The advice given by former Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) that the military must develop new combat strategies to defeat the Boko Haram terror group is most timely. With the forthcoming general election and the rising security threats in the North East, the counsel that the military authorities must deploy fresh battle tactics against the terror group could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Despite the Federal Government’s claims that Boko Haram had been ‘technically’ defeated and their capacity to launch major attacks diminished, the reverse is the case. In the past seven months or thereabout, the insurgents had relentlessly attacked our troops.
Between May and November last year, some soldiers were reportedly killed in the counter-insurgency operations in the North East.
The most gruesome attack occurred on November 18 last year when insurgents attacked the 157 Task Force Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Metele, Borno State, and killed scores of soldiers.
The daredevilry of the insurgents became alarming after a faction of Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an affiliate of the global terror group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Backed by the dreaded organisation, attacks by Boko Haram have become more daring recently.
The continuous change of the leadership of Operation Lafiya Dole, has not really helped matters in the war against terrorism. In less than one year, three different theatre commanders have been in charge of Operation Lafiya Dole. Since Major General Ibrahim Attahiru was replaced as theatre commander in December 2017, Major General Rogers Nicholas and Major General Abba Dikko have headed the unit. In November last year, Major General Benson Akinroluyo was appointed the new commander.
In July 2015, the then new Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai established Operation Lafiya Dole. Since then, seven different Generals have been appointed theatre commanders of the unit. Unfortunately, the change in the leadership of the unit appeared not to have succeeded in taming the insurgents.
The argument that the soldiers are fighting an unconventional warfare is no longer tenable because Boko Haram is an insurgent group known for asymmetrical warfare. They do not respect war conventions.
For the troops to win the war, there must be a drastic change of tactics as Babangida has enjoined. It has become evident that the war cannot be won with conventional warfare tactics alone. Soldiers with specialised training in asymmetrical warfare should be involved in the campaign against the insurgents.
Besides, the welfare of the soldiers should be of paramount concern to the military authorities. The government should ensure that the troops are well equipped and taken care of. Our troops ought to be better equipped than the insurgents.
We believe that the authorities must address the grievances of the soldiers and work hard to boost the morale of the fighting force. The military must also launch inquests into its own activities to determine whether there are moles within its ranks that might be leaking its operational strategies to the enemies.
It is also pertinent that the military develops a more robust relationship and closer collaboration with the local communities in intelligence gathering and sharing. For this to be effective, there is the need to boost the confidence of the locals to enable them divulge relevant information on the insurgents to the military authorities.
While commending the military for reclaiming Baga Town in Borno State earlier captured by the insurgents, we plead that the officers and men of the Nigerian Army must always maintain professionalism and remain apolitical, especially as the general elections approach. Complains by soldiers of unjust redeployments and extended periods of battle must be urgently addressed.
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