- Top Ministers, NSA wrangle as B/Haram exploits rubbish Military
By Sonia O’Abah
About this time two months ago President Goodluck Jonathan made a rather confident, authoritative declaration. The Boko Haram insurgency would be over in the next couple of weeks, he declared. But given that such pronouncements have been made by a number of Jonathan’s military chiefs in the recent past, only for them to be eventually rubbished, most Nigerians were not in a hurry to swallow the Commander-in-chief’s assurance hook, line, and sinker.
Such skeptism was more than justified last month when the government’s over-excited declaration that a so-called ceasefire had been agreed with Boko Haram backfired spectacularly. Not only did the insurgents denounce the “ceasefire” as a ruse, they accelerated the tempo and intensity of their terrorism, grabbing more territories and bombing many more targets with relative ease.
This medium gathered that ever since then a flurry of accusations and counter-accusations have been flying like confetti in Aso Rock. According to our usually dependable security and military sources, the bone of contention in the presidency is the conflicting pictures being painted by those concerned in respect of the trillions upon trillions of naira being supposedly spent on the anti-terror campaign, even as the rag-tag insurgents have been riding rough-shod over our supposedly better equipped armed forces.
DESERT HERALD gathered authoritatively that matters reached a boiling point few weeks ago when some group of daring hunters, who were armed with nothing more than Dane Guns, matchets, sticks and amulets, successfully dislodged Boko Haram from the territories they had been occupying, notably Mubi. “Given that the multi-trillion Nigerian troops had melted away when Boko Haram pounced on these towns (with little or no shot fired by our expensively assembled troops) it became obvious that something was amiss on our side,” one of the sources confided in our medium.
It was further learnt that in the aftermath of the ill-fated controversial “ceasefire”, recrimination reigned supreme among the military and security chiefs. “Essentially, their beef centred on how the billions budgeted for the Ministry of Defence on the one hand, and the anti-insurgency effort on the other, were spent or not spent,” an aide of a high-ranking Army officer, who asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter, disclosed. “Issues such as the processes that were either not followed or subverted, poor record-keeping, accountability, and the like, were raised, what with Mr. President having given them a marching order. He had specifically warned all and sundry in the wake of the failed ceasefire deal that except they sat up heads would roll sooner than later!”
DESERT HERALD gathered that what normally happens is that the Defence Ministry handles the purchase of military hardware. “Depending on which arm of the Armed Force the equipment or hardware is meant for, the arm’s service chief and his top lieutenants would participate in the procurement process,” the source added. “That, at least, had been the norm hitherto, with a view to ensuring that whichever force is concerned (be it the Army, Airforce or Navy), that arm would be carried along in terms of ascertaining the durability, potency and such other technical details of the materials. But that age-long policy was suddenly changed recently, with the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) now playing a leading role in the purchase of arms and ammunition”.
Dependable insiders claim that it was in the heat of the new arrangement that the South African authorities intercepted and seized an armada of cash running into billions of naira, purportedly meant for the purchase of military hardware in the former apartheid enclave. In fact, suspicion is rife that the lid might have been blown off that secret deal by some unnamed officials of the Defence Ministry who allegedly felt slighted in the new arrangement. Efforts to confirm this weighty claim over the weekend was however unsuccessful, as none of the officials of the NSA’s office or Defence Ministry would speak on the issue.
Giving an insight into what has been branded by not a few commentators as one of the most scandalous episodes in the history of the Nigerian Armed Forces, ex-head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, lamented that the Jonathan administration has failed woefully in utilizing the elephant-size allocations to the Defence Ministry and anti-terror campaign for these purposes.
“If you consider the foreign revenue Nigeria has generated since 1999, you will be shocked at how inefficient and corrupt PDP has been,” said the retired Armey general. “Soldiers have been saying they are ill-equipped, yet trillions (of naira) have been voted for defence in the last three years,” Buhari spoke in Enugu while addressing All Progressives Congress (APC) delegates.
In apparent reply to Buhari’s barbed arrow, the government said through the Minister for National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, that Jonathan shouldn’t be blamed for the Boko Haram mess and the military’s inability to tame the insurgents. Hear him:
“I don’t think Boko Haram are having their ways because government is not working. They are having their ways because we are not getting enough support from the Sub-region. It’s fundamental.
“People should be mindful of one thing when they try to criticize President Jonathan on issue of terrorism. We should know that when it comes to fighting terrorism, counter-terrorism and warfare, presidents do not go to war: It’s the handiwork of the armed forces.
“It’s the primary responsibilities of the military. And let me say this, Nigeria’s forces today are dominated by northerners and the Boko Haram spate is in the north. If there is a problem there, we look at our tactics, military operation and suspect some subversive tendencies in the armed forces.
“The Inspector General of Police is from the north, the NSA is from the North, the Chief of Defence Staff is from the North. So, why must anyone blame the president? I think we should appreciate what the man is doing by mobilizing all these forces. So, if there’s problem therefore, we should ask questions from the military and troops.
“Yes, it’s a political issue, but fundamentally a military issue. And am not saying they have not tried”.
Curiously, in trying to exonerate his principal, Abubakar Suleiman inadvertently (or advertently) underscored the main issue at stake by blaming the military and security chiefs who, incidentally, are all Northerners.
Observers are of the view that with the government’s top officials who are saddled with responsibility of fighting the insurgent, fighting a war of attrition among themselves (particularly over who to control the trillions of naira at stake) the war against Boko Haram may not go according to expectation soonest.