By Oladimeji Odeyemi
Many will undoubtedly recall that the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, upon inauguration, made it clear where his priorities lie — Winning the war against terror and returning the Nigerian Military to the very positive place of total professionalism. That was how it all started from the 29th of May 2015.
Hitherto and before this present administration took over in 2015, of a major hindrance to winning the war against Terror was the very disturbing reports of army mutiny, Indiscipline, various cases of violations of the codes of war.
Such a destabilizing and debilitating situation was what the new administration and the new military heads inherited… And there was a war on Terror that was very far from being won.
Professionalism and Ethics in the Army.
Professions create their own standards of performance and codes of ethics to maintain their effectiveness…
And the Nigerian Army is not left out in this venture.
In practice, and in context, this means that not only must Soldiers maintain the Army’s effectiveness, it must do so within the law, and the standards and moral code that make up the professional military ethics…. And in a situation that the Army, prior to May 2015, had been accused of many things, including Human Rights violations, it was a near chaotic situation that was met.
There are stark contrasts between military ethics and those of other professions, however. For example, whereas conventional ethics may say, “First, do no harm to civilians,” but in an unconventional war in which there are no standard armies but guerilla-like Terrorists who mingle freely with civilians and wear no uniforms, keeping to professional military ethics become very difficult and will encompass, training and retraining of the army personnel and soldiers to be compliant still with the required ethics of war.
It was therefore a very serious matter for the post-May 2015 Nigerian Army to immediately begin the process that have come to be seen as one of the most important factors, leading to the huge successes recorded so far in the war Against Terror.
Choosing the battles in a War
A battle is a combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants.
A war sometimes consists of many battles.
Battles generally are well defined in duration, area, and force commitment.
A battle with only limited engagement between the forces and without decisive results is sometimes called a skirmish…
And there lies the difference in this war against Terror in which the battles were very many and diverse.
First and foremost, there was the battle within, in which the soldiers themselves were demoralized — Weapons were in short supply and reinforcements too long on coming. The anger was steadily building and ethics became a huge casualty.
Wars and military campaigns are guided by strategy, whereas battles take place on a level of planning and execution known as operational mobility… It was therefore a different kind of battle that the army now had to face when, these very strategies of the army gets leaked to the enemy as soon as they were made and mobility made redundant as the location of the Nigerian troops were frequently revealed to the enemy.
Any War at all, is fighting and operates in a peculiar element of danger…But not when there were leaks in the lines of command and sabotage among the ranks..!
War is served by many activities quite different from mere conjectures, so that innocent lives and lives of troops will not be lost.
The task therefore was to Retool the Army and rework it from the way of Arbitrariness, all of which concern the maintenance of the fighting forces.
These preparatory activities were quickly incorporated and included into the Army, Post-May 2015.
The meaning of the Training and the Retraining earlier mentioned, is this.
The new Army leadership under , Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai clearly understands, The Art-of-Unconventional-war, the actual conduct of this war, because they immediately became concerned with the creation, training, and maintenance of the fighting forces….
The implications of having a new leadership and the rejuvenation of the Army in handling this war on Terror, properly, in the right manner, has by extension brought along with it the use of modern civilian compliant means, by which less and less reports of human rights violations and condemnation by international human rights observers, became considerably, reduced.
The good things about these new models is that, once they have been developed for the purposes of an unconventional war, and they are seen to have succeeded, a new Vista is opened in the annals of warfare in which future engagements can be based.
The Victories of the Nigerian Army over Terror.
The Nigerian Army has recorded a string of victories against the Terrorists as a direct result of the redirection, retraining and repositioning that have happened in the past 30 months…!
In recent times due to efforts being boosted by support from President Buhari
A concerted push by the rejuvenated Nigeria’s military, has regained considerable ground in the fight against the Boko Haram Terror Group.
As at this very day, the Nigerian Army, has repelled Boko Haram from all local government districts in the Northeast….
What remains are a few skirmishes, ambushes and isolated suicide bomb attacks, aimed at soft targets and not at a whole local governments, districts, villages, towns and cities.
And, as they inch closer to total victory, the military men and officers fighting the war against the Boko Haram sect in the Northeast are in high spirit!
A few weeks ago the Nigerian Army killed about 15 Boko Haram terrorists in Gwoza, Borno state, and the people, took to the street to celebrate the military victory over the insurgency.
The Nigerian troops attached to “Operation LAFIYA DOLE” under the ongoing Operation Deep Punch in the North-east region have cleared all the Boko Haram Terrorists’ camps in various confrontations in the in the past 30 months whilst suffering minimal casualties in the process, capturing high calibre arms and ammunition, particularly in the Lake Chad region.
The Terrorists, have been cleared out, from their hideouts in Metele village, Tumbun Gini and Tumbun Ndjamena in Borno State.
During the clearance operations, Boko Haram terrorists abandoned the area in disarray, leaving behind livestock, large quantity of foodstuff, motorcycles and donkeys.
Also in Metele, and other place, the terrorists have been completely destroyed and their gun trucks and and other equipment, captured.
The Intelligence War on Terror.
The Gallant Nigerian troops also have made many discoveries of Terrorists’ logistics base at Tumbu Ndjamena which held stocks of fish, foodstuffs, fuel and motorcycles. All these items were promptly destroyed.
In all of these Intelligence work truly paid off as information gathering and effective civilian collaboration and handling have led the army to many of these victories… Sadly, some Nigerian troops paid the supreme price for securing the great peace and relief we all are enjoying today. Specifically, the high spirit among the troops that continues to define the cohesion and camaraderie that have led to these strings of successes.
The Human Rights Abuse allegation against the Nigerian Army.
Despite these strings of successes and the high morale, professionalism and ethics, restored into the Nigerian Army, there were not to be unexpectedly, a few allegations of human rights abuses against the Nigerian Army in her conduct of war against Terror.
And a responsive government of President Mohammadu Buhari rose to the task by the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, releasing a statement to the effect that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government and the Armed Forces to ensure that the military conform with the international best practices on human issues.
Vice president Yemi Osinbajo as the Acting President then, stated this while inaugurating a nine-man presidential panel to review allegations of human right abuses by the military charged the panel to find out whether they carried out their duty diligently, impartially and with all sense of professionalism, in August of 2017.
He said, “It is the responsibility of the armed forces and those of us in government to ensure that we interrogate our own activities and ensure that those activities meet up to human rights norms and basic rules of decency observed across the world.”
The panel was given the mandate to review compliance of Armed Forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement.
You may recall that in June, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the military to conduct an internal inquiry into allegations of rights abuses by its personnel.
The then Acting President also praised the Nigerian military saying “it is also a well – known fact that the conduct of the country’s defence and security forces during insurgency in the North East and militancy in the Niger Delta has in recent times attracted significant commendations.”
The members of the Panel were Hon. Justice Biobele Geogrewill who is appointed to serve as Chairman Maj. Gen. Patrick Akem, Olawale Fapohunda, Mrs. Hauwa, Jibrin Ibrahim, Mr. Abba A. Ibrahim, Mrs Ifeoma Nwakama, Dr. Fatima Alkali, Counsel to the Panel, while Mr. S. Halliru is the Secretary (OSGF)
Responding on behalf of other members of the panel the Chairman, Justice Biobele Georgewill assured they will put in their best in order to uphold the confidence reposed on them by the government.
The panel sat in the geopolitical zones and cases even as far back as 2007 were brought to the fore.
The one good and interesting thing is the openness under which the whole exercise was conducted.
No one was barred, including notable human rights lawyers were also made submissions..
Boko Haram suspects were also allowed to make their inputs, that altogether, a very thorough job was done by the panel on the laudable platform of determining the credible claims from the spurious ones… The task was completed without a hitch with no glitch in November of 2017.
Though the report is yet to be released, the report citing Army/Nigerian relations in the last two years will no doubt be favorable.
Improved Army/Civilian Relations..
It is pertinent to make a reference to the period of Nigeria’s independence to date, in determining how far the nation has gotten with managing the Military/Army/Civilian relations..
After independence, the Nigerian Military, especially the Army, gave a good account of itself by rescuing the country from the precipice. And this happened not just once but several times because we had internal security problems in Nigeria, some of which are as a result of the deficiencies of other security agencies in the country. So, it has always been the Nigerian military that rises to the occasion. We must give it to them. They did a lot during the Civil War; we should commend them for that. Again we had situations of insurgency and they have done wonderfully well.
However, the situation started to change, when the military became active in politics….
Military involvement in politics has somewhat since then, made them antagonistic to the civil population.
This perception has waned only a little since the beginning of the 4th Republic in 1999.
In recent years, the Army/Civilian relations has been somewhat low-keyed, especially during the years the Boko Haram Terror held sway..
Undoubtedly also, the clear and detailed army victories against Terror has brought a new resurgence in the otherwise low-tide of checkered relations in which the people’s confidence and empathy have started to rise again.
Nigerians now celebrate great victories and also deeply mourn their fallen heroes wherever and whenever our Gallant Soldiers pay the Supreme price of service to fatherland with their lives..
And lately, we are seeing a lot of modest changes within the military from 2015 to date.
They have done a lot to improve the Army/Civilian relations to ensure that their professional calling is done within the ambit of the law, with respect to human rights, due process and professionalism.
In this regard the military is becoming professional, is maturing, becoming much more advanced and is fixing itself very well.
Lately also, the Nigerian Army is doing some programmes to ensure that the common man is made to appreciate the activities of the military….
Civilian Schools are incorporated into the Civil/military Healthcare delivery system. And also in tackling crimes of kidnappings and armed robberies..
In Truth Army/Military/Civilian conflicts happen everywhere in the world. Therefore, bridging the gap between the common man and the military is desirable even though it will take some time.
Worthy of note also in the rescue of nearly 50% of all all the kidnapped Chibok girls, by the Nigerian Army.
First, it was 21 girls out of the 240 kidnapped. Then 81 girls at a go…
And random numbers in twos and threes and the 107th Chibok Girl, Salomi Pagu just rescue only a few days back.
Concluding this Article, must rest on the commitment of the Army, to service, which anchors on safely International Core Values of the military.
The core values of all the military services, including the army, reflect honor, courage, integrity and a commitment to the ideals upon which the nation’s core values are based.
The Nigerian Army presents these values as loyalty, duty, respect selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The other services too, consolidate these same ideals…
The responsibility of carrying these ideals into the battlefield and exercising same among civilians is a function of Leadership. And this is where leading from the front has become the watchword of the rejuvenated Nigerian Army.
A War is not a fair exercise, it is neither fun or always necessary…. But it happens, in order to defend a Nation and secure its peace.
Military ethics require war to be just, however. The philosophical theory of the just war requires war to be the last result.. These are the very words and attitude displayed by the present Nigerian Army leadership. It is only then a war is deemed a just war, and it is then fought to correct a wrong, just as the Nigerian Army is doing fighting the war on Terror.
The goals of The Nigerian Army, is to establish peace, not continue violence unnecessarily. Excessive violence is unacceptable and civilians must not be the deliberate targets of violence — That is the message from the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
Comrade Oladimeji Odeyemi, A Counter terrorist analyst and a Security Expert, is the Convener of the Coalition of Civil Society Groups against Terrorism in Nigeria sent this piece from Ibadan, Oyo State.