Corruption, Division Hinders Nigeria’s War Against Boko Haram

United-States-Under-Secretary-of-State-for-Civilian-Security-Democracy-and-Human-Rights-Sarah-Sewall-360x225At the time of this report, it is already over two months since over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted from the school where they had gone to write their final secondary school examination in Chibok, Borno State by the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists. With the many hues and cry since then, no solution has been found, leading to speculations that efforts towards the girls’ rescue are fraught with too many extraneous factors.

Investigations reveal these claims might just have substance. In March, the United States Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Sarah Sewall, said categorically that corruption is hindering Nigeria’s efforts at ending insurgency in the North-East.

While appearing before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee alongside a Pentagon top Africa official, Amanda Dory, Sewall added that the military must overcome entrenched corruption and incompetence for it to rescue the over 200 schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram on April 14.

Her accusation came just a day after the Nigerian Army declared in a clear term that its soldiers could not march force with force with the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.

The Chief of Accounts and Budget (army), Maj.-Gen. Abdullahi Muraina, said this at training programme for the Nigerian Army Finance Corps Warrant Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned officers. Muraina said without adequate funding, the army would not be able to halt the current activities of Boko Haram.

He said, “Currently, budgetary allocation for the military is inadequate to meet the contemporary security challenges and also cater for the welfare of the Nigerian Army.”

Muraina noted that apart from inadequate funding,the army was enmeshed in bureaucratic bottlenecks for funding approvals for military operations across the country, urging the Federal Government to evolve other means of funding and supporting military operations aside the usual budgetary allocations.

However, in addition to corruption, inadequate armament, low morale and possible collusion with the enemy, the growing rift between officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in Battalion 101 of 7Division based in Maiduguri, has been identified as one of the factors that has hindered the country’s counter-terrorism efforts in the North-east.

SONY DSCInvestigations reveal that the mistrust between officers and the NCOs is so bad that it has served to weaken the country’s offensive against Boko Haram terrorists. The rift has seen the parties setting each other up and helped to expose senior officers in the army currently being investigated and face court martial, contrary to the repeated denials by the Defence Headquaters and Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, that no officer is being tried in the military.

Whereas the soldiers have accused their commanders of colluding with the enemy, the officers have blamed the soldiers for deliberately refusing to fight and pushing their colleagues to their deaths.

In an interview, a senior officer in the Nigerian Army said his fellow commissioned officers have maintained that rather than the insurgency, it is acts of cowardice, indiscipline and desertion from duty on the part of soldiers that constitute the greatest danger in the ongoing fight against terrorism in the country.

He disclosed that the troublesome Battalion 101 of 7Division, which had also mutinied against their General Officer Commanding (GOC), was made up of lily-livered soldiers whose frame of mind was not conditioned to engage terrorists in a battle.

He revealed that the pervasive rot had become so frightening that the military authorities are considering a comprehensive overhaul of both their recruitment system and more importantly, re-orientation of personnel on the professional calling of soldiers in the armed forces.

In the midst of these counter accusations, the US, which offered logistics support to rescue the abducted girls seem unimpressed. Sewall said that despite Nigeria’s $5.8bn security budget for 2014, “corruption prevents supplies as basic as bullets and transport vehicles from reaching the front lines of the struggle against Boko Haram.”

According to the New York Times, Sewall also told the committee that morale was low and that desertions were common among soldiers in the 7th Army Division fighting the insurgents. She clarified the level of involvement of US personnel in the rescue of the abducted girls, saying it would not be combative.

She told select journalists in Abuja that it was up to Nigeria to accept or reject the prisoners exchange offer made by   Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau.

Meanwhile, members of the Committee had disclosed that Boko Haram insurgents were trained by al-Qaeda. However, the US had earlier said that Boko Haram was not a branch of the global terrorist organisation, al Qaeda and it should be treated as “its own terrorist group.”

The Chairman of the Committee, Ed Royce, said being trained by the global terrorist sect meant greater terror for Nigerians, and greater challenges for the security forces.

According to another top military source, the military authorities have been trying to deal with rising cases of sabotage within their ranks and soldiers refusing to fight or desertion in the heat of battle but were taken aback by the recent acts of mutiny in Maiduguri.

Worried by the ugly development, the military has traced the remote and immediate causes of this alarming trend to three major factors, including the overbearing influence of the elite during the recruitment process such that candidates without a passion for the profession are being recruited into the armed forces.

It was revealed that most political figures, traditional rulers and influential personalities under the erroneous notion that the military is a money-making establishment rather than war-fighting profession put enormous pressure on the services to recruit their candidates who are not suitable for the job.Alex Badeh

“What we have today is frightening. This is not an issue of morale or motivation, but outright cases of cowardice with soldiers refusing to fight. They even beat up their officers and commanders and before you know it, they will start calling their political godfathers who will in turn start making demoralising comments and talking about morale.

“It has been difficult getting them to imbibe the discipline required of soldiers. For example, the attitude exhibited by this battalion has been unheard of in the annals of the Nigerian Army whereby you will send a soldier on assignment, and he dictates to you where, when and how he will go, as well as the type of weapon he must be given before going.

“Those who complain of weapons and other issues are all excuses born out of fear and cowardice, not issues of motivation and morale,” the source said.

However, the soldiers have attributed the woeful performance of the military in the North-east to the army officers, whom they accused of selling information, equipment and military uniforms in exchange of Boko Haram members.

Soldiers lamented the maltreatment of their colleagues, pointing to the poor allowances they are paid and poor feeding, saying: “They treat us like slaves.”