Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, retired chief of Defence Staff, during his pullout ceremony on Thursday, July 30, for the first time, reveals that the Nigerian military was ill-equipped to fight Boko Haram insurgents
| By Olu Ojewale | Aug 10, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
NOT many Nigerians expected it from Alex Badeh, retired air chief marshal and former chief of Defence Staff. But as he was being pulled out of the military, on Thursday, July 30, the former chief of Defence Staff, released a cannon, which promises to rock to ruffle not a few feathers in coming days. Badeh did not mince words in saying that the military he headed was one with no equipment to fight and that there were some fifth columnists in the military giving information to Boko Haram insurgents thereby making the job of the fighting troops almost impossible.
Badeh made the disclosure while delivering a valedictory speech at a pulling out parade organised in his honour at the Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja, on Thursday. He said: “Permit me to also add here that the nation’s militaries are equipped and trained in peace time for the conflicts they expect to confront in the future. Unfortunately, that has not been our experience as a nation.
“Over the years, the military was neglected and under-equipped to ensure the survival of certain regimes, while other regimes, based on advice from some foreign nations, deliberately reduced the size of the military and underfunded it.
“Unfortunately, our past leaders accepted such recommendations without appreciating our peculiarities as a third world military, which does not have the technological advantage that could serve as force multipliers and compensate for reduced strength.
“Accordingly, when faced with the crises in the North-East and other parts of the country, the military was overstretched and had to embark on emergency recruitments and trainings, which were not adequate to prepare troops for the kind of situation we found ourselves in.”
Badeh alleged that some former heads of state took deliberate decisions to weaken the military just for the consolidation of themselves in power. Further, he said some past regimes acceded to the demands of foreign countries to reduce the size of the military and deprived the nation’s defence forces of the requisite funding and size. Such leaders accepted the advice of such foreign countries without considering the nation’s peculiar characteristics as a third world country which lacked the advantages of modern technology to compensate for the costly reduction in size and strength.
This made the military to be overstretched to such a point that it had to resort to emergency recruitment and training to fight the insurgents, which he said were inadequate in the face of the level of security challenges facing the country at the time.
Besides the neglect, Badeh also pointed at the activities of some fifth columnists in the military and other security agencies who leaked operational plans and other sensitive military information to the terrorists. He said this made the fight against the insurgents to be cumbersome. He said: “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 who unwittingly fell into ambushes prepared by terrorists who had advance warnings of the approach of such troops. The decision by certain countries to deny us weapons to prosecute the war also added to the challenges we faced.”
Notwithstanding, the former CDS said the military recorded modest successes its fight against the terror group.
In view of the situation, Badeh advised federal government to embark on a comprehensive review of the nation’s military structure with respect to its size, capacity and the equipment that should be at its disposal to carry out its responsibility of defending the country.
Since Badeh’s farewell speech, the airwaves have been dominated with controversies on the morality of sending some of the soldiers to warfronts to fight against Boko Haram insurgents.
For instance, in December 2014, 54 Nigerian soldiers were sentenced to death for refusing to fight the insurgents for lack of equipment. Earlier in September, 2014, 12 soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny because they openly disobey their commander, a general, who asked them to proceed to the warfront. No fewer than 400 soldiers have since been dismissed from service for their failure in military operations. They were dismissed for laxity and act of cowardice.
Currently, there are about 30 soldiers on facing military court martial including a brigadier-general, four colonels, seven lieutenant-colonels and about 10 other officers of the Nigerian Army.
Their offences border on the counter-insurgency operations in the north-eastern part of the oil rich nation, where members of a terrorist group were trying to establish an Islamic State.
In view of Badeh’s statement, some Nigerians have asking the military authority to set free all those who were convicted as well as those standing trial. They argued that the military authority has no more ground to ask them to go and commit suicide because asking them to fight Boko Haram insurgents without necessary equipment was tantamount to asking to go and commit suicide.
Besides, they asked what Badeh and his men did with billions of Naira given to the military in the past five years to equip the forces. Some of the analysts even alleged that the service chiefs did nothing to elevate the military. But none of them could provide any evidence.
Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda, a public commentator and security expert, in opinion said what Badeh said was not new. And that coming out to say it after he has retired from the military showed how the civil service had made civil servants cowards. Ekpe-Juda said that General Ibrahim Babangida actually started starving the military, particularly Air Force, of funds because of the coup against him, while he was head of state between 1984 and 1993.
He said former President Jonathan similarly raised an alarm that his government was infiltrated by Boko Haram sympathisers and that was not new to Nigerians either. “But I would have been more comfortable if he had told us that he had written to government about all these and government refused to do anything about it. He himself is culpable because he supposed to solve the problems he met on ground,” Ekpe-Juda said.
In the same breath, he would want Badeh to disclose what he did with billions of Naira given to the military during his time in office. “What did he do with the money? In a way, he has indicted himself,” he said.
On the issue of soldiers facing trial and those dismissed and sentenced to death, Ekpe-Juda said there is nothing anybody could do about it. He argued: “When you signed into the military, you have given your life to the government and it is no longer your life, so you obey the last order. It was a kind of mutiny for them to refuse to fight. So, that was a breach of the agreement between them and the military. So, for the military high command to still retain that status, it must continue to try those who refuse to obey the law. Even though it is moral issue now that they were not well-equipped and you expected them to fight.
“When you signed into the Army they did not tell you that you would be well-equipped and you were not told that unless you were well-equipped you would not fight if you were asked to fight. So, we don’t have to bring morality into this. They have gone against the rule in the military and they must pay for it. Otherwise, there would be a breakdown of law and order as well break in command structure.”
Ekpe-Juda opined that it would be a big mistake for President Mohammadu Buhari to pardon any of the convicted soldiers too. “The president will be setting a bad precedence if the president reverses any of the decisions. It means he will have to go over the matters that have been decided before. That will not augur well for the military.”