Manpower, funds, the only problems of Nigerian military?




Before now, many people, some of them knowledgeable others not, have said that the Nigerian military is ill-equipped to handle the myriad of security challenges bedeviling the country.

Some, including a former governor of the state worst hit by the attacks, Borno, in the person of Mr Kashim Shettima, now a senator, even go as far as saying that the armed group, Boko Haram, is better equipped than the Nigerian military fighting it.

“Boko Haram are better armed and are better motivated than our own troops,” said Kashim Shettima in 2014 when he was a governor. “Given the present state of affairs, it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram.”

It is said by some other people that the Boko Haram sect is equipped with more sophisticated weapons than the Nigerian military. While the terrorists are said to be equipped with RPG7 anti-aircraft, GPMG, IEDS, and Browning machine guns, Nigerian military confronts them with AK49 rifles with no ballistic helmet and fragmental jacket.

These assertions are now, in a substantial way, confirmed. This week, the Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (rtd), has said that the armed forces were short of manpower and funds.

The minister said this during the ministry’s presentation at the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“We spoke about our short comings…about manpower shortage, inadequate funding for the Ministry of Defence,” Magashi said. “We talked about all the operations we have been conducting, the successes and failures of each of the operations right from Operation Lafia Dole to Operation Tawase.

“The shortcomings of each of the operations were discussed and God so kind contributions were made by members of the council and, I think, in no distant time, there will be a change in the conduct of our affairs in the Ministry of Defence.”

That change, Nigerians will say, had better come soon. But before the change comes, many hold the view that corruption, not just the shortage of manpower and funds, also needs to be arrested in the military.

Of course, it is unfortunate that the armed forces have proved incapable of defeating a small army of insurgents whose activities are limited to the North-east zone.

In recent years, Boko Haram has become more daring in its attacks, carrying out coordinated raids on villages and military formations. In these attacks, hundreds of people, including soldiers are being killed.

Why has the war on terror become so intractable? Why have the armed forces failed to control the situation? Though these questions are partially answered by Magashi, it is a curious paradox that a military that has grossed a substantial chunk of the country’s budget still remains ill-equipped to confront the terrorists.

Thus, even before the Ministry of Defence battles to upgrade its manpower and get properly funded, the spectre of corruption hanging over it must be erased mainly because to win this war, the military must also put its house in order…it must wage a serious war against corruption.

After all, it must be remembered by every institution and individual that the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is fighting so hard to defeat corruption, in all its ramifications, and erase the toga of corruption blighting the image of the country.

We must all join hands with the administration to do away with corruption, especially in the military. No doubt, even some foreign international partners of our military know, like Nigerians do, that apart from many other reasons, corruption is at the root of Nigerian military’s failure to halt the Boko Haram bloody campaign.

In fact, it can be argued that corruption in the military gave birth to lack of patriotism among soldiers, leading to lack the morale to confront criminal elements. Some of the military personnel have become sloppy in discharging their duties to the detriment of our country’s defense and integrity.

Again, other than personnel and money, the military has also failed to gain the trust of the local community and improve on its human rights record. The military, sometimes, violates peoples’ rights through many ways, including extrajudicial killings of civilians, which the military authorities have often failed to investigate and blame erring soldiers.

Therefore, while Nigerians look forward to seeing the military upgraded in all ramifications, a development expected to bring renewed fighting spirit among the military, it is also expected that the institution’s authorities will consider all other hiccups hampering the success of the military personnel and war against criminal activities and criminals.

FG, COVID-19 and dwindling revenues

This week, the federal government said that the outbreak of COVID-19 has led to a progressive decline in its revenue.

This unfortunate situation that the country has found itself regarding its revenue decline was disclosed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, in Abuja.

He said: “When the budget was passed in December, last year, we all celebrated that the budget was passed for the first time in a good time to allow for us to plan…we were very hopeful that this year we will be able to achieve a lot. But today we have COVID-19, which has brought every economy in the world to its knees. Nigeria cannot be an exception.

“All sources of revenue have been attacked by COVID-19, when we locked our borders how will goods come in? How will customs make money for the country?”

Of course, and rightly too, the minister said that “Abuja, Lagos and Ogun have been on lockdown for more than four weeks…. So if we say there is no money it is not because we are seeking for lame excuses.”

Truly, like the minister said, the entire world, not just Nigeria is facing serious fiscal challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant adverse impacts on the global economy with governments around the world implementing various fiscal measures to mitigate its effects and provide relief for businesses and households.

Within Africa, the impacts of COVID-19 are being felt in different ways and the measures taken by the governments have also differed on the areas of focus and comprehensiveness.

Africa’s projected GDP growth of 3.2% for 2020 is now expected to fall to -0.8%. This is due to the enforced partial or total lockdown of economies occasioned by the pandemic.

The outbreak has led to disruption of activities in various sectors of economies, most notably the financial industry and the tourism and hospitality sectors. In short, the impacts of the COVID-19 on African economies are unfolding rapidly and can be expected to vary widely by country.

Unfortunately, because most of the developing countries are in Africa, their economies are already facing hard and harsh impacts from the coronavirus.

Though Africa accounts for just a fraction of the total cases of the disease which has infected nearly five million people worldwide, the continent just might be the hardest hit economically. One of the reasons being that many countries on the continent have what is called mono product based economies.

The oil and gas industry, for instance, contributes about 65% of Nigeria’s government revenue and 88% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. This situation, therefore, lends credence to what Mr Lai Mohammed said because what this means is that happenings in the industry tend to have an impact on almost all other sectors of the economy.

Today, the global price of oil hovers around 30 dollars per barrel, in what can be described as a severe blow to the Nigerian economy. Unfortunately with the fall in revenues, come the decline and many things like funding of the budget for critical infrastructure, the power of the local currency, payment of salaries, and general government running would be affected.

Consequently, Nigerians need now, more than ever before, to be patient and “look at this (fiscal changes caused by COVID-19) in context,” as the minister urged.

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