By Mathias Ubugha
Aside poverty, another great cankerworm that devours the very fabric of nations is terrorism.
Successive governments in most countries around the world have sought different means of putting an end to the menace of bombing, killing, destruction of property and frightening away of prospective investors.
Among several nations of the world, especially in Africa, that are combating terrorism, is Nigeria, a country said to be the Giant of Africa. Could the title be the reason behind their giant problems? Just asking!
It was only in the Bible (the Holy Book of the Christians), that we heard of a man called David who used a stone and a sling to bring down a giant Philistine who was heavily armed for war.
It was also in this same Bible that we heard of how Joshua and his people used trumpets to crumble a highly fortified wall that could withstand any attack.
However, in the ordinary society as we know it, such leisures are hardly celebrated. In this case, men, weapon and blood do the fighting and the winning.
One of the generally accepted measure of stopping insurgency around the world is the acquisition of heavy and sophisticated armaments that could match up those used by the enemy forces.
It is to this end that military troops deployed to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria have decried their use of outdated weapons and equipment, including failing Shilka guns procured during the administration of late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who was the President of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983 as against their opponents who have more ‘beastly’ weapons.
The Nigerian Army had in November 2018 pointed out that Boko Haram’s attacks on troops had revealed that the insurgents were using drones and foreign fighters.
Also, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State said in July while welcoming the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, that Boko Haram had higher expertise and better technological weapons than the military.
This was what an officer who was engaged in operations in one of the toughest operational zones of the North-East told Sunday PUNCH correspondent on the condition of anonymity:
“Apart from Shilka, we used to have in our inventory Tank 72, also known as T-72, which was made in Russia and manufactured in 1971 but sold out in 1972. T-72 are Soviet-era tanks”
He added, “They were procured by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration towards the 2015 elections and they were used to capture lost territories, but unfortunately, the tanks came without spare parts.
“From time to time, we cannibalised one to fix another until they broke down and they were withdrawn from operations because there were no spare parts. What we have now is called Vickers MBT (Vickers Main Battle Tanks).
“They are even older than the T-72. So, as I’m talking to you, Shilka is what we have and the outdated guns we were supplied with and that is why the insurgents seem to be having the upper hand. The equipment is really outdated.”
In a similar revelation, another top military officer at the battlefront told Sunday PUNCH on the condition of anonymity that the attacks on soldiers had increased in recent times because the insurgents were now using the weapons and equipment they once stole from the military.
Meanwhile, the sources explained further that beyond using drones, the insurgents were now using night vision goggles, thermal detectors and other modern equipment to attack the Nigerian troops.
“Thermal detectors are optic detectors that work as a result of heat emitted by any living thing that breath out carbon dioxide.
“No matter where you are hiding, you will be easily detected. We don’t have night vision goggles, not to even talk of thermal detectors,” one of them said.
“In fact, if I can, I will call them magicians, yet we keep fighting them with the obsolete equipment we are supplied with and that is why we are losing men. I can tell you that we have not been supplied with fresh equipment in a long while. Those terrorists, especially ISWAP, are very deadly and confident and they now use foreign mercenaries, who are foreign terrorists.”
To affirm these statements made by our brave soldiers who are sacrificing their lives to protect this nation, President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted to have said at an ECOWAS meeting how the terrorists deploying more sophisticated weapons is a matter of concern.”
A top military officer added that, “In each of their operation areas, they have suicide bombing squads that move around with them (the terrorists); they have medical teams and engineering teams to manufacture make-shift bridges if they have to cross obstacles or repair any damaged vehicle during the attack. They also have a casualty recovery team that evacuates their dead and injured colleagues during attacks.”
The source also lamented that there were times they would call for backup and no one would respond, while the terrorists, on the other hand, would send heavy backups, with men numbering about 500 sometimes”
“They are well equipped and that is why they launch RPGs cheaply and easily,” he added.
Could it be that the government of Nigeria has been lukewarm with regards to the issue of insurgency and the slaying of her soldiers who happen to be citizens, sons, brothers, husbands and fathers of children?
Well, that may not be the case as investigations have found out that the Federal Government has allocated over N3.77trillion to the Ministry of Defence between 2010 and 2019, a period of ten years.
Findings show that details of the N3.77tn, which were obtained from the Budget Office of the Federation by one of PUNCH correspondents, were contained in the annual budgets of the government for the ministry.
The Ministry of Defence is made up of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force, Defence College, Nigerian Defence Academy, Defence Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence College, Military Pensions Board, Defence Missions, Defence Space Agency among others.
A breakdown of the allocation showed that the sum of N589.95bn was allocated to the defence sector in the 2019 fiscal period. The budget is made up of recurrent expenditure of N430.82bn and capital expenditure of N159.12bn.
Further analysis showed that the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force got a total budgetary allocation of over N2.32tn to finance their operations during the 10-year period.
If such an amount of money has been made available over this past ten years, how come we are still entertaining such complaints from our soldiers? Obviously, there are more questions than answers as something is fishy somewhere.
Furthermore, analysis of figures obtained from the Budget Office of the Federation showed that the sum of $496.37m was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and withdrawn for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft.
The withdrawal of that amount, according to the Budget Office, was made in the first quarter of 2018.
Similarly, the President also gave approval that the sum of $380.51m be withdrawn for the first batch of procurement of critical equipment for the Nigerian Army, Navy and Defence Intelligence Agency.
However, despite the money spent on defence, especially on terrorism in the North-East, the Boko Haram insurgents have resurfaced and armed with better military equipment such as drones.
According to a report by the New York Times, the terrorists were said to be roaming some parts of Borno State with impunity, even when President Muhammadu Buhari had insisted his administration had defeated the sect.
Another soldier in Borno, who pleaded anonymity, told one of PUNCH correspondents that although the insurgents could not be said to be fully in control of any local government in the country, their threat was still very much potent.
The soldier said, “The Boko Haram soldiers have superior firepower. Also, they have spies who work for insurgents at a price. Some of the civilians living along various axis come to buy foodstuffs and other things for these guys.”
Also, there is no proper synchronisation between the land Army and the Air Force. If this fight would be properly fought and Boko Haram dealt with, we need more of the air support.”
Others noted that superior weapons and equipment, like Armoured Personnel Carrier and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, popularly known as MRAP, which is both bullet- and bomb-proof, were urgently needed by the troops.
Security of lives and property is a crucial role to be taken seriously by any government or people.
A safe and secure environment is a good breeding ground for investors to do business which adds up to the CGP of a nation’s economy.
In order to achieve the above, it would therefore be wise for the government to swing into action by fighting fire with thunder if it hopes to vanquish insurgency and return the land to its former normalcy and bliss.