Is Nigerian Army In Safe Hands?

Posted by News Express | 27 August 2016 | 2,351 times

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President Muhammadu Buhari has a robust image, even as a civilian-elected President, as a tough-talking, military-trained professional. Most people still analyse his style of government from the prisms of someone with longstanding military formation.

Recently, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police and current Oba of Lagos, one of the most-venerated Yoruba monarchs, Oba Akiolu, was compelled to say that President Buhari needs to administer Nigeria as a civilian-elected and democratically-inaugurated President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  But that's not the kernel of this intellectual exercise. The focus is on what mileages have been achieved or likely to be achieved in the military angle during the term of office of President Buhari.

This piece is the first of a three-part series in which the heads of the Army; Navy and Air Force will come under scrutiny, from the perspective of a civil society-cum human rights practitioner. The main question is to find out if Nigerian Army is in a good and safe hand? This is because the quality of a nation's military defines the nation. 

On assumption of office, President Buhari made his choice of Chief of Army Staff in the person of Lieutenant-General Yusuf Tukur Buratai, who since coming to office has shown two distinct qualities similar to his commander-in-chief: discipline and professional efficiency. Before writing further, I beg your indulgence to state that my readers can recall that for nearly two decades of my active media-cum civil society activism, yours faithfully, as much as humanly possibly, sees, writes and analyses issues and events in Nigeria from the view-point of objectivity, balance, fairness and respect for the truth. 

These qualities make a modern-day professional writer. Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states, unequivocally, that the media is the conscience of the nation. 

Having the aforementioned awareness in mind, its logical to state that since he came to office, President Buhari has never hidden his focus towards ensuring that those he has assigned the strategic roles of overseeing the different segments of the military community operate within the precepts of the law in compliance with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution. Importantly, those human frailties and imperfections that do occur whilst in operations internally are also seen to be systematically addressed through carefully institutionalised mechanisms. Some critical observers say that much more needs to be done to bring perpetrators of human rights violation to swift justice. The cases of serial killings of civilian protesters  - members of the Indigenous People of Biafra  (IPOB)- at Onitsha, Anambra State and Aba in Abia State - must be comprehensively investigated and perpetrators named and prosecuted, to avoid an international backlash. The above points stated. Here lies my interest in seeking to foster harmonious partnership between the Army and the Civil Society platform, which I currently coordinate in my capacity as the chief executive officer and national coordinator. 

The areas of interest in the ongoing dialogue are basically focused around mainstreaming respect for human rights and adherence to rules of engagement by the Nigerian military during security operations. 

These operations have become much more frequent, particularly with the phenomenal rise in organised armed attacks by a range of armed hoodlums; and the sad reality that the Nigeria Police Force can't cope with the sophisticated nature of these attacks.  The incident of the obstruction of passage of the convoy of the Army chief by members of the radical Islamists movement known as Shiites in Zaria, Kaduna State, in which a clash occurred resulting in some casualties, has been investigated by two panels and the Army Chief of Staff exonerated. 

Again, since coming to office, the current Army chief is said to have endeavoured to consolidate the legacies he met on ground, which has resulted in the establishment of a human rights department. This concrete step is seen as a pragmatic evidence of the readiness of the Nigerian Army to comply with global best practices. What this human rights desk will achieve in the coming months will definitely be subjected to intense scrutiny by historians and writers.  But the step is surely a good way forward and as military scholars have observed, it fulfills a strategic component of the attributes of why the Army is set up. 

Eayrs, cited in OBC Nwolise’s  The Concept and Theory of Civil-Military Relations: Towards a Rehabilitation, published in the Nigerian Army Quarterly Journal, Volume 4, of December 2008 on page 424, noted that such institutional revolution like the activation of interna mechanisms and architecture within the military for the redress of alleged human rights violations satisfies one of the core principles that underlies the fundamental reasons for establishment of the military as an institution in a democracy.

Eayrs has identified six general purposes for which a democratic nation establishes their military as follows:

Insurance purpose, in which the military is established to serve as insurance against hostile external environment.

 Strategic purpose, because the military is deployed to deter external aggression, and respond to such aggression whenever it occurs, with the goal of subduing the aggressor.

Ceremonial purpose is the next logical reason in which the military effects some ceremonial roles as highlighted earlier ,especially during armed forces day, reception of foreign dignitaries, and celebration of national independence.

Internationally, the Army plays diplomatic role, implying that the military plays public relations roles, showing the flag when they go abroad; and  

Last, but significantly, the military is established for Law and Order purpose, meaning plainly that the military, when necessary, helps civil power and civil authority to maintain or restore law and order when the police is overwhelmed. This last role has come under increasing focus, because it has resulted in a number of incidences that have posed strategic human rights concerns and worries in a lot of quarters. The United Kingdom-based Amnesty International and the New York-based Human Rights Watch are two major global human rights players that have been consistently critical of the reported incidences of human rights breaches and other related abuses that occur during internal security operations by the Army. Under the current Army chief, the Amnesty International visited and met with the Army's top hierarchy to deliberate on various allegations of rights violations. This meeting is epochal and significant.  Yours faithfully attended the meeting on behalf of my organisation, among the only three indigenous human rights platforms invited to grace the closed door interface. Lieut-Gen Buratai, the current Chief of Army Staff,  from inception over a year ago, gave his word to build a thoroughly professional Army institution.   

Described in official quarters as a seasoned military officer, according to information on the Army's official website, he was born on 24November 1960 at Buratai town, Biu Local Government Area of Borno State. He had his primary school education at Buratai. Thereafter, he gained admission into Government Teachers’ College, Potiskum, Yobe State, where he graduated with distinction.

 He was appointed the 20th Chief of Army Staff on Monday 13 July 2015. A peep at some of his attainments as a professional soldier may serve as a beacon for situating a realistic assessment of where the Nigerian Army, as a professional institution is evolving into under his watch.  Variously described as a highly-decorated senior officer, Buratai has the following honors and awards: Forces Service Star (FSS), Meritorious Service Star (MSS), Distinguished Service Star (DSS) and the Grand Service Star (GSS). Others include, Pass Staff Course Dagger (psc)+), Fellow of Defence College (fdc), Field Command Medal (FCM), Training Support Medal (TSM) and the United Nations Medal for Angolan Verification Medal II (UNAVEM II). In addition, he has the following qualifications: Nigerian Defence Academy Certification of Education, Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Arts in History and a Master of Philosophy in Security Studies.

On July 18th 2015, Buratai was quoted as saying: "I am committed to build a professional and responsive Army that would execute its constitutional responsibilities with high sense of commitment. The Army would re-strategise its operations to solidly defend any part of the country under threat.

“My mission statement is to build a professional and responsive army, because I have realised that although a professional army the aspect of responsiveness is missing.

“Troops have failed to respond to distress calls that would have redeemed a situation. This has to stop under my watch. We will relate very well with other sister agencies to achieve our set goals.”

Speaking to the issue of building a professional Army, there are different schools of thought that have expounded and propounded realistic theories of what constitutes a qualitatively accepted professional military institution in modern times.  

On March 30, 2015, Edie Rogers listed the following as the six traits of a top military officer: Character. Aspects of character include showing Army values, empathy, warrior ethos/service ethos and discipline. 

In particular, the military police seeks officers who are "talented leaders of character”; second, he listed Presence and affirmed: For Army officers, presence means military and professional bearing, fitness, confidence and resilience. 

Officers who spend a lot of time out in the field need to be in top physical condition, said Master Sgt. Kevin Brown, who serves in the armour branch.

"One thing we're really looking for in an armour officer is their ability for critical thinking.” He added that it is also a very demanding environment; armour officers have to be physically and mentally fit to handle the tough conditions. Thirdly, he listed intellect and averred that representatives from Signal Corps, Chemical Corps and Engineers said critical thinking, innovation and problem-solving skills are vital in the Army's technical branches. 

He noted that with a shortage of cadets graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), the Engineering branch is looking to boost its numbers through college recruiting. "We chose to visit UNG because it is an all-army ROTC university and has a reputation for producing adaptive and dynamic leaders," Sgt. 1st Class Everett said. The Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna is playing same role as this United States-based institution.  

 Leader:  The other trait listed is leadership. He described it as the ability to lead under pressure, even as he said that is key for infantry officers. 

There is no doubt that the current Nigerian Army chief has gone through lots of pressure and has, accordingly, displayed commendable leadership qualities. 

A military scholar, Wood said:"I think what we look for most is interpersonal skills – the ability to manage and lead other people, especially through tough situations. If they can't relate with people and manage them when it's low stress, when it starts to get more difficult, it will be even harder for them." The military officer must be a Developer. He argues that it's important for an officer to create a positive environment, develop others, and steward the profession. He added that among many talents expected of transportation officers, they should leverage, learn and develop individual skills and talents to get the job done, using the right "mind-sets over skill-sets."

Lastly, the officer must be an Achiever, because all army officers are expected to get results in their specific jobs, but quartermasters are called upon to be excellent project managers and multi-taskers. They work with every branch of the Army "to sustain the fight" through logistics. ( 

So far so good. It can be stated that the gentleman at the helm of affairs of the Nigerian Army has shown positive signs that he means his words to thoroughly build a professional army, in line with the constitution and the clear guidelines given to him by the appointing authority. 

We, in the human rights sector, will be available to provide qualitative partnership; as long as the leadership of the Army complies with best global practices and the provisions of the Constitution. 

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via

Source: News Express

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