With new service chiefs heading the military a lot of Nigerians expect a change of direction, especially in tackling Boko Haram insurgency, but the challenges facing them appear daunting
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul 27, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THEIR appointment was not really unexpected. Some persons have also argued that it was long overdue. But what is inconvertible is that the new service chiefs have a daunting task ahead of them. There are daily incessant attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in the North East in which more than 500 persons have been killed in the past three weeks and thereabout. Hence, Nigerians are expecting the new service to fashion out modalities to stop all these, curtail the insurgents and smoke them out of their various locations in order to restore peace in the affected areas.
President Muhammadu Buhari said the new service chiefs were appointed on merit. This means that the president expects them to align themselves with his plans to eliminate the evil group once and for all. But the question in many quarters is whether the new service chiefs and the national security adviser are the ones the nation needs at this point in time to restore sanity in the affected areas.
Buhari had on Monday, July 13, afternoon appointed new service chiefs and a national security adviser, after sacking their predecessors. Appointed are Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin, chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T. Y. Buratai, chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar, chief of Air Staff.
The president similarly appointed Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan as chief of Defence Intelligence and retired Major-General Babagana Monguno as NSA.
In his address to the new military service chiefs shortly after their appointments, Buhari said he considered merit and track records in picking them for their new assignments. He said: “All of you, including the national security adviser, were chosen on merit. Your records gave you the job. Save for the new chief of Army Staff whom I briefly met at his command at the Multi-National Joint Task Force in Chad, I don’t know any of you. Your records recommended you.”
The president, therefore, called on the new military chiefs to show utmost commitment in helping to rebuild the reputation of the Armed Forces and the nation.
He told them they would be on the job in acting capacity pending the time when he would send their names to the National Assembly for confirmation.
That notwithstanding, the president expects the new military chiefs to align themselves with his plans to eliminate the Boko Haram group once and for all. But the question in many quarters is whether the new service chiefs and the national security adviser are the ones the nation needs at this point in time to restore sanity to the troubled areas.
Anthony Nyiam, a retired colonel and analyst, said the competence of the new service chiefs were not in doubt and was not surprised when the president said they were appointed on merit. Nyiam said he was aware that some of the service chiefs had intelligence background which would put them in the best position to design plans that would help in fighting the Boko Haram insurgents. “I expect the new military chiefs to design the sort of plans that will involve the training and use of locals in fighting the insurgents. There are many young men and women who can help with intelligence gathering. Let us use their services to get information. They are people living in the localities who can easily indentify strangers coming to their communities. If they are trained, they will know how to pass information to security agencies to handle the situation. They should use the services of local mallams to re-radicalise the youths as well about true teaching of their faith,” Nyiam said.
The retired army officer said conventional war would not help the forces in dealing with the situation. “In conventional war, our military can easily defeat the insurgents. But insurgents have moved on to unconventional warfare. This is asymmetric warfare and that is why intelligence is very key in this conflict,” he said.
Frank Odita, a retired commissioner of police and security expert said he was surprised by the appointment because the movement of the military command to Maiduguri, Borno State, was yet to yield dividends. On the appointed officers Odita said: “I know little or nothing of the new service chiefs, the president is a general and should know his people. The appointment of a new chief of defence intelligence is a healthy development.”
Besides, he said Buhari must have his reasons for appointing Mungonu as the new NSA. He argued: “If it is a proven fact that he has sympathy for Boko Haram may be it is a case of the saying that it takes a thief to catch a thief. I am convinced the days of Boko Haram are numbered since they no longer have a base after they were dislodged from Sambisa forest. Their present mode of operation is a testimony to that.”
Nevertheless Odita said he expected the new service chiefs to build on the success of their predecessors. He also expressed hope that they would succeed if the DSS should concentrate on their assigned responsibility of intelligence gathering and “working in synergy with the DMI, DDI and other security agencies.” He however, appealed to the government to provide all the necessary tools and incentives to the troops and security agencies to work with.
On his part, Abubakar Tsav, a retired commissioner of Police, said the appointment of the new service chiefs was overdue. Tsav said that the former service chiefs were partisan because former President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly “spoilt them with money and there was no control or supervision.”
The former police boss who said he did not know anything about the new service chiefs and the NSA, but expressed optimism that they would perform better than their predecessors. Besides, he said bearing in mind that President Buhari himself was a military man, he would pick the best hands in the service to suit his plans, adding that he learnt that the new chiefs were core professionals.
Also speaking in support of change in the military hierarchy Femi Falana, SAN and human rights activist, said the exercise was overdue. Falana said: “They abandoned professionalism for politics and exposed the armed forces to unprecedented ridicule and odium. The bulk of the over N4 trillion earmarked for defence in the last five years was diverted. Hence the armed forces were unable to confront the rag tag army of the satanic Boko Haram sect.”
Apart from the sack, Falana wants the former service chiefs and the NSA to account for “the huge funds collected under the pretext of prosecuting the war on terror.”
The activist, however, enjoined the new military service chiefs “to reorganise and motivate the highly demoralised troops, set aside the questionable verdicts of courts martial and stop the ongoing diversionary trials of officers and troops who were not equipped to fight the terrorists.”
But the Labour Party, LP, believes that the government action was hasty. Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, national chairman of the party, in a statement in Abuja, said: “The fact of the matter is that his action may have also been informed by the security report he had. We do not know what is available to him, which made him take that action hastily the way he did it.
“But whatever the information in possession of the president, it is our candid opinion that the president should have waited for some time, to still try the service chiefs before they were bundled out of office. Buhari should have waited because he seems to be acting on the basis of trial and error. Probably, they must have advised him regarding the removal of checkpoints.
“Buhari made pronouncements and removed the checkpoints; no sooner had he removed the checkpoints, then insecurity escalated and Boko Haram started unleashing terror. The government had to eat its word and returned the checkpoints. It is not good enough for a government that has been advocating change.”
That notwithstanding, what appears to be scary is the appointment of Monguno as the new national security adviser. In an article in the National newspaper of January 25, 2012, there were seven mindboggling allegations levelled against him. The article titled ‘DIA and national security’ alleged among others that the new NSA performed poorly as chief of Defence Intelligence when he was appointed in 2009 and that during his tenure, “the agency retrogressed in terms of manpower development and relevance to national security.”
The paper alleged that in the same period, ”Monguno closed down all the offices of the agency in the states with the exception of Abuja and Lagos. Even at that, the agency’s office in Lagos operates with skeletal staff, most of whom are artisans.”
Besides, it was alleged Monguno had no formal training in intelligence, which affected the performance of the security agency. “In many instances, instead of a properly coordinated security duties, he usually resorted to ad hoc arrangements which exposed his naivety,” it alleged.
Perhaps more daunting was the allegation that: ”The tyrannical tenure of Monguno, an indigene of Borno State, may have compromised national security. This is because at the inception of Boko Haram insurgency, those who were apprehended were handled with kid gloves, as they were left in the agency’s visitors’ room instead of cells. This enabled them to move freely and even got to know that the agency had internal problems. It sounds unbelievable that the Boko Haram suspects were being served special meals from Mr. Biggs and others, while Monguno kept referring to them as “friends of the agency.”
Some analysts believe that if indeed any of the service chiefs has questionable character, it would be made public during the Senate hearing.
In the time being, the appointment is expected to lead to retirement of some senior officers in the military. Military sources said no fewer than 20 major generals would be affected. Because it is the tradition in the Army that a senior is not let in the service to salute his subordinate, those who to be affected are officers who were of Course 25 and some of Buratai’s senior in Course 26. However, those who were junior to the chief of Defence Staff, who is also of Course 26, could be moved to the Defence Headquarters and other tri-service institutions of the Armed Forces.
However, the situation is different in the Nigerian Navy where Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, new chief of Navy Staff, who belonged to Course 26 and Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, his predecessor who belonged to Course 24, have about five officers between them.
Also in the Air Force, Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu, out-gone chief of Air Staff belonged to the Cadet Military Training, Course 5, which is rated as a Course 26 as the new chief. Hence, those who belonged to the same Course the former Air Chief would retire with him, except Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan, who has been appointed the new Chief of Defence Intelligence.
Whatever happens, the major challenge ahead for the new service chiefs is how to tackle the hydra-headed Boko Haram insurgence which has become a major topic in international discuss. The task ahead, no doubt, is daunting. But with the collective wisdom of the new chiefs, Nigerians have high hopes that the task can be done.