by Christian Maurice
CNN’s Nic Robertson published a report on Thursday on the Nigerian army’s war against Boko Haram.
Part of the fallout from that report was a claim by an anonymous officer that the army is so neglected that they even have to individually pay for their own uniforms. The soldiers don’t ever benefit from the billions allocated to the defense budget, he explains. He even had to buy his own uniform. “The troop morale is actually very low, very low, because we are not issued a uniform, we buy the uniforms ourselves,” Worse, he says that sometimes it’s difficult to identify who is who in the battlefield. When they go into battle, no one has the same uniform, so when they run from Boko Haram it’s chaos. They don’t know who is friend or foe — whom to shoot and whom to help. Till date, many families do not know what’s happened to their husbands, sons and fathers.
However, the Nigerian army’s best response to this damning report was to call it satanic. Someone needs to remind our military officials that the war is not against demons and principalities but against Boko Haram. If this is the mentality they are using to prosecute the war, then we might as well pack our bags and vacate this country for the marauding, blood thirsty bandits. Let it be known that there is nothing on the CNN report that Nigerians do not know already. Years of corruption and abandonment have eroded the integrity and honour of this once proud and noble institution. What is unsaid though, is that playing the ostrich will not develop the strategic plans needed to win this war. It is misguided human errors like this that has come back to haunt us and for which we are needlessly sacrificing our officers and men in the front lines.
To be realistic, it is not for lack of funding that the army is a shamble today. Since 2012, our defense budget has accounted for about 18% or more of our national budgets 2009 – $1.864 billion 2010 – $2.112 billion 2011 – $2.784 billion 2012 – $5.947 billion 2013 – $6.821 billion 2014 – $5.291 billion 2015 – $5.974 billion What is at stake is whether these funds are actually deployed to the ends for which they were allocated. From all indications, this is not so. When soldiers are asked to pay for injuries sustained in the battlefield, that is devilish; when soldiers have to pay for their own uniforms, that is evil; and when we send our men and women to the battlefield ill-equipped to die, that is satanic. To gain some insight to the neglect our defense forces have endured, we take as an example the 2014 budgetary breakdown. According to www.defenceweb.co.za, Nigeria’s total defence and security budget during this period was US$5.29 billion of which only a fraction of it, US$1.9 went to the core defense arms of Navy ($440 million), Army ($830 million) and Airforce ($460 million) while US$1.72 went to the police.
What was done with the balance is left to the imagination especially as over $400 million was allocated to the office of the National Security Adviser alone! What we do know however, is that in the 4 years from 2010 to 2013, investment in hardware for the sector is 3 times lower than what they were 30 years ago. The result is our reality today. Boko haram is beating our armed forces on all fronts, gaining territories the size of Belgium on Nigerian land. Our military is demotivated, so much so that they are unable to wage a conventional war much less a terrorist one. Rather than threatening hell and brimstone on the so-called “disgruntled” officer that spoke to CNN, The Nigerian military hierarchy should bury their heads in shame. By their utterances, they should be held responsible for wilfully undermining the safety , purpose and lives of the men and women who are defending our fundamental freedoms in the North East. I find nothing more obscene , more satanic than that.
Christian Maurice is a freelance writer.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.