Challenges facing the Nigeria Army and the Way Forward

In this post, we look at the challenges facing the Nigeria Army and way forward. This information is useful for policy makers, government agencies as well as researcher.  

The Nigerian army is responsible for the execution of land warfare within and outside Nigeria. Some of the Nigerian army’s notable engagements outside Nigeria includes the Congo crisis, the invasion of Gambia, Sierra Leonian civil war, the first Liberian civil war, the Northern Mali war and a host of others.

The Nigerian army has also led peacekeeping operations in a number of African countries. According to the Nigerian army records, Nigeria has dedicated about 20,000 troops to various UN missions.

Challenges facing the Nigeria Army and the Way Forward

The activities of the Nigerian army is controlled by the National Army Council (NAC). The history of Nigerian Army dates back to 1863, when Lt Glover of the British Royal Navy selected 18 men, all of Northern extraction, and recruited them into a small local force named “Glover Hausas”.

The “Glover Hausas” were formed for the purpose of carrying out expeditions and protection of British infrastructure and trade routes around Lagos.

Later on, the force grew in numbers and strength. It was restructured and renamed the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF). The British trained the RWAFF and recruited more able bodied young men.

The RWAFF got it’s first taste of action in the World War II when they fought in the far East and Eastern Africa. In 1960, the Federal Nigerian Army was born, but it was not until 1965 before a Nigerian headed the affairs of the army.

The first GOC of the Federal army was Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi. The Federal army participated in it’s first conventional warfare during the 1967 civil war. That was it’s first war against an organized enemy. The Federal army successfully defeated the Biafran army in the space of 3 years. Since then, the Nigerian army has grown in strength and size.

As at 2016, the size of the Nigerian army was estimated to be over a hundred thousand, with over 6,000 officers and 96,000 soldiers. Although, there have been calls for more recruitment.

The Nigerian army use to be one of Africa’s strongest, but these days, it has become a shadow of it’s former self. Several challenges has plagued the army and has led to a very noticeable decline in it’s strength and capability.

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Challenges facing the Nigeria Army

In this article, I will be discussing the challenges facing the Nigerian army. Below is a list of major problems I have carefully analyzed

1. Inadequate surveillance system

The Nigerian army lacks adequate surveillance system and equipments needed to nip criminal activities in the bud. Even with the over 50 years existence of the Nigerian army, it can hardly boost of intelligence equipments that can enable them monitor individuals or group of persons under suspicion.

Instead, they engage in fire brigade approach only when the damage has been done. This is the major reason why the Boko Haram insurgents were able to abduct the Chibok school girls unchallenged.

2. Poor recruitment methods

The recruitment processes of the Nigerian military is poorly below standard. Adequate background checks on prospective recruits are not carried out and due to the slow pace of development in the country, criminal records are usually not accurate as data management by the police force is ineffective. Petty crimes that doesn’t result to court cases are usually not recorded after an illegal bail has been perfected.

Consequently, individuals that have been involved in petty crimes in the past go on to apply for recruitment and are enlisted without proper background check.

These set of recruits with a criminal past tend to become a thorn in the flesh of the civilians they are meant to protect. Another aspect of the poor recruitment process in the Nigerian army is that of Godfatherism. Unfit and incapable individuals are recruited into the army due to the fact that they are connected to influential service chiefs or politicians.

These set of individuals who lack passion for the job only apply because of the monetary benefits. But when the going gets tough or they are assigned to execute a combat operation, they tend to shy away. This is the major reason for the rising cases of Nigerian army officers displaying the infelicitous act of cowardice during battle.

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3. Politicization of the military

The Nigerian army is influenced by some individual personalities. Politics and favouritism has always been in play in the army. This is evident in issues relating to promotion of commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Politics have also been witnessed during appointment into strategic positions in the army.

It was also witnessed when the report of service year extension for service chiefs by their NDA colleagues flooded the media early this year. This is also one of the major problems affecting the progress of the Nigerian army, in the sense that incapable hands are allowed to take up commanding positions as a result of internal politics.

4. Tribalism

Nigeria is a very divided country with different ethnic groups among which there are three major ethnic groups. There has always been disagreements and a constant battle for supremacy among the three.

This supremacy battle has existed even before independence and has continued till now. It has crept into all aspects of Nigeria’s political, social, economic and religious life.

Unfortunately it has also found it’s way into the army where favouritism according to tribal difference has been reported. This has affected the efficiency of the army as officers who are capable are sometimes overlooked because they are not of the same tribe with the commander.

5. Corruption

Nigeria is rated among the most corrupt countries in the world. This corruption that has affected every sector of the Nigerian social, political and economic life has found it’s way into the army. This is evident in the ongoing prosecution of former service chiefs who were accused of embezzling over $2.2billion meant for arms procurement during the fight against insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria.

6. Poor funding

The Nigerian army has always suffered shortage of funds which has severely crippled it’s capability. Low funding of the army is as a result of budget cuts, irregular disbursement of needed funds and unavailability of special intervention funds needed for the execution of emergency operations.

7. Outdated equipment and armories

Most of the weapons in the Nigerian army’s arsenal are outdated and virtually inoperable. This is another major reason for the inefficiency of the Nigerian army and the difficulty it’s currently facing while trying to root out insurgency.

Also, the poor standard of maintenance culture obtainable in the Nigerian army has also rendered a lot of expensive and formidable weapons useless.

8. Unavailability of military machinery

Last year their were wide reports in the media as regards a group of officers that committed mutiny. The reports in the media widely stated that these group of officers were protesting the lack of necessary weapons welfare materials needed to execute the war against insurgency.

Many of the officers claimed to have suffered shortage of weapons. Although, the allegations were denied by the army hierachy, it became obvious when some service chiefs were arrested and prosecuted for the failure to procure necessary weapons.

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Apart from the few challenges mentioned above other problems affecting the Nigerian army are:

10.  Lack of motivation

11.  Lack of consistent training

12.  Professional misconduct

13.  Human right abuse

14.  Lack of welfare packages and more.

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