By Rev Solomon Semaka
Nigeria in recent years has been confronted with myriads of challenges that almost stagnated development and progress of her core productive and sensitive sectors. One of the most piercing of such problems has been insecurity; in fact, this singular issue has gone beyond disorganizing the domestic environment. The situation became worst in the previous administration until president Buhari took over, as the previous government rather than confront the issue head on got busy wallowing in self denial.
In fact, Nigeria’s security formations became cash cow for corrupt government officials to loot funds for personal gains. The former National Security Adviser is currently standing trials for allegedly chairing the diversion of security funds. This is disturbing when one attempts to appreciate the dynamics of securing a multi cultural state like Nigeria . When asked what security is, the answers people give are varied, broad, and diverse. To some it is the absence of violence and war, to others it is being able to travel freely or work on their farm land land. Whichever view point one stands on, the importance of security to individuals, groups and indeed a nation cannot be overemphasized.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari understanding that security is the nexus of government is not resting in the effort to secure lives and property of Nigerians. The security team put in place by the government has proven to be equal to the task. Understanding that the various security services suffered long years of neglect occasioned by poor equipment, poor welfare of personnel amongst other challenges. Today, the Nigeria Army (NA), the Nigerian Air Force(NAF), the Nigerian Navy(NN), the Nigerian Police (NPF) and other security formations are adequately prepared to defend the nation’s territorial integrity. Agreed that there are still minor lapses here and there, the consensus is that the military under Buhari is one to be proud of. A cursory review of the gains made by the nation’s security formation will reveal to any patriotic Nigerian that the policy consistency of Mr president and our service chiefs is not misplaced.
We must all therefore, endeavor to appreciate the dynamics of security and appreciate the gains made within the period these gallant service chiefs took over the saddle. Until one appreciate the rot that went on in the nation’s security formations in the past, it may be difficult to properly appreciate the modest gains attained under this regime. For instance, the NA under Lieutenant General Turkur Buratai in conjunction with other Services and security agencies has dominated the North East area and continues to carry out sustained operations against the Boko Haram terrorists (BHT).
On the nations territorial integrity, particularly along our land borders, there has been no breach as the army continually maintain a posture to defend Nigeria’s territorial rights and interests. Security relations with our neighbors, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic has remained relatively calm. The NA, unlike before, is now a collection of well-trained and properly articulated force, which can be relied upon and reckoned with at all times. General Buratai achieved this feat, through his dint of hard work, sacrifice and the enormous support of the President and the strategic deployment and redeployment of soldiers of all ranks in the army. The successes are also enhanced a through properly planned capacity building programmes involving soldiers in all the army formations which is being initiated and carefully implemented by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) himself as well as his able lieutenants since he mounted the saddle of leadership of the NA. One of such is the forth coming COAS conference bid to hold in few days ahead.
The welfare of army personnel has been prioritized as a strategy to boost their morale. As compared to what was obtained before the Buhari administration. There is currently adequate provision of healthcare services to NA personnel and their families and this has continued to remain one of Army priorities. From Jan 18 to date, over 36 officers, 144 soldiers and more than 7 family members of personnel have benefited in the NA Medical Evacuation both within and outside the Country. This is no mean achievement in the history of the Army.
Also, the NA has encouraged and supported all officers and soldiers who have innovative ideas and competencies. To drive the vision of the President towards maintaining professionalism in service, the NA with the support of the President has resumed its collaboration with the Defence Industries Corporation (DICON) for needed parts and small arms and ammunition.
Similarly, the NA is partnering with several companies in Nigeria including Innoson Motors, Proforce Limited, Nigeria Machine tools amongst others towards the production of light and heavy armoured vehicles, critical equipment as well as protective clothing for NA troops. These collaborations have led to the development of the TYB Rover, Infantry Patrol Vehicle (IPV) and the Bionbion Helicopter among several other equipments. The NA has also engaged some foreign technical companies and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to help repair and refurbish some of its heavier and more delicate platforms. Just recently, the Army unveiled 4 mines resistant anti ambush protected (MRAP) made in Nigeria vehicles.
The NA established the Nigerian Army Women Corps (NAWC) to develop female officers and soldiers that can be employed in all operational engagements. The Nigerian Army University Biu (NAUB) has been approved, established and has commenced its academic programmes all under President Buhari administration. The Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company (NAVMC) was also established to support our strides in vehicle manufacturing. The NA has also commenced direct training for personnel to acquire sufficient knowledge and communication skills in the 3 major Nigerian languages to better fit in anywhere they may be deployed.
The Nigeria Air Force led by its chief, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar has effectively handled the air component in executing the war against Boko Haram by inflicting considerable damage to the activities of insurgents, thereby limiting their freedom of action. The Air Force has equally gotten it share of welfare of its staff, training and retraining to achieve excellence as well as been properly equipped.
For instance, in the space of about four years, the Federal Government acquired 18 new platforms (aircraft) to boost training and the combat readiness of the NAF. These are 12 Super Mushshak trainer aircraft, four Mi-35M helicopter gunships, two Agusta 101 helicopters (handed over from the Presidential Air Fleet in virtually new condition) as well as two Bell 412 helicopters, which have been retrofitted to perform light combat functions. This number is aside the additional 22 aircraft that have been ordered, which include 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft, an additional Mi-35M helicopter gunship amongst others. These acquisitions clearly underscore the president’s desire to secure the nation’s territorial integrity. The quality and quantity of equipment procured, matched with the expertise of the Force to man them no doubt tells of the Presidents commitment to securing the nation’s territories.
The Nigerian Navy under the current Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas has recorded tremendous success lately in apprehending vessels used by oil thieves. This operation has improved security on our water ways and it has also helped improve the revenue of government. It is a known fact the Navy under President Muhammadu Buhari is properly situated to defend the nation’s water ways. Nigerian Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) NNS UNITY which was constructed in China has strengthened the efforts against all maritime crimes and illegalities in the nation’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea in general.
The Police under President Buhari has witnessed improvement in its technical capacity. We now have a forensic lab and GSM tracking device. We now have a more IT integrated Police force. There is no doubt that there are still a pocket of security challenges here and there.
However, we must not fail to appreciate the fact that security is a complex issue that requires tact and consistent procedure to achieve. So far, the Buhari administration has proven that it has in place a strategy aimed at strengthening the security structures for efficient service delivery and should be given all the support.
Rev Solomon Semaka is a Public Affairs Analysts and Human Rights Researcher