Experts on security matters have knocked the Nigerian military over its recent acclaimed successes against banditry and terrorism as violence and bloodletting take a worrisome toll, particularly in Nigeria’s Northern states.
Describing those acclaimed successes as mere propaganda stunt to still appear relevant, experts said the military should rather look inwards and tackle the real challenges that are clogging its fight against terror which has lasted over a decade, as well as other forms of criminality, which continue to claim thousands of innocent lives.
The Nigeria military recently claimed that over 1,400 Boko Haram fighters have been killed since the relocation of the Army Chief, Tukur Buratai to the Northeast in April, repeatedly assuring that insurgency has seen its last days.
“You cannot be reporting that you killed thousands of these criminals and yet they are massacring more innocent Nigerians. Propaganda cannot take the place of strategic planning and implementation, it cannot save the military. They are not doing what they are supposed to do”, said Eze Onyekwere, Lead Director of Centre for Social Justice.
As insecurity escalates, the military continues to reel out figures of the scores of bandits killed in the North-West, North-central and terrorists in the Northeast including their commanders and arms suppliers with “about 1000 earlier killed between April 1-9 by Chadian soldiers led by its President Idris Derby.
Despite this feat, these criminals have remained ruthless in their attacks – from Katsina to Niger and Zamfara, where the bandits wreak havoc on helpless citizens. Several adults and children have been raped and killed, and many have had their properties and means of livelihood destroyed. Citizens are now more at mercy of insurgents.
These attacks and killings have gone unabated, in the face of government struggles to contain further spread of ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.
At least 2,771 Nigerians have been murdered in cold blood since January 2020, according to figures released by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a US-based think-tank under the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) programme.
Mike Ejiofor, a former commissioner of police, said the military may be reeling out high casualty numbers to give citizens psychological uplift and reassurance. He said though the military has tried in all its effort, the recent escalation of violence is a pointer for the military to change its strategy and rejig the entire security architecture.
“I am at loss over the claims by the military, what number constitutes Boko Haram? If you put together their claims it could be up to 20,000 terrorists, yet there is heavy casualty on civilians. You cannot be doing the same thing and expect a different result,” Ejiofor said.
“Service chiefs should be changed; they have tried; we need new ideas,” he added.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday told his service chiefs, who many say are already weak, lack any more ideas and should be replaced, that they had failed in curbing worsening insecurity in the nation.
In an unprecedented display of his disapproval of the rising security challenges in the country, Buhari reportedly told the top military officers that “their best was not good enough.”
Ben Okezie, a security analyst, knocked the president, heaps the blame on the President, who according to him is not stable. “He is almost confused,” Okezie told BDSUNDAY. “He has said over and over again that he will tackle this problem. What is saving us is that we have a dedicated army chief, else they would have overtaken the federal capital territory,” he said.
Okezie however, said the military is overwhelmed with inadequate manpower as it tackles external aggression and internal security such as banditry, which ought to be the primary duty of the police. He said the military should be relived of internal security duty, to enable it focus on the war against insurgents.
Lawrence Alobi, a former police commissioner, FCT, said the military needed to step up intelligence gathering from civilians so as to be ahead of the criminals. He noted that this will require the military to be more sincere in all their actions to win the trust of citizens.
He urged civilians to corporate, noting that they bear the brunt the most in this war against insurgency.
Alobi also observed that the military currently lacked the equipment needed to tackle the security challenges in the country.
Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Bashir Magashi had admitted that the military is understaffed and underfunded to tackle the various security challenges facing the country.
Major-General, John Enenche, coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Defence Headquarters (DHQ) however, said the military is neither weak not lacks the capacity to address insecurity.
The Coordinator rather claimed the reason banditry has not been tackled is because the military is avoiding collateral damage, which he described as a major constraint.
Enenche explained that bandits leverage on the armed conflict and international humanitarian laws, one of which stipulates that the military cannot fire on them when they mingle with the civilian populace. He said they hence use civilians as human shields when wreaking havoc.
Enenche said another major constraint is getting information from the civilians.