief of army Staff. As far back as 1990 President Babangida also ignored lots of senior officers like Major-Generals Nasko, Duba, Useni, Nwachukwu, Haladu etc in order to make way for Salihu Ibrahim (who was junior to all of them) as the new chief of army staff. Lots of fine officers had to retire to make way for Ibrahim.
Military appointments in the General ranks are effectively political appointments because of the visibility and political sensitivity of such appointments. President Jonathan is currently embattled and is facing attacks on multiple fronts from his political opponents. Senior members of his political party are defecting and next year he is facing a mammoth presidential election against an opposition that is resolutely determined to get rid of him. However these overarching political events should not overstate the significance of what in most other countries would be routine military postings.
Are we really surprised that the President retired men who have been in service for over 35 years, some of whom are close to 60 years old? They had already passed the mandatory service limit of 35 years for military officers and were due for retirement any day. Their continued presence in service was at the prerogative of the President (AKA the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces). What President Jonathan has done with these military appointments is not remarkable and is no different to what his predecessors have been doing for four decades.
Are the tactics of the Nigerian army making the Boko Haram insurgency even worse? A report by Amnesty International entitled Nigeria: Trapped in the Cycle of Violence accused the army of carrying out summary executions, torture and detention without trial. It accused the army of breaching human rights with “impunity in the name of fighting terror”. Abuses include illegal executions and forced disappearances. The report warns that the army’s repressive tactics may increase support for Boko Haram.
The army’s spokesman for the Joint Military Taskforce in north-eastern Nigeria (Lt-Colonel Sagir Musa), denied the accusations.
Lt-Colonel Sagir Musa denied the allegations.
An article in today’s Guardian newspaper has a damning assessment of the Nigerian army, It claims there is “a lack of training and discipline among Nigerian troops”. Nigerian troops are being relied upon as part of a regional ECOWAS force to oust Islamist fighters from northern Mali.
The report also alleges that “Nigerian forces lack training and kit, so they simply don’t have the capability to carry out even basic military manoeuvres…They have poor discipline and support.” Read the full report below.