Before November, 2015, Nigeria’s Ministry of Defence (MOD), saddled with the executive supervisory role of providing policy direction and coordination for the Armed Forces of Nigeria, was engaged in an internal war with insurgents in the North East of the country.
At that time, large parts of Nigerian territory, arguably over a dozen local government areas across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, were in the control of the Boko Haram terrorist group despite denials by government officials and the military hierarchy.
At the inception of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, he promised to revamp the defence sector and immediately ordered the service chiefs to relocate their operational headquarters to the theatre of the insurgency: the North East.
The appointment of Mansur Dan-Ali as Minister of Defence in November, 2015, ushered in at first Buhari’s government’s attempt to stop alleged corruption, said to have afflicted the management of the security sector and decreased the operational capacity of the armed forces.
Dan-Ali’s leadership of the ministry started with reforms in the armed forces: the appointment of new service chiefs, followed by the unprecedented investigation and prosecution of security and service chiefs over alleged financial mismanagement.
The ministry also superintended over the investigation, court-martial and retirement of several senior military officers alleged to have been involved in political or financial infractions, many of them are now in civil courts, challenging the decision of the military to disengage them from service.
In addition to these, the ministry has witnessed an increase in its budgetary allocation for the entire defence sector, estimated to have been allocated about N6tn in the past five years.
Under the watch of Dan-Ali as Minister of Defence, the sector is said to have received increased budgetary allocation every year; from N969bn in 2015, N1.063tn in 2016, N1.142tn in 2017 to 1.334tn in 2018.
Despite this, the dynamics of insecurity in the country has morphed from mainly counter-insurgency in the North East and the Lake Chad Region to the menace of banditry, kidnapping for ransom, militancy in the Niger Delta and communal clashes across the country.
The view among security analysts is that Nigeria will continue to grapple with these changing security challenges that beg for an overhaul of the security architecture of the country.
Experts have pointed out loopholes in the counter-insurgency strategy, as well as a lack of synergy among security agencies and the armed forces, hampering their operational effectiveness.
It is expected that joint services operations should be enhanced to include logistics and administration under the supervision of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a means to improve the effectiveness of military operations.
It has also been alleged that despite huge allocations, funds for the armed forces are not usually approved and that the reluctance to release the funds exacerbated insecurity in the country.
Dan-Ali, it has been noted, is an advocate for alternative funding for the military; outside normal budgetary allocations.
Also, the numerical manpower of the armed forces has been identified as an area that must be addressed.
It was gathered that with a combined manpower of not more than 200,000 personnel, the military which is also carrying out policing functions across the country, is overstretched.
Compared to countries like Sudan and Egypt, both do not have Nigeria’s population but have larger number of military personnel, the ratio of soldier per citizens in Nigeria is inadequate to address the lingering insecurity.
Another obstacle that the minister has had to struggle with is the seeming international conspiracy against Nigeria on the acquisition of modern military weapons and equipment.
The government it was gathered has been frustrated with weapons and equipment transactions.
It was also learnt that despite a new government-to-government policy adopted to boycott third-party vendors, weapons and equipment paid for do not get delivered on time; as sometimes weapons paid for are delivered four or five years later.
The rotation of soldiers posted to the counter- insurgency operations was a promised made by the minister that is yet to be wholly fulfilled.
It has been gathered that some battalions have overstayed in the theatre of war; in some cases for about three years.
Recently, the minister came under attack from the traditional rulers of Zamfara State over comments attributed to him alleging the complicity of the chiefs in banditry ravaging the state.
However, under the stewardship of Dan-Ali, the armed forces made spirited effort at combating insurgency and terrorism in the North East.
These include training of Special Forces and troops in counter-terrorism, recruitments and enlistments to increase manpower in the armed forces.
Also, a major strategy has been the establishment of a motorcycle battalion by the Nigerian Army (NA) to support operations in the North East and the establishment of a naval outpost in the Lake Chad Basin.
The establishment of the 8 Task Force Division in Monguno further strengthened military presence in the North East. The creation of the new division is said to have helped in command and control in the theatre of operation.
The military has unarguably degraded the insurgents’ capacity in the North East to control territory and attack with impunity as was the case before 2015.
Also, the army conducted Operation Crackdown within the Sambisa Forest to clear Boko Haram insurgents out of their camps.
Also, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) conducted Operation Gama Aiki to flush out remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists from the Nigeria-Niger border, hence the armed forces have recaptured most territories under the control of the Boko Haram terrorists.
Towns and villages have been reclaimed and liberated. Also, over 12,000 persons held hostage by the terrorists have been rescued and several inter/intra-state roads that were impassable have been reopened to enhance movement of people in the North East.
The armed forces have also established Operation Safe Corridor to deradicalise and rehabilitate terrorists who have renounced violence or who were captured in battle in line with global best practices.
Also, the capacity of the Nigerian Army Special Vehicle Plant, Bauchi, was improved in 2018.
The plan, it was learnt, has been able to carry out overhaul and major repairs of tanks, armoured carriers and artillery guns, which were damaged in the theatre of operation.
The armed forces also established the Human Rights Desk Committee to respond to cases of abuse by troops.
The troops are currently conducting various operations across the country in order to combat security challenges.
These operations include Operation Delta Safe, Operation Awtse, Operation Safe Haven, Operation Safe Corridor, Operation Sharan Daji, Operation Whirl Stroke, Operation Whirl Punch and Operation Lafia Dole.
The operations are combating terrorism, rustling, kidnapping, armed banditry, militancy, herders-farmers crises and other security challenges.
Some of the criminal elements perpetrating these crimes have been decimated while others arrested. In addition, large caches of arms, ammunition and other items have been recovered.
Dan-Ali has spearheaded the effort of the present administration which has seen the armed forces witness increased support and collaboration with foreign armies, especially in the areas of training, intelligence and information sharing.
This is evident in the successes of the Multi-National Joint Task Force in checkmating the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists in the Lake Chad Basin Region.
Countries participating in the joint operations are Nigeria, Cameron, Chad, Niger and Republic of Benin.
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