By Augustine Adah – Lagos
The appointment of new service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, following the sack of the former officers did not come to many Nigerians as a surprise. The newly-appointed service chiefs were expected to take the fight against Boko Haram as a major task of their assignment in the new government led by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since President Buhari took over the mantle of leadership in Abuja, there has been a spike in the activities of the militant group, Boko Haram. Churches, Mosques, markets and other public places have been bombed by the terrorists with scores of citizens killed. For Buhari, who has made cracking down on Boko Haram insurgency his number one priority, these bombings may have been quite embarrassing.The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been mocking the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, over the growing activities of the group which was reported to have killed more than 500 Nigerians between May and July this year. Though the President and APC has reacted to the allegation describing the renewed attacks as the desperation of a drowning group, Buhari’s latest attempt may be aimed at giving a new direction to the fight against insurgency which the former service chiefs were alleged to have compromised.
They were several lapses noticed in the way former service chiefs handled the fight against terrorism in the country. Many Nigerians were surprised how information on military operations and decisions were leaked to members of the deadly sect. Analysts were pointing fingers at members of the military. Sources revealed that shortly after President Buhari won the March 28 presidential elections, top serving and retired military officers began to bombard him with complaints of misappropriation of funds by serving military personnel who were taking advantage of the war to make huge money.
The complainants went as far as revealing the names of some of the personnel allegedly involved in the blood money, who were openly displaying their wealth to anyone that cared to see. That may have prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to order the military hierarchy to account for the number of weapons purchased to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
The President, as gathered, was also said to have ordered the Military High Command to make available records of total amount of money it received from the Federal Government to curb insurgency.
The new Service Chiefs who were appointed in acting capacity until the confirmation of their appointment by the National Assembly members include: Maj.-Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin, Chief of Defence Staff; Maj.-Gen. T.Y. Buratai, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff; Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff; Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan, Chief of Defence Intelligence, and Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.), as National Security Adviser.
The newly appointed Military Officers are expected to work with President Buhari in the fight against terrorism.
The National President, Society of Private Security Practitioners of Nigeria, Mr. Davidson Akhimien, expressed confidence that the new service chiefs would make a positive impact in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
The security expert hinged his optimism on the fact that President Buhari who was the former military head of state is not new to some military tactics and terrain. He stated that some newly appointed service chief are not new to the fight against insurgency as some of them were involved in the fight before this time. For instance, the new Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Buratai, was until his new appointment, the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force which has its headquarters in Ndjamena, Chad.
Akhimien urged the new military appointees to quickly settle down and strategize on how to combat the insurgency. “I urge them to work hand in hand with the community because they need to get the people involved in the war against terrorism,” he said.
Apart from involving the community, he also suggested that the security chiefs must begin awareness campaign to educate Nigerians on the need to be security conscious.
He stressed further that the fight against Boko Haram is a very special type of war that the country has no experience of until it broke out few years ago. However, he emphasised the importance of exposing the security forces to counter-terrorism training.
“Now that the reality of terrorism is with us, there is need to expose our security agents to counter terrorism training,” he said.
Because the fight against terrorism is different from the conventional war, Akhimien urged Nigeria security agents to concentrate more on intelligence gathering. “Intelligence gathering is important to fight against terrorism, and our security agents must be prepared to use that as important tool against insurgency at this time.”
The appointment of service chiefs is coming barely a week to the expected visit of President Buhari to American President, Barack Obama of US. The visit slated for July 20 is expected to discuss ways America may assist the country in tackling the insurgency headlong. Analysts believe that the decision of Buhari to send the former service chiefs away and appoint new ones before the visit was strategic.
A Kaduna State based Political analyst, Usman Bello, told Daily Independent that there is no better time for Buhari to have sacked the former service chiefs than now, because it would be part of his report which he would present to President Obama in their expected meeting next week.
“You know, there have been negative reports against former service chiefs and there is no way Obama would agree to assist Nigeria with the former service chiefs in charge of the security of the country,” he said.
He expressed confidence in the ability of the new military chiefs to deliver because they are going to work with an experienced man, unlike in the time of Jonathan who had no military experience and was deceived on several occasions by the security chiefs.
“I believe that with the latest move, Nigeria should expect change, although the fight against terrorism is a long one that may not be decided in few days or months.”
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