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Nigeria’s unending ‘war’

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari boldly declared last Thursday while addressing world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Nigeria will spare no efforts at getting rid of the Boko Haram terrorists, a humbling indictment that the war against the terrorist group remained unfinished after over a decade of ravaging Africa’s largest economy.

It was in December 2015, some seven months after he became president that Buhari announced that Nigeria had “technically won the war” against the Islamist Boko Haram militants.

He told the BBC that the terrorist group could no longer mount “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centres. It had been reduced to fighting with improvised explosives devices (IED) and remained a force only in its heartland of Borno State.

Buhari continues to insist that the group has lost its teeth and is severely weakened. “The Nigerian Security Forces have recorded considerable success in the fight against terrorism; as a result of the renewed vigour of our military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces,” Buhari told the world leaders. Only a few days before, the insurgents had killed over 25 soldiers who were on patrol in Monguno area of Borno State.

Described as one of the world’s most lethal terror groups, Boko Haram and its affiliate groups have forced the closure of more than 600 schools in the northern part of Nigeria since 2010. In 2014, the group audaciously kidnapped 276 girls from their school dormitory in the southern-Borno town of Chibok. Seven years later, more than 100 of the girls, with some 40 estimated to have died, have not been seen. Thousands of other students have been kidnapped since then.

Boko Haram’s fighters target women and girls with rape and other sexual violence, amounting to war crimes during raids in northeast Nigeria.

Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, noted, “As Boko Haram continue their relentless cycle of killings, abductions and looting, they are also subjecting women and girls to rape and other sexual violence during their attacks. These atrocities are war crimes.

“The targeted communities have been abandoned by the (Nigerian) forces that are supposed to protect them, and are struggling to gain any recognition or response to the horrors they’ve suffered. The Nigerian authorities must urgently address this issue”.

In the beginning was Boko Haram

Boko Haram was founded in the early 2000s by the late Mohammed Yusuf. The group whose name translates as “western education is forbidden” was like Islamist groups that have formed throughout Nigeria’s history, committed to creating an anti-Western state, using violence if necessary.

However, throughout Yusuf’s tenure as the group’s leader, Boko Haram sought to achieve its aims largely through peaceful means. From 2002 to 2009, the group supported Ali Modu Sheriff’s bid for governor and was incorporated into his government when he won in 2003. Yusuf’s father-in-law served as Sheriff’s commissioner for religious affairs.

The group’s founder and leader Mohammed Yusuf, was a fiery Wahhabi preacher who espoused Salafist beliefs.

Wahhabi is a label given to those who follow the teachings of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, an 18th Century Saudi preacher. Wahabism is a form of Sunni Islam and it is the only officially accepted religion of Saudi Arabia, which brutally suppresses other religious tendencies whether Islamic or non-Islamic. This brand of Islam is particularly intolerant of Shia and Sufi faiths which it considers heretical. The Wahhabis are always referred to as Salafis, and in fact they prefer to be called as such. As a rule, all Wahhabis are Salafis but not all Salafis are Wahhabis.

The term Salafism did not become associated with the Wahhabi creed until the 1970s. It was in the early 20th Century that the Wahhabis referred to themselves as Salafis. A Salafist is an individual who emphasises the importance of returning to a “pure” Islam, that of the Salaf, the pious ancestors. Salafists advocate literal and to some degree binary interpretation of Islamic teachings as enjoined by Prophet Muhammad and subsequently practised by the early pious predecessors known as the salaf al-salih. Following the salaf is the reason for their self-designation as Salafis.

In July 2009, the group launched a revolt through coordinated attacks in four locations in northern Nigeria; Bauchi in Bauchi State, Maiduguri in Borno State, Potiskum in Yobe State and Wudil in Kano State. The aim was to trigger the violent creation of an Islamic state. The revolt was ruthlessly suppressed by the army.

Yusuf was captured in his parents-in-law’s house in Maiduguri by a unit of the Army’s 21st Armoured Brigade. They handed him to the Nigeria Police. The Nigeria police, allegedly notorious for heavy handedness and extra-judicial killings, summarily executed Yusuf in public view outside the police headquarters in the city. Police officials variously claimed that he was shot while trying to escape, or that he died of wounds he sustained during a gun battle with the military.

The Nigerian government acknowledged the extra-judicial murder of the Boko Haram founder and promised to investigate the incident. Unsurprisingly, nothing has ever come out of that promise.

Bitter at the brutal suppression of their uprising and the unwarranted murder of their leader, Boko Haram began a decade of brutal war against the Nigerian state and innocent people in the region. Today, it has become a war without end.

The group acquired new leadership under Abubakar Shekau, a Kanuri who had been Yusuf’s deputy. Shekau, according to former US Ambassador to Nigeria and Africa analyst at the Centre for Foreign Relations, John Campbell, “was a monster, known for his brutal executions that he publicized, his use of women and children as suicide bombers, and his wholesale kidnapping: he orchestrated the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls, more than a hundred of whom remain in captivity. He mastered the politics of terror. He was charismatic and erratic with some education: he deliberately misquoted Abraham Lincoln. He was also a religious leader and drew on the well of Islamic grievance in northern Nigeria to produce a belief system largely regarded as a perversion of Salafist-inflected Islam but one which has spread in the Sahel”.

Under Shekau, the group swiftly enlarged the deadliness and regularity of its attacks on government and civilian targets in Nigeria, while recruiting from relegated, oppressed, and poor populations across the region. Boko Haram withstood the Nigerian military’s poorly planned, poorly resourced, and half-hearted attempts to beat it back.

A season of sorrow, tears and pain

Boko Haram has since 2009 killed thousands of soldiers and civilians. The UNDP says that nearly 350,000 people have been killed in the North-East since the insurgency against the Nigerian state began.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), some 3,000,000 people have been displaced in the Lake Chad region and about 310,000 Nigerians have become refugees. More than 1,100 people were killed in the first half of 2020, according to Amnesty International, with more than 300 deaths in April alone.

The group killed at least 967 people in 2017, marginally more than the 910 deaths that were reported in 2016. It has consistently mounted attacks over the years, challenging Mr. Buhari’s claim that the militants had been beaten. It caused 750 security force casualties in 2019 alone, close to double that of any prior year.

In January 2020, the terrorist group kidnapped Reverend Lawan Andimi, chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria in Adamawa State, rejected a ransom and executed him that month. That same month, they attacked Michika and later Garkida in Adamawa, killing scores of innocent civilians In February, several buses and trucks carrying passengers were set on fire in Auno, Borno State. The attack killed at least 30.

The trucks were stranded at a military checkpoint due to a curfew set by the military. In March, the extremists ambushed Goneri village in Yobe State. The attack killed over 50 soldiers. In November 2018, more than one hundred Nigerian soldiers were reported killed in one single attack on an army base in Metele, Borno State. “The insurgents took us unawares,” said an officer who spoke to Reuters. “The base was burned with arms and we lost about 100 soldiers. It is a huge loss.”

That same year, 76 farm workers were slaughtered in rice fields near the village of Zabarmari. Boko Haram said the attack was waged to seek revenge on villagers for seizing the group’s fighters and handing them over to the authorities.

A floundering government

For a government big on optics and low on solutions, and keen to deodorise the noxious socio-political environment that has pitted the people against an administration that has failed to win the war it claims to have largely or technically won, the President and his officials have consistently doubled down on the lie that Boko Haram has been essentially defeated.

Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, the immediate past and longest serving army Chief, on February 24, 2016, giddily yet falsely announced to members of the once vociferous but now largely noiseless Borno Elders Forum, “we were given three major tasks and we have made efforts toward achieving two. The first task is to defeat Boko Haram and I want to tell you that as of today Boko Haram has been defeated. When I say defeat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be hitches here and there. We have entered the mop-up stage of our operation”.

Information minister, Lai Mohammed, in 2019 said, “I stand by what I said that Boko Haram is technically defeated. What we are having today is global terrorism where you have the ISIS, ISWAP Al-Qaeda all working together”.

Yet, just a year later, he complained that, “terrorists use media and publicity as oxygen and so when they go on this kind of mindless killings, a dying terrorist group will suddenly spring to life. However, we must also understand that we are dealing with terrorists who are financed globally and we also need more support from global partners.

“For instance, Nigeria had made attempts to acquire better and more effective platforms to deal with the terrorists, but for one reason or the other we have been denied these platforms,” he said.

In February 2020, almost five years after claiming to have largely defeated Boko Haram, Mr. Buhari railed against the people of Borno State after being booed by the residents of the capital city, Maiduguri. He blamed the leaders of Borno communities for not doing enough in terms of cooperation with the military to end the Boko Haram insurgency.

“This Boko Haram or whoever they are, cannot come up to Maiduguri or its environs to attack without the local leadership knowing… As the commander in chief, I will deal with the security situation”, he said.

On March 23, 2020, Boko Haram launched a seven-hour assault on a Chadian army base at Bohoma that killed 93 Chadian soldiers, the deadliest-ever attack by Boko Haram on the country’s military forces. In response Chadian President, Idriss Deby, adorned his army fatigues, rallied his forces from all fronts, and ramped up targeted and sweeping air, ground and amphibious operations against the terrorists. Tagged ‘Operation Boma Anger’, this military campaign was so effective that Boko Haram’s hunted leader, Abubakar Shekau had to release a viral message to his fleeing fighters pleading with them not to run away from the battle but to “take heart” as God was bigger than the army of Chad.

Obviously embarrassed by the tenacity and outcomes of the widely applauded Chadian offensive, Nigeria’s Army Chief of Staff, Tukur Buratai announced that he was relocating to the North-East “where he is overseeing and directing the overall operation in the theatre and other Nigerian Army operations across the country”.

To many analysts, it was abundantly clear that it was the height of the usual government optics, nothing tangible ever came out of that hurriedly assembled relocation ordered by the President.

In December of that year, having been unable to deliver on his vow to defeat Boko Haram, Mr. Buratai shockingly predicted that Nigeria will most likely continue to suffer terrorist attacks for the next 20 years.

“This crisis might not end in 20 years, “he had said. “We have achieved a lot of successes but we cannot continue to use the same tactics and achieve different results. It only depends on the level of escalation and the appropriate responses by all stakeholders both civil and military authorities. Also, by both local and international actors. Citizens’ responsibility is equally important and imperative. All must cooperate to contain the lingering insecurity. Let there be collective action and responsibility,” he had said.

Perhaps basking in the euphoria of battlefield successes of 2015 and 2016, the former Nigerian Army Commander had been too quick to declare victory. Watchers of the Nigerian military do remember that in the midst of Nigeria’s election season, and determined to ensure victory at the polls, then President Goodluck Jonathan in early 2015 ordered a renewed military offensive against Boko Haram. Led by then GOC of the 7 Division, Major-General Lamidi Adeosun, the Army began making headway against the group. The Nigerian Military, supported by private military contractors led by Eeben Barlow’s ‘Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection International’, STTEP, seized back most of the territory previously held by Boko Haram.

In February of that year, Monguno, the local government of Mr. Buhari’s National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno as well as Marte local government were recaptured from Boko Haram. By the time Buhari assumed office in May 2015, practically all the territory under Boko Haram’s control had been taken over by the Nigerian Military and that was why elections took place in all the local governments in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in 2015, and Buhari and his party won an overwhelming majority of votes in those states. The Tukur Buratai led Army from August 2015 merely consolidated on the initial victories chalked up by the pre-Buhari administration.

By mid-2017, the Nigerian Army had begun to lose the initiative and hand back territories to Boko Haram. In February this year, Boko Haram again hoisted its flag in Marte. In June 2020, at least 20 soldiers and more than 40 civilians were said to have been killed in twin attacks on Monguno and Nganzai, that came days after some 81 villagers were killed in Gubio. The loss of territories began with the removal of the Theatre Commander, Major-General Leo Irabor, now Chief of Defence Staff in May 2017 alongside the General Officer Commanding 7 Division, then Brigadier-General Emeka Ezeogwu and their replacement with Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru and Brigadier-General Ibrahim Yusuf, respectively.

Immediate past governor of Borno state Kashim Shettima would later in 2018 decry this inopportune change when as governor he opined that the Boko Haram insurgency regained momentum in 2017 because of the failure of command at the theatre of war. He lamented, “the change of guard at the Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Command which saw the replacement of Lucky Irabor, a Major General who is now at the Multinational Joint Task Force, did not help in sustaining the winning spirit of troops,” adding that Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru “did not give a good account of himself as his tenure as Theatre Commander was greeted by embarrassing attacks on troops and civilians.”

The Nigerian state as the problem

The contest for political, economic and social power in Nigeria is largely driven by religion in Northern Nigeria, while ethnicity is the basis for power contestation in the South. That is why most violence in the North tends to have religious colourations even if it is really nothing more than a competition over a piece of land.

Nigeria has since the 1980s been characterised by varying forms of ethno-religious violence.

Beginning with the Maitasine insurgency between 1979 and 1983 in which between 4000-6000 lost their lives, and trailed by a plethora of successive ethnic, religious and social upheavals in the 1980s and 1990s, the Nigerian state has unenthusiastically dealt with these nihilist insurgencies in a manner that laid the basis for the insurrection against the state by Boko Haram.

Some of the prominent examples include those of the Kasuwan Magani in 1980, Zango Kataf and Gure-Kahugu in 1987, Kafanchan and Lere in 1987, Ilorin and Jerein 1989, Tafawa Balewa in 1991 as well as that of Zango Kataf in 1992, Kaduna in 2000, Jos in 2001. No part of Northern Nigeria has been immune of violence of one religious nature or the other

Perpetrators of religious violence have rarely been brought to justice. There has been a long culture of appeasement of religion by successive Nigerian governments, which has culminated in the emboldening of religious zealots assured of almost a free pass by the Nigerian state. It is common in Nigeria to keep hearing of sponsors of Boko Haram and other violent actors, sometimes coming out of government circles, yet, no one is ever charged or outed. A former security officer agreed that “when religious and communal conflicts occur, we tend to look purely at the political dimension without seeking to prosecute and punish criminal actors. Perhaps, if this is consistently done, it would make those who engineer these criminal activities to think twice”.

Read Also: Boko Haram militants: Six reasons they have not been defeated, by BBC

The inability of the Nigerian state to forcefully challenge political religion has led to new theatres of war in the north. This leads to the conclusion that the boldness of these new actors is linked to the government’s inability to deal decisively with the crisis in the north-east.

Thus, the battle against Boko Haram can be justifiably termed the battle Nigeria was supposed to fight years and years ago but refused to.

International dimension of Boko Haram

It has been suggested within intelligence circles both in Nigeria and outside, that the unending Boko Haram insurgency has its fibrous roots outside the country. There is ample evidence as consistently stated by the leadership of the United States Africa Command and supported by intelligence reports by Nigeria’s different intelligence services, that Boko Haram has over time received training, funding and logistic support from Islamist elements in Mauritania, Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) as well as from the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab responsible for the recent deadly terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

In March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Abubakar Shekau, the group’s then leader, said, “We announce our allegiance to the caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity. We call on Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the caliph.”

Thus, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) was formed. With its most significant provinces in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Africa analyst, Jacob Zenn, noted that, as ISIS faced defeat and began losing its “territorial caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, the terror group’s leadership knew that the organisation would have to depend on external “provinces” (called wilayat) to keep its global project thriving. The provinces would launch attacks and remain loyal to ISIS, and ISIS could claim that the “caliphate” might no longer be expanding, but it was remaining. With setbacks in Afghanistan and the Philippines, Africa emerged as the only continent where ISIS could operate like it did in Syria and Iraq during its heyday. So long as ISIS thrives in Africa, the dream of the global caliphate remains alive.

Not only can ISIS conduct sophisticated attacks in Africa, it also can occupy territories and overpower armies. Moreover, with rapidly increasing populations, historical narratives about reviving pre-colonial Islamic states, and challenges resulting from weak governance and security forces’ abuses, ISIS finds fertile ground on the continent.

By June 2019, ISWAP was becoming ISIS’s strongest external province. ISIS’s influence had become so strong in the Sahel and Lake Chad region that it could order the capture and execution of Boko Haram’s leader and one time ISIS ally, Abubakar Shekau.

Shekau, one of the most notorious leaders of Islamic militant groups anywhere in the world, died in May after detonating an explosive device while being pursued by fighters from ISWAP. The ISWAP fighters had stormed the Sambisa Forest, a swath of strategically important dense forest in Nigeria’s north-east, which was Shekau’s base.

Bulama Bukarti, an analyst specialising in Boko Haram at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, told Reuters after Shekau’s death that Islamic State “is consolidating the whole area, the Lake Chad region and Shekau’s stronghold”.

Corruption benefits Boko Haram

Nigeria’s military budgetary allocation is higher than the budgets of all other West African countries’ defence or military operations put together. In 2020, military expenditure for Nigeria was $2,568 billion. Between 2015 and 2020, $11, 881 billion was spent on the military with little accruing to the country by way of peace.

On the contrary, the frontiers of violence in the country have expanded widely since 2015, as the military have been hampered by an equally dangerous enemy – corruption.

Transparency International (TI) in a 2014 report noted that Nigerian military officers, politicians and other elites have enriched themselves by diverting money that was meant to fight terror. Since defence makes up 20 percent of Nigeria’s budget, it is an attractive target.

Seven years later, nothing has changed. Two retired army generals agreed that a lot of the budgetary allocations to the armed forces disappeared through bribes, payments to “ghost soldiers” who don’t exist, and through contracts not tendered and contested for, resulting in inflated spending that benefits politically-connected contractors.

“If you want to solve the Boko Haram issue, follow the money”, one said. He added that corruption is the biggest driver of insecurity in Nigeria.

The lack of an updated, published defence policy weakens the accountability of the whole defence sector and makes scrutiny over defence matters, including budget and acquisition planning, harder.

Transparency International in its 2020 Government Defence and Security report noted that while, “the annual defence budget is publicly available but the percentage of secret spending related to national security and intelligence services is difficult to establish, and off-budget expenditures are permitted by law, which often allows for non-orthodox practices, such as the ‘security vote’ to take place”.

It further noted, “Soldiers’ payments are often irregular and hardly adequate in Nigeria, which has an impact on the motivation of its troops; this increases the likelihood of the phenomenon of the ghost soldiers, which is significant in Nigeria”.

On corruption as an operational risk to the Nigerian military, the report gathered that, “While corruption is recognised as an issue to be addressed within military circles, corruption is not systematically identified at the operational planning stage and is not seen as requiring contingency planning. There is no evidence of systematic corruption risk monitoring during operations.

“There is provision made for training on issues relating to corruption, but it tends to be ad hoc and the connection between corruption, operational efficiency, and effectiveness could be emphasised further. The engagement of private military contractors in operations is unregulated, nor subject to scrutiny, and its costs are off-budget, meaning that private military contractors have access to significant power in an unregulated manner”.

It further added that the procurement in the military is fraught with irregularities. Scrutiny, it said over matters of defence procurement “is very limited in Nigeria. The Public Procurement Act excludes sensitive acquisitions relating to defence or security from its purview unless otherwise stated by the President, often resulting in significant expenditure going unscrutinised. Additionally, the lack of an updated defence policy contributes to the hardship in effectively scrutinising the sector’s financial activities; for example, it makes the needs assessment phase of the budget cycle difficult to scrutinise and purchases are often ad hoc, rather than part of a long-term strategic acquisition plan. Information on the defence procurement cycle is not disclosed to the public and the National Assembly and external bodies play a marginal role in overseeing the process. Other unorthodox practices are also widespread, including security votes and single sourcing”.

Ending the war – What kind of reforms are needed?

The reality of terrorism and other anti-state violence is the exploitation of the inherent weaknesses in the operational capacity of the military in order to demean the authority of the state and vitiate the legitimacy of the government of the day. A weak security infrastructure certainly means a weak government. What is not in doubt, is that the Nigerian security services; including the military, police and special services, are not fit for purpose, as alleged by many Nigerians. They are operationally deficient, institutionally weak and structurally decayed.

As aptly noted in a June 2016 Crisis group report, “the decline began during 33 years of military dictatorship that took a serious toll on professionalism, operational effectiveness and accountability”.

The Nigerian military, which used to be among the continent’s strongest and a backbone of regional and global peacekeeping efforts, has become a blemished force; suffering from an acute readiness crisis. It is overstretched, under-manned, grossly under-equipped, ill-trained, and poorly led. Even more unpleasant is the fact that the three services are locked in intense unhealthy competition, with neither the administrative head of the military (Minister of Defence) nor the operational head (Chief of Defence Staff) able to arbitrate.

This has resulted in lone wolf approaches to operations; with individual services working in silos rather than in concert, thus imperilling the counterterror/counterinsurgencies campaigns across the country. In addition, this obvious lack of operational and administrative oversight has resulted in the services pursuing prestige projects with no real value to operational capacity, frittering away already hard to get and inadequate resources.

Between 2008 and 2019, Nigeria’s expenditure on military remained stable at around 0.5 percent of the country’s GDP. In 2019, the military spending amounted to 0.46 percent of the gross domestic product.

After decades of underfunding the military, Nigeria’s defence budget has increased substantially during the past 10 years. Yet the performance of the country’s military remains poor. And the country’s security challenges continue as can be seen from the latest data from the 2019 Global Terrorism Index report which ranked Nigeria as the third-worst nation prone to terrorism with no improvement since 2017.

With this heavy expenditure, why are the outcomes so poor?

Anti-corruption/transparency

It is more than obvious that the inability to get positive outcomes is due to the never-ending corruption prevalent in the military hierarchy in which budgetary allocations meant for military-centric activities are deployed to procure office goods, services, building structures, and overseas trips. In addition, there is also clear and irrefutable evidence that corrupt and incompetent security chiefs have turned the nation’s security into a “business venture”, thus jeopardising the capacity of the military to access effective and efficient resources and assets to defend the nation’s territorial integrity.

Training and doctrine

The challenge facing the Nigerian military, as clearly evident over the last decade, is to train a force that is capable of winning wars. The operational environment and the changing Character of warfare necessitate a change in the way officers and men are recruited, trained, deployed and promoted.

In the conflict against Boko Haram, we have seen whole battalions running away from the battlefield, and cases of soldiers losing their will to fight. While access to efficient equipment has been cited as the main reason for this, it is obvious that it is a secondary reason.

There is ample evidence that soldiers from Niger, Chad and Cameroon are no better resourced than their Nigerian counterparts, yet they have proved to be more zealous on the battlefield and keener to take risks.

One of the critical factors responsible for this lethargic approach by the Nigerian military is the methodology for recruiting officers and soldiers, the manner of training and on-boarding, as well as the methodology for deploying and promoting them.

The Nigerian military has over the years become a ‘tribal employment portal’ where emphasis is placed on language, tribe and religion at the expense of capability, efficiency and merit.

The resultant outcome is a large corps of officers and men incapable of securing the country and unwilling to put their ‘best foot’ forward in the arena of battle. The reason is not hard to fathom; many joined the military not out of patriotism and a willingness to serve, but out of material need for a source of regular income.

There is therefore an urgent need to redefine who can become a soldier and how that process takes place. The distorted system of recruitment, postings, transfers, promotions, rewards and punishment needs a complete overhaul to engender patriotism and selflessness and thus, get the best of the best into the military.

Furthermore, the deployment of soldiers for internal security operations such as anti-kidnapping, anti-crime and anti-cultism operations completely negates the training and doctrine as well as the responsibilities of the military.

The end result has been the erosion of the professionalism of soldiers as well as the vitiation of their distinctive soldierly quality as they get more and more involved in civilian matters.

To reverse this trend, it is more than important that the Police is encouraged and well-resourced to take on their assigned responsibilities of fighting crime and criminality in order to relieve the military of such extraneous duties that add no value to the capability of the military.

Furthermore, there is a pressing imperative to interrogate the method of appointing the leadership of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Pertinent questions to ask in this regard include: Must ethnicity and religion be the yardstick for determining who heads the varied services or should clear evidence of academic, operations, leadership and management capability be the sensible criteria?

Should course mates and seniors of newly appointed chiefs who aren’t due for retirement be forced to resign, thus depleting the services of well-trained officers and managers. Isn’t it reasonable and more compelling for the country and the military that those who are willing to continue serving be allowed to do so? Shouldn’t service chiefs be constitutionally allowed to serve two terms of two years each in order to insulate them from political influence of the executive leadership? Isn’t there a need to place an embargo on the promotion of senior officers in the military until such a time when the major conflict in the north-east has been decisively won?

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