MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: SO FAR SO GOOD

By Colonel Tukur Ismaila Gusau, PhD on May 29, 2018

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President Muhammadu Buhari(2nd r), Olonisakin (3rd r), Mansur-Ali(3rd l), Ibok-Ette Ibas (behind Mansur), Sadique Abubakar(2nd l) and Buratai(l) saluting the president at the launch of Operation Sharan Daji in Dansadau, Zamfara State. (Source MOD)

The last three years will surely go down in Nigeria’s defence history as the period that bore the greatest touch of Government’s resolve to tackle, head-on, the hydra-headed multiple threats to the security, stability and unity of the country.

This is because of the unique and phenomenal focus and direction which His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari gave to the Ministry of Defence to offer inspiring political leadership to the Armed Forces of Nigeria to fulfil its constitutional obligation of protecting the Nigerian State and the wellbeing of its citizens against physical external and internal threats.

The Ministry has refocused, repositioned and revamped the Nigerian Military’s capacity to successfully defend and deter external attacks and physical threats by non-state actors, particularly in the degrading of Boko Haram Terrorists in the North East part of Nigeria as well as in reducing insecurity, crime and other criminalities in the Niger Delta region and in other parts of the country.

The political will, commitment and support of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to the primacy of national security evidently account for the marvellous successes so far recorded by the Nigerian Military against insecurity and insurgency in Nigeria. These have redeemed the country’s image and have raised the confidence of the Nigerian people in the Armed Forces in guaranteeing their safety and security.

The Honourable Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, a retired general and an excellent administrator has displayed uncommon commitment to the vision of the Commander-in-Chief which is to evolve a modern Armed Forces of Nigeria, well-trained in all aspects of military operations, fully professionalized, compact and mobile, with adequate equipment, firepower and communications, capable of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities and performing its primary mandate of safeguarding Nigeria’s territorial integrity as well as in international peace keeping.

He has given practical effect to the mission of the Ministry of defence which is principally to provide political leadership to enable the Armed Forces of Nigeria build and maintain a modern, compact, strong, professional and mission-ready Armed Forces for the defence of our national territory, maritime interest, airspace as stipulated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As part of its noble mission, the Ministry has contributed, in very distinguished manner, to its obligations either under the sub-regional or global framework of which Nigeria is a responsible member.

In the last three years, key successes recorded includes the immediate change of the leadership of the Military High Command which immediately gave new focus, direction and impetus to the Nigerian Armed Forces working in tandem with other security agencies. The Presidential directive relocating the Military Command and Control Centre to the Theatre of operations in the North East has incrementally boosted the fighting spirit and general morale of the troops. The epicentre of the crisis has become the operational base of the military high command. These strategic moves have guaranteed a largely improved control of the military operations in the North East where the Theatre Command of Lafiya Dole has successfully unified the command structure system in the entire theatre of operations.

Consequently, the Armed Forces of Nigeria have been effectively engaged in some operations and exercises created across the country and which are periodically reviewed from time to time to handle emerging challenges. They include Operations Harbin Kunama, Gama Aiki 1&2 Iron Force, Sharan Daji, Ayan Akpatima, Delta Safe, Safe Haven, Safe Conduct Mesa, Last hope, Crocodile smile, Python dance, Whirl stroke, Ayem Akpatuma or Cat race. Others include TsareTeku and Ruwan Ruwa among others.

In order to meet the modern challenges of the 21st Century warfare and the contemporary security challenges in the country, the Ministry has pursued a sectoral reform aimed at re-organizing and expanding the military strength anchored on a renewed policy and a revamped personnel welfare programme that enable the Armed Forces to adequately tackle multiple threats to national security, stability and unity.

Recently, the Armed Forces Council headed by President Muhammadu Buhari approved Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. This will no doubt serve as a morale booster even after retirement. On the issue of welfare of troops for members of the Armed Forces, the MOD has ensured prompt payment of troops’ operations allowances and personnel monthly emolument. The Ministry has also ensured that troops who have stayed for a reasonable time in the Theatre of operations are rotated and new ones inducted.

The period under review recorded a paradigm shift since the creation of the Ministry in 1958. There was a fundamental review of the nation’s defence policy to meet up with global security challenges. The Ministry procured a Group life Assurance Scheme for members of the Armed Forces and has touched the entire gamut of the military pensions to the benefit of service retirees.

These incentives have ensured that the immediate families of members of the Armed Forces are adequately taken care at any eventuality. The Ministry of Defence, in conjunction with the Defence Headquarters, presented cheques to the next-of-kinsof deceased personnel who died in active service. In the last three years, there has been a steady increase in the recruitment and enlistment of suitable applicants into the Armed Forces to enhance capacity to withstand the growing need for personnel and the complex nature of counter-insurgency operations and other forms of criminality in parts of the country.

In addition to normal recruitment and enlistments in the three services the Nigerian Army last year commissioned seventy-two medical doctors into its officer cadre eight of whom were consultants in various medical fields. There were also twenty-six lawyers, twenty-one public relations specialists and eighteen specialists in army aviation and engineering. Also, nineteen protestant chaplaincies, twenty-one catholic and twenty-three officers for Islamic affairs were recruited.

The Nigerian Air Force, NAF, trained over 7,000 personnel in Nigeria and abroad to enhance service delivery and professionalism. More than eighty young pilots from the rank of Wing Commanders to Pilot officers were trained against the previous practice whereby only very senior officers formed the bulk of the fighter pilots.

In May this year, the Nigerian Air Force graduated the first set of 18 ab-initio student-pilots who were trained with the recently-acquired five Super Mushshak trainer aircraft at the 401 Flying Training School, NAF Base, Kaduna where another set of 26 student-pilots were inaugurated. Another 16 ab-initio student-pilots including 2 female cadets graduated from the School. It is the first time that Nigerian Air Force cadets of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna would graduate from flying training before being commissioned as officers.  

It will be recalled that there was delivery of the first batch of 10 brand new Super Mushshak aircraft procured from Pakistan which were fitted with digital glass cockpit in line with current practice in the global aviation industry. The configuration of the aircraft would enhance transition to higher performance and lay good foundation for the fighter pilots whose training were completed less than a year after the aircraft was inducted, meaning that returns on government’s investment had started yielding dividend. Nigerian Air Force. This is unprecedented in the history of the Nigerian Armed Forces as it is a major boost to its operational strength.

The Honourable Minister’s commitment to the development of the intellectual depth, profile and credentials of service men has cascaded down the leadership of the three services with the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin adopting it in his vision statement thus: ‘’to ensure a well-motivated, trained and equipped Armed Forces that is responsive to national security commitments’’. He did not just stop there. He has pragmatically elevated the policy of training and re-training of service to a tri-service policy.

Similarly, Army, Navy and Air War Colleges have been established with a view to building the capacity of middle- level officers in the application of operational doctrine and war fighting principles. To bridge the educational and research gap in the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Army and Navy have established the Nigerian Army University in Biu, Borno State and the Admiralty University in Ibusa, Delta.  The Admiralty University was granted its licence in December last year while the NAUB got its operating licence in April this year after the Honourable Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu presented memo to the Federal executive council.

Another major reform by the Ministry of Defence under the charismatic leadership of Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali is the review of the Order of Battle (ORBAT) for the Armed Forces to accommodate contemporary security challenges. Under the new Order, Division 6 in Port Harcourt and Division 8 in Sokoto 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 the 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 requirements of the new order of battle.

Under the arrangement, some specialised units such as the Motorcycle battalions were established to enhance quick mobility especially in areas unsuitable for vehicular movements. A K-9 sniper dogs’ battalion has been deployed in the North East. Additionally, the Nigerian Army established many forward operational bases across the country to provide necessary support to tactical operations and to cover possible security gap especially around the border regions. One of the latest is the Fort Muhammadu Buhari commissioned by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf 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 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, Ipetu-Ijesha, Bauchi, Jos, Katsina, Owerri, Yola, and some parts of Kaduna state to enhance base protection and quick response to nationwide emergencies.

The reforms in the Ministry of Defence under the current Defence Minister have acknowledged how his visionary leadership has impacted positively on the lives of serving and retired service men around whose wellbeing are government policies and programmes woven.

Mansur Dan-Ali has popularised a philosophy in the services which emphasizes that: to prepare a soldier for war, you should provide for his basic needs such as decent accommodation and healthcare for his family. Consequently, a massive barracks rehabilitation programme has been carried out nationwide in the last three years. This move has been adequately complemented with the provision for the soldiers’ comprehensive kitting tailored along modern warfare requirements. This is why the ministry has been committed to procuring modern equipment for the Armed Forces of Nigeria in its effort to improve the combat effectiveness and raise the morale of the troops.

To guide against the pitfalls of the past, there is a new government-to-government policy that guides arms procurement which essentially prevents abuse and under-hand dealings in line with the anti-corruption stance of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

This new arrangement requires the Ministry of Defence to buy equipment and platforms directly from the original manufacturers (OEM) thereby eliminating vendors and middle-men from the procurement process. Hitherto, sub-standard products were supplied with compromised quality. The new policy now guarantees the supply of cost-effective standard equipment as well as a complete elimination of fraud and manipulation by vendors thus saving the government huge hard-earned foreign exchange.

More barracks have also been built and renovated across the country by the three services.  Newly initiated projects include the Gusau Barracks  in Zamfara state, where for example, troops were stationed immediately after civil war but lived in rented properties in over five locations in densely civilian-populated areas no doubt this will endanger civil-military relations. It is a different story in the last three years as the phase one and two of the Gusau Barracks are already completed with the third phase on-going including the renovation of quarters for military personnel across the country, the renovation and upgrade of most of the Army, Navy and Air Force schools to promote better learning environment. This is in addition to new Command Schools and health facilities established across the six geo-political zones in the country to improve a better working condition for members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

Furthermore, a plan for the construction of 20 blocks of 320 flats barracks accommodation by the Ministry of Defence is on-going to ease the problem of personnel accommodation in Abuja.

Similarly, more hospitals were established, upgraded or renovated to first class medical facilities. The 44 reference hospital projects which had been abandoned for many years is now upgraded to a first-class facility to serve both military personnel and the civil populace. This will improve civil military relations.  A similar hospital by the Nigerian Air Force was completed and commissioned recently by President Muhammadu Buhari in Bauchi. This is in addition to four cancer screening centres established by the Nigerian Air Force at NAF Base, Maiduguri. Additionally, in May 2018, NAF commissioned a Dialysis Centre and an emergency ramp at the recently-established NAF Reference Hospital in Port Harcourt to further enhance healthcare delivery for personnel, their families and members of the civil populace. At ministry of defence level Defence health maintenance limited has established zonal offices in all the 6 geo political zones to cater for medical needs of the personnel and the retirees.

Other major projects embarked upon by the Armed Forces were the establishment of Nigerian Army Resource Centre to serve as a think tank hub for the Armed Forces of Nigerian and the nation in general.

Furthermore, in line with government’s policy of encouraging local technology, the Nigerian Air Force recently invented Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) nicknamed Tsaigumi and was unveiled by the President. The UAV is capable of day and night operations with an operational endurance in excess of 10 hours, a service ceiling of 15,000 feet and a mission radius of 100km including a maximum take-off weight of 95kg while its payload is an electric-optic/infrared camera system. The NAF has since expressed readiness to partner with Shell Petroleum Development Company to deploy the UAVs to secure critical oil installations in the Niger Delta.

The NAF has produced various calibres of Alpha jet bombs locally and overhauled Alpha jet break systems assembly in collaboration with indigenous Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing Company. Weather monitoring systems were also deployed at all Nigeria Air Force stations to improve air safety.

The state of the nation’s security assets has been of great concern as most of the platforms and hardware of the Armed Forces have become worn out and obsolete. The last bulk purchase of equipment was in 1982. However, tremendous efforts have been made to provide funds for the acquisition of modern equipment for the Armed Forces to simultaneously confront multiple security challenges such as terrorism, farmer’s clashes with pastoralists, killer-herdsmen, pipeline vandalism, crimes, armed banditry, cattle rustling, border clashes between communities, kidnapping, ethno-religious conflicts, trans-border criminal activities, amongst others. These security challenges undoubtedly pose grave threats to the social, economic and political stability of the country.

In order to address contemporary security challenges in the country the MOD in the last three years has taken the bull by the horn and has committed huge resources to improve military platforms in the country. Within the period Mr President has graciously released 2 Helicopters from the Presidential Air fleet to the Nigerian Air Force. This is in addition to the 6 Helicopters earlier transferred from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The Defence Minister, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, inducted fourMi-35 sophisticated helicopters from Russia deployed in the ground attack in the North East to boost the operations of the Nigerian Air Force which has also produced hydraulic accumulator diaphragms for the helicopters locally.

The Federal Government procured Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers Mine Sweepers and ammunitions of different calibre for the Nigerian Army. Recently, some military personnel were trained on explosives detection and disposal by the British Liaison and Support team at the Theatre of operations in Maiduguri. In the Nigerian Navy, the President commissioned more platforms in Lagos which include two new ships, NNS Unity and CENTENARY from China and the locally-built NNS KARADUWA and Tugboat Commander EDWIN UGWU and boats locally manufactured. At the commissioning of the Ships, the President praised Nigerian Navy’s inward-looking ingenuity to construct and improvise some vital operational tools thereby complementing Federal Government’s efforts.

It is gratifying that these developments in Nigeria’s quest for platforms upgrade for combat efficiency are coming at a time that the sanctions imposed by the United States’ previous government had been lifted. Nigeria can now procure military platforms from the United States. A recent purchase of A 29 super tucano aircrafts from US based on the new government policy of government to government is a clear pointer to the improved relations. This has further rekindled the new confidence of the international community in our human rights records even though most of the so-called human rights issues against the Armed Forces of Nigeria are spurious and cannot be substantiated.

Notwithstanding, the Ministry of Defence directed all military formations across the country to establish a human rights desk to treat complaints promptly in furtherance of Nigeria’s commitment to honour its obligations under various human rights treaties. Also recently, military personnel participated in a training programme on Human Rights Laws organized by the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the United Nations Committee on Human Rights (UNCHR) at the Theatre of operations in the North East.

It is heart-warming that the much-acclaimed Camp Zairo was liberated two years ago and converted to a training ground named after Late Lt. Col. Muhammad Abu-Ali, a fallen hero. It is no longer news that the troops have regained occupation and control of territories as about 60 per cent of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States hitherto held by the terrorists three years ago had since been liberated.  So far, over 30,000 persons mainly women and children including some Chibok and most of the Dapchi schoolgirls held hostage by the terrorists have been freed and united with their families.

The period under review witnessed landmark diplomatic shuttles which saw the Honourable Minister of Defence visiting over 20 countries to sign Military agreements with those countries or he was invited to share Nigeria’s experience in tackling insurgency. Last year, the Minister and the Chief of Defence Staff were invited by King Salman of Saudi Arabia to attend a meeting of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition with the U.S President Donald Trump in attendance. Similarly, the Minister last year attended a meeting of Sahara-Sahel countries in Abidjan where it was unanimously agreed that the next meeting should be hosted by Nigeria. Few weeks from now all roads will lead to Abuja for the CEN SAD summit of over twenty Defence ministers from member countries.

Recently, the Federal Executive Council has approved the review of Memorandum of Understanding with the U.K, Russia, Turkey and France including other African countries such as Equatorial Guinea to cover maritime security. This is just to mention few. So far, the Public Private Partnership initiative of the Ministry of Defence to facilitate the development of Defence Industries Company of Nigeria into a Military Industrial Complex is progressing well. Turkey, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan and 14 other firms have shown active interest to partner with our DICON. 

It is to the credit of the Honourable Minister that the Ministry of Defence has recorded these achievements under very tight budget occasioned by the challenging economic fortunes in the country.

In conclusion, Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali, the Yariman Birnin Magaji and the Sarkin Yakin Zamfara has led the Ministry of Defence in the past three years of action-packed activities to live up to expectation in the provision of basic platforms for military operations across the country and improving the morale of troops and improving the cordial working relationship between the civil and military components of his Ministry for the first time.

Moving forward, it is imperative to consolidate on the gains of the present defence architecture which has been practically refocused, repositioned and re-energized since May 2015.Today, members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria both serving and retired are singing a new song, i.e. prompt allowances, new barracks, new kits, new platforms, improved welfare, new morale, new retirement benefits, new hope and many more. Indeed so far, so good.

Colonel Tukur Ismaila Gusau, PhD 

Colonel Tukur Ismaila Gusau is the Public Relations Officer to the Honourable Minister of Defence.

 

 

Posted on May, 30 2018

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