Boko Haram: Why the armed forces, police are handicapped

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While declaring the state of emergency, President Jonathan said, “extraordinary measures” would be brought to bear against the insurgents with a view to “restore normalcy” to the region in the shortest possible time.
Consequently, troops were given orders to carry out all necessary actions within the ambit of their rules of engagement to put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists.
In the prosecution of this war against terror, a lot has occurred to indicate that all is not well for the military as it has become obvious that equipment needed, both for the Nigerian Air force and the Nigerian Army who are in the fore-front of the battle to dislodge the hoodlums, are lacking or not in sufficient quantity while the available ones are in comatose state.
Intelligence gathering mechanism which should play pivotal role in containing the terrorists has remained nothing to write home about.
Reasons for these, according to Saturday Vanguard’s investigations are not far-fetched. What the Nigerian military have in stock as tools, modern military hardware, equipment needed to fight the type of terrorism we are facing are unbelievably short of the standard required.
A pilot told Saturday Vanguard that what the Air Force needed to clear the Boko Haram terrorists of f their camps and level those camps were attack helicopters fitted with sand proof facilities and night vision windscreens. These helicopters would fly into and land inside Sambisa Forest without noise. From the air and with the night vision, we can see through the jungle, map out our strategies without their knowledge. But this equipment is not there for us.
The Army, Navy and the Police bemoan lack of equipment even as many cannot vouch for the accountability of the “little” they receive. But they have a case.
Since the advent of Defence budgeting for the Army, Navy, Air force and even the Nigerian Police, there has never been a time that 100 per cent of the budgetary approvals for the services was released to them. About 60 to 70 percent is what they get at the end of every financial year, according to them.
Again, the capital expenditure under which the procurement of this military hardware falls, is such that when converted to foreign currencies at which these hardware are sold, the money is hardly enough. That is why the military would rather embark on repairs and rehabilitation of equipment bought in the 1980’s to prosecute a terrorist battle where the insurgents are armed with equipment manufactured in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Severally, the military and Police hierarchy have complained to members of the National Assembly about these problems but nothing has happened. Recently, Vanguard was told that CDS and Service Chiefs complained to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, about the paucity of funds to contain the Boko Haram insurgents and her reply was that the Federal Government had released a total amount of N130.7bn to the Ministry of Defence for military operations between January and April this year.
But of the said amount, the sum of N85billion was spent on personnel cost including salaries, allowances and other emoluments not only for the fight against terrorism but also on the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air force, Ministry of Defence and Defence headquarters.
Others that benefited from the spending on personnel cost are Nigerian Defence Academy, National Defence College, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Defence Industries Corporation and Armed Forces Resettlement Centre while the balance of about N45billion which goes for capital expenditure, from where equipment and ammunition are to be procured, will also be shared by these arms of the military.
Military budgets elsewhere
Dating back to 2009, a cursory look at the Defence spending shows that in Africa, Algeria topped the military largest spenders’ chart with $5.6 billion in 2009. South Africa was next with $3.926 billion. Egypt followed with $3.665 billion. Morocco with a population far less than that of Nigeria budgeted $3.143 billion.
Angola had $2.983 billion; Sudan $1.991 billion while Nigeria came a distant seventh with $1.984 billion.
So conservatively, the total amount budgeted for the military between 2009 and 2014 by the Federal Government is N1.9 trillion out of which only N271. 4 billion was for capital expenditure, amounting to 14.3 per cent in a world that military equipment is denominated in European currency as well as the US dollar.
In 2013 for example, N281.51 billion was allocated to the three security agencies. The Army got N130 billion, Navy N73.34 billion and Air force N78.15 billion.
However, out of the N130.01billion budgeted for the Army, only N1.85bn was allocated for purchase of defence equipment, Navy and Air Force had budgets of N409.4 million and N1.51billion respectively for the same purpose.
While stakeholders told Saturday Vanguard that these amounts for modern equipment and hardware did not portray the nation as one ready or serious about fighting terrorism or insurgency, the case of the 2014 budgetary approval for capital expenditure was even worse.
Aside the air equipment needed by the Air Force for instance, the type of armoured tanks needed by the army, artillery guns, surface to air demobilizers and other technical weaponry for battle are not available.
What military forces need to invade Sambisa
Anti-landmine tanks, for instance, are needed for a land invasion of the Sambisa Forest where camps of the terrorists are scattered. Military experts say that any attempt to go in there without such mine resistant, detecting and demobilizing equipment could be suicidal.
Sources put the price of one such tanks known as the Buffalo at ($11million) N1.3billion and to be able to effectively tackle the menace of the insurgents, a minimum of 12 of such equipment would be needed.
The challenges facing the military were recently summarized as “inadequate budgetary allocations”. And that’s how the military sees it. Others admit this but note that it also goes beyond budgetary allocations.
On the part of the Nigeria Police, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar while rubbing minds with members of the National Assembly, recently, noted that going by the 2014 budgetary estimates, Nigeria Police may not be able to pay the salaries of their personnel in 2014 due to a shortfall of N14.4 billion in personnel cost.The IG said the budget office earmarked N279 billion for personnel cost against N293 billion required to pay the police personnel, lamenting the steady decline in budgetary allocations for overhead to the police in spite of the increasing security challenges. Explaining that the slight increase in the capital expenditure in 2013 budget was because of the injection of constituency projects, he noted that out of the N14 billion appropriated for capital expenditure in 2013, only N10.9 billion was released.
Saturday Vanguard’s investigation further showed why the quality of Police graduates from Police Training Institutions, until now that the IG stepped up the fight to upgrade them, dropped.
The budget for yearly upgrade of Police colleges and Training institutions shows that in 2009, only N700 million was allocated for Police College, Jos, Police College, Ikeja, Police College, Kano, Police College, Kaduna, Police College, Orji River and other training institutions. In 2010, N759 million was budgeted; in 2011, it came down to 291million; in 2012, it was N296 million.
Okonjo-Iweala’s assurances
Reacting to journalists’ questions on the military budget, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that the Jonathan administration would give every necessary support to the troops who are hazarding their lives on behalf of all Nigerians.
She admitted that calling for increased funding was normal for military prosecuting a war or any special operation and that Nigeria’s case cannot be an exception, she adding that military funding was being treated with dispatch.
She disclosed that the president was even funding the Boko Haram operations from his “contingency fund” to ensure money was no problem in the fight against terror.
Her words: “We are in close touch with the defence sector. I have just finished talking not long ago with the Chief of Defence Staff and others. We have to be very supportive of our men and women in uniform because they are laying down their lives for us and they are involved in a very difficult endeavour. I think the defence spending is treated expeditiously.
“I want to say that there is no military establishment that I know of in the world which is engaged in a war that always has enough. They will always need more equipment, this is a new type of war. They will always need things that will help them. So we have to admit that. I don’t think that the Nigerian Army or Air Force is different from any other one we know of in the world. No amount of budget can be enough. In that context, the comments you have heard may be in that context. But in terms of the budget itself the defence sector takes almost a quarter of the budget.
“This year we have disbursed to them the money they needed. We have disbursed N130.7billion of which 85.9 billion is for personnel cost. All their salaries and payments are made as at when due . There are other requirements that require extra Joint Taskforce Special Assignment and sometimes the requirements come from Mr. President’s contingent fund and we have to scramble to meet that. So we have really worked hard and we really need to be supportive of them”.
The Corruption bug
Many people, including diplomats believe that the fight against the insurgency has dragged this long owing to the corruption in the system.
The harsh verdict that the Nigerian military cannot fight Boko Haram because of corruption came from far away United States of America although many Nigerians have raised their voices over this problem. The military may not be getting enough. But what happens to the “little” that they are getting?
The US Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Sarah Sewall, said that corruption is hindering Nigeria’s efforts at ending insurgency in the North-East.
Sewall, who appeared before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, last week, alongside a Pentagon top Africa official, Amanda Dory, added that the military must overcome entrenched corruption and incompetence for it to rescue the over 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram on April 14.
She said that despite Nigeria’s $5.8bn security budget for 2014, “corruption prevents supplies as basic as bullets and transport vehicles from reaching the front lines of the struggle against Boko Haram.”
Sewall, according to the New York Times, also told the committee that morale was low and that desertions were common among soldiers in the 7th Army Division fighting the insurgents.
Although Zakari Biu was about the only publicly disgraced Police officer for helping Kabiru Sokoto to escape from police custody, it was learnt that several other top shots in various security agencies have suffered similar fates for being sympathetic to the Boko Haram cause.
It was learnt that several officers at borders who used to provide free passage for Boko Haram arms, as well as other top security men who provide counter intelligence have been variously arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law.
If the war is to be won, the security agencies must cleanse themselves of Boko Haram sympathizers who frustrate the efforts of their colleagues and endangering the lives all Nigerians who have become targets of the murderers. The military will need to be well funded to purchase equipment and train their officers. And the fund so provided must be judiciously spent.
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