DEFENCE MINISTRY UNDER BUHARI, By Colonel Tukur Gusau

The Ministry of Defence and indeed the Armed Forces of Nigeria have recorded remarkable successes since the inception of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, particularly in the area of degrading Boko Haram Terrorists and reducing insecurity and criminalities in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country. The political commitment and support of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces gave boost to the key successes recorded by the Military against insecurity and insurgency in Nigeria. This has gone a long way to redeem the country’s image and boost confidence in the minds of the citizenry that the days of compromising the security and wellbeing of Nigeria is over.

Some of the key successes recorded during the period under review include the immediate change in military leadership that gave new direction and impetus to the military and other security agencies. The relocation of Military Command and control centre from Abuja to the theatre of operations. The presidential directive has significantly succeeded in boosting the morale of the troops as the epicentre of the crisis became the operational base of the military high command. This also guarantees smooth control of military operations in the North East. The establishment of operation LAFIYA DOLE theatre command has also unified the command structure system in the theatre of operations. In line with President Buhari’s promise to secure every ground in the land many operations were conducted some of them still on going. Few of them are operations, Awatse, Delta safe, Mesa, Harbin Kunama others include Operations Iron Force, Gama Aiki one and two by multinational joint task force and Sharan Daji which the President personally launched in Dansadau Village in Zamfara state. This is just to mention a few.

The Ministry of Defence as the supervising Ministry has carried out major reforms in the Ministry and the Armed forces respectively. The reforms have yielded positive results and significant departure from the past since its creation in 1958. The MOD has reviewed the defence policy and conducted military pension verification and over 20,000 ghost workers were discovered in the pay roll system. This exercise has saved government huge resources. The Ministry also facilitated the administration of Group life Assurance scheme for members of the Armed Forces. The reforms also touched the pension scheme for the retirees.

Another major reform by the Ministry of Defence under the able leadership of Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali includes a review of the Order of Battle (ORBAT) for the Armed Forces to accommodate the contemporary security challenges. Under the new order of battle two new Divisions 6 in Port Harcourt and 8 in Monguno were established by the Nigerian Army with a plan to have a Brigade in all the 36 states of the federation. The new Army Divisions will no doubt enhance security along neighbouring countries of Cameroun, Niger and Republic of Chad as well as in the riverine areas of the Niger Delta. New units were similarly established in line with the requirement of the new ORBAT. Under this arrangement some specialised units like the motor cycle battalions were established to enhance quick mobility especially in areas unsuitable for vehicular movements. The newly inducted K-9 sniper dogs battalion deployed in the North East. Additionally, the Nigerian Army established many forward operational bases across the country with a view of supporting tactical operations and to cover ny likely security gap especially around the boarder regions. The latest is the Fort Muhammadu Buhari recently commissioned by the Chief of Staff Lt Gen Tukur Yusufu Buratai in Daura Katsina state.

The Nigerian Navy has similarly, expanded in line with the demand of the new order of battle. A Naval Outpost has been created and stationed in Lake Chad Basin and it has since been operational. Still on the new ORBAT, the NAF has established a special operations Command with Quick Response Units located at Gusau, Owerri and Ipetu-Ijesha, Bauchi, Jos, Katsina, Owerri and Yola they are geared towards enhancing base protection and quick response to nationwide emergencies, civil crisis and other internal security threats.

In the Area of training of personnel the three services trained both officers and soldiers within the country out of the country. Special Forces were trained to handle myriad of security challenges like handling of Improvised explosive devised that ravaged the North East two years ago. The Chief of Defence staff General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin said the training of the Special Forces will enhance the capacity and operations of troops in the fight against insurgency in the North East, Militancy in the Niger Delta and armed headsmen. Similarly, Army Navy and Air war colleges have been established to with the view to build the capacity of middle level officers in the application of operational doctrine and war fighting principles. Interestingly, the Air War College has since graduated its first set. To bridge the educational and research gap in the armed forces the Nigerian Army and Navy has established Nigerian Army University Biu in Borno state and Admiralty University located in Ibusa, Delta state.

There is a steady increase in the recruitment and enlistment into the Armed Forces with enhanced capacity development so as to withstand the growing need for personnel and complex nature of operations to counter insurgency and other forms of criminalities in the country. For example, the number of Nigerians being recruited into the armed forces has been increased in the last two years. For example the Nigerian Air force trained 5737 personnel both in Nigeria and abroad to enhance service delivery and professionalism in the service.

In the area of improving military platform the President has displayed an uncommon spirit of leadership by graciously releasing 2 Helicopters from the Presidential air fleet to the Nigerian Air Force as well as 6 Helicopters transferred from the Nigerian National Petroleum corporation and the recent induction by Defence Minister on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari of 2 Mi-35 sophisticated Helicopters deployed in the ground attack in the North East to boost the operations of the Air Force. According to the Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar the induction of the helicopters will enhance the NAF effectiveness and capacity in the fight against insurgency and other forms of criminalities in the country. NAF will take delivery of the remaining Mi-35 by the end of 2018. This is in addition to 10 Mushak trainer aircrafts already supplied.

Also, contracts for the purchase of 12 aircrafts and two Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have also been approved in addition to more than eighty young pilots from the rank of Wing Commanders to Pilot officers trained.

This is as against the previous practice where by very senior officer’s constitute the bulk of the fighter pilots.

The Federal Government also procured Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles, Mine Sweepers and ammunitions of different calibre for the Nigerian Army. This is addition to the ones donated by the US government last year to support the North East operations. Recently, The President and Commander in Chief commissioned more platforms for the Nigerian Navy in Lagos. They include 2 new ships NNS Unity and CENTENARY from China. NNS KARADUWA and Tugboat Commander EDWIN UGWU were locally built and commissioned into the Nigerian Navy. The Commander in Chief President Muhammadu Buhari while commissioning the Ships salute the ingenuity of the Nigerian Navy for complementing the government efforts by looking inwards to construct and improvise some vital operational tools. Furthermore, The Chief of Naval staff Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas added that over 100 boats were injected into the Nigerian Navy fleet for maritime activities. Most of them locally constructed.
It is no longer news that the Armed Forces of Nigeria have successfully degraded the capacity of Boko Haram insurgents in the North East to regroup and carry out deliberate attacks like before. The much acclaimed camp zairo has been liberated now combated to a training area named after fallen hero Late Ltcol Muhammad Abu-Ali. Also, there is a complete reversal of trend in the occupation of territories as about 60 per cent of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states under the occupation of the terrorists two years ago were liberated. So far, over 20 thousand persons mainly women and children held hostage by the terrorists including 106 Chibok girls have been rescued.

This administration through the current Minister of Defence has procured modern equipment for the Nigerian Armed Forces in its effort to improve the combat effectiveness and raise the morale of the troops. The procurement process of military equipment has been through the new government to government policy of President Muhammadu Buhari administration that eliminated vendors and middle men from the procurement process. Instead the Ministry of Defence contact the manufacturers directly through their home government. The advantage of this policy is to guarantee cost effective standard equipment and total elimination of fraud and manipulation by vendors and save the government of its hard earned foreign exchange.
Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution as amended states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. In recognition of this constitutional provision, this administration has given a special priority to security and has taken appropriate measures to tackle all security challenges. According to the Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali for you to prepare a soldier for a war you need to provide for his basic needs this includes decent accommodation and healthcare for his family. In this respect, more barracks were built and renovated across the country by the three services. Some of the new project initiated includes the Gusau Barracks. Though troops were stationed in Gusau immediately after civil war. Sadly, they were living in rented civil properties in more than five locations in a densely civilian populate areas. The story has changed in the last two years. The Phase one of Gusau Barracks is already completed and second phase is in progress.

More Barracks were similarly constructed or renovated across the six geo-political zones. For example new barracks were constructed in Damboa, and Gwoza and others like Shadawanka in Bauchi, Badagry, Dodan Baracks, Jaji, Sarti were totally renovated. Other projects include the provision of portable water for troops in Maxwell Khobe Cantonment in Jos just to mention few. Others projects are renovation of the Nigerian Navy Gowon estate at Iyana paja.

Similarly, more hospitals were established, upgraded or renovated to first class medical facilities. The 44 Reference hospital project abandoned for years is now upgraded to a first class facility serving both military personnel and Kaduna residents. The medical facility will soon be United Nations level 4 hospital. A similar hospital by the Nigerian Air force is also completed and now awaiting official commissioning. This is in addition to four cancer screening centres established by the Nigerian Air force.

Other major projects embarked by the Armed Forces includes the establishment of Nigerian Army Resource centre in Abuja, renovation of several officers and soldiers quarters across the country, renovation and upgrade of most of the Army Navy and Air force schools to news so to promote better learning environment. This is in addition to new Command schools established across the country.

Last year the Honourable Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali along with his Federal capital counterpart Mallam Musa Bello commissioned 100 units of flats in Kuje built through direct labour by the Nigerian Navy. The naval dockyard in Lagos has also been modified to a more efficient facility. In line with President Buhari’s policy of encouraging local technology the Nigerian Air force has so far produced various calibre of Alpha jet bombs locally, overhauling of Alpha jet break systems assembly in collaboration with the a local automobile manufacturers Innoson Vehicles manufacturing company. Weather monitoring systems were also deployed in all the Nigeria Air force stations to improve air safety. It is gratifying that the Nigerian Air force took first position at this year’s Federal Ministry of Science and Technology exhibition held in Abuja recently.

At the diplomatic level during the period under review the Federal government through the Ministry of Defence has enhanced the cooperation of the Armed Forces of Nigeria with militaries of neighbouring countries and other nations especially in the area of training, intelligence sharing and information management. This led to the establishment of the current Multi National Joint Task Force to convert trans-border crime and insurgency. Likewise, the country has benefited from support and bilateral cooperation with the Armed Forces of several countries of the world. In this regard Nigeria hosted the second African security submit attended by most of our neighbours and President François Holland of France. The submit has achieved a lot in creating a greater regional partnership to address Boko Haram insurgency.
Nigeria also hosted the meeting of Ministers of Defence, Chiefs of Defence Staff and heads of security and intelligent services of Lake Chad Basin Commission member countries and Benin Republic and recently, Nigeria Defence Minister attended Sahara-Sahel defence Ministers meeting in Abidjan and Nigeria is likely to host the 2018 meeting of the organisation. Nigerian Defence Minister and Chief of Defence Staff were also recently invited by King Salman of Saudi Arabia to attend a meeting of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition with US President Donald Trump in attendance. Furthermore, Nigeria has reviewed its memorandum of understanding with several countries particularly African countries UK, Russia and France to cover maritime security. This is just to mention few.

It is also encouraging to state that the sanctions imposed by previous government of United States had been lifted. Nigeria can now procure military platforms from US. This is due to the confidence of the international community and our improved records of human rights. Though most of the human right issues raised against the Nigerian Military cannot be substantiated. However, the Ministry of Defence directed all military formations across the country to establish a human right desk to receive complains and act on them promptly in furtherance of Nigeria’s commitment to honour its obligations under various human rights treaties, the defence Minister promised special courts to be established to handle human right abuses by troops if presented.

This bold step to redeem the image of Nigeria within the international world have endeared the US congress to invite the defence minister Mansur Dan-Ali to present before it some of the successes recorded in the war against insurgency in Nigeria.

The Ministry of Defence also is exploring the Public Private Partnership to facilitate the development of DICON into a Military Industrial Complex (MIC). The Minister of Defence has paid familiarisation visit to South Africa, Sudan and Pakistan to study their MIC models towards the realization of the development of state of the art Military Industrial Complex in Nigeria.

The Ministry of Defence under the able leadership of Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali Yariman Birnin Magaji has no doubt achieved a lot within the last two years. Despite the economic recession the Ministry has lived up to expectation in terms of provision of the basic platforms needed for military operations across the country. The Ministry also boost the morale of both the troops and the civilian staff of the ministry by improving the existing infrastructures and training.

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