By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@
I’m still struggling to recover from the shock of the massacre of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State. The exact number of soldiers killed at 157 Task Force Battalion on November 18 is still a closely-guided secret. The commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba was also killed during the attack.
Over two weeks after the attack, I’m still shedding tears; tears for a military that has been debased by coldblooded service chiefs and commanders; tears for a military that was once the pride of Africa, now the shame of Africa, no thanks to corrupt and inept commanders; tears for a country that can mobilise 30,000 security agents for an election but can’t do same against terrorists.
Our gallant soldiers now struggle for allowances and equipment on the war front. Many of them have over-stayed on the war front, contrary to the rules of engagement. That was why some soldiers openly protested at the Maiduguri Airport. They struggle for things as ordinary as water. I will never forget army chief, Tukur Buratai admitting last year that war front feeding allowances were delayed for three months because of budget issues.
The Army under the command of Buratai and the Air Force under the command of Sadique Abubakar have never been this mis-managed. In war situations, service chiefs are judged by performance on the war front. Buratai and Sadique have failed abysmally; they have lost touch with modern warfare. The level of ineptitude displayed by these two officers is legendary. The military urgently needs a change of leadership. Sadique’s Air Force persistently fails to provide coverage for ground troops. These service chiefs have spent almost four years, yet, no result. Never in the history of this country has the military been this humiliated. The last three and half years have been horrendous, with unending tales of woes from the war front.
Many will not forget in a hurry the massacre of our soldiers in places likeGajiram, Mainok, Rann, Geidam, Sasawa, Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Gashigha, Kanama, Gamboru-Ngala, Mafa, Damasak, Gudumbali, Garunda, Kunduga, Kareto, Jilli, Arge, Zari. What about the unprecedented and persistent killing of officers by the terrorists? Those killed include Lt. Colonel O. Umusu, Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar, Captain Victor Ulasi and Lt. Col. A E Mamudu. Add Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba. Under Buhari, this country has been needlessly losing hundreds of its gallant soldiers to this madness called Boko Haram, yet he refuses to replace our inept service chiefs. Just on Wednesday, Boko Haram again attacked Nigeria Army’s 118 Battalion located in Arege, Abadam Local Government Area of Borno State.
What about the massacre of thousands of civilians by Boko Haram under the watch of Buratai and Sadique? I had to stop counting (two and half years ago) when the figure reached 3000. It could be as high as 10,000 in the last 42 months. Even in IDP camps, displaced Nigerians are persistently attacked and killed by Boko Haram, as seen in Rann, Muna Garage, Dalore and a number of other places. Many won’t forget how the terrorists invaded the Rann camp, killing four international aid workers and an undisclosed number of IDPs. There are almost 600,000 Nigerians living in squalid conditions in these camps, struggling for a meal a day. Daily, they dream of going home, but they can’t because their towns and villages are still dominated by Boko Haram. The few that returned home had to scamper back.
All the lies about having degraded Boko Haram have collapsed like a pack of cards. The peak of this reckless falsehood was the wild celebration of a fantasy victory over the terrorists in December 2016 by Buhari. I shed tears on that day that Buhari, a retired general, accepted Shekau’s flag/Quaran as symbol of victory over Boko Haram from a confused Buratai.
How can a country with a government and a Commander-in-Chief backed with huge war chest, have Boko Haram moving around unhindered? How can a country with a supposedly well-trained army be losing grounds to terrorists? President Buhari must wake up and halt this slide into anarchy.Under his watch, Boko Haram still controls territories in the North-east and slaughter scores of civilians and soldiers daily. It is a shame that the war against Boko Haram is sagging while the Buhari administration continues with its sham story of success against the terrorists. If we are not careful, these mad men will start flying jets to bomb us. Moving forward, the top echelon of the military must be purged. Buhari must retire those in the top hierarchy of this war and appoint fresh hands, so that we can have fresh ideas. The managers of this war have failed these soldiers. Our war commanders have become businessmen. This is why this country has been losing grounds to Boko Haram. I was shocked by Buhari’s approval of a provocative tenure extension (unusual 3rd term) for the service chiefs. These same service chiefs that have failed our gallant soldiers were rewarded for failure. This is preposterous.
This slide in this war against terrorists is to a large extent, a failure of leadership. Leadership matters a great deal in every situation. These same soldiers were effectively utilised by Azubuike Ihejirika and Kenneth Minimah as army chiefs. Buratai and Sadique must give way to more proactive and result-oriented service chiefs. There should be no sentiment here. The wages of failure is sack. This country wants results in this war against terrorists. For us to get the right man for this job, we must consistently sack those who can’t do it. Buhari must pick up courage and sack these failed service chiefs.
An additional challenge Nigeria is facing in this war against Boko Haram is that most of those managing the war don’t want it to end. These heartless people are profiting immensely from the blood of our gallant soldiers and that of innocent Nigerians. This is why soldiers on the war front are cruelly denied operation allowances, ill-equipped and ill-motivated. As long as the war is on, there will be more money for these coldblooded war managers. This is the truth that must be told about this war.
I have persistently clamoured for the return of mercenaries. We all saw their impact when they were briefly used by the Jonathan administration. Buhari came and unwisely sacked them. This country must employ the best fighters from anywhere in the world to end this trauma called Boko Haram. The ultimate aim is to genuinely decapitate Boko Haram.
Nigeria Spending 50% Revenue on Debt Servicing
A couple of days back, the International Monetary Fund painted the precarious situation of the nation’s economy, going by how much Nigeria was spending on debt servicing. According to the IMF, Nigeria is at present spending more than 50 per cent of its revenues on servicing debts, a situation that does not give room for other necessary expenses.
Senior Resident Representative and Mission Chief for Nigeria, African Department, Amine Mati said this figure was too high and hinders economic growth.
Early this week, the World Bank also raised the alarm about the management of the nation’s economy, stating that fiscal deficits in Nigeria would likely widen further in 2018 due to increased pre-election spending and sustained revenue shortfalls.
The Washington-based institution in its Bi-annual Economic Update on Nigeria, titled, “Investing in Human Capital for Nigeria’s Future,” stressed that the Nigerian economy remains dependent on “the small oil sector (under 10 percent of GDP) for the bulk of its fiscal revenues and foreign exchange earnings.”
This, it pointed out, makes Nigeria’s balance of payments and government budgets vulnerable to volatilities in oil prices, which plunged to a one-year low of $58.41 a barrel, down more than 22 per cent, following global oversupply.
All these warnings from the IMF and the World Bank are meant to assist the managers of our economy. They are also indicators that our economy is not being properly managed. Of course, we can all see the result in our sliding economy. There is so much hunger, poverty, and unemployment in our land. Unfortunately, managers of Nigeria’s economy have remained deaf to these words of wisdom. They keep justifying the binge borrowing even when Nigerians are not feeling the impact of the debt being piled up.
Former Vice-President (Africa) of World Bank, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili once remarked: “the Federal Government is digging in instead of digging out. Already, the debt service to revenue is so high. Today it is 69 per cent. 69 per cent of revenue is used to service our debts. That is not a sustainable situation.”
Unfortunately, this is not a listening government. With the way the Buhari government has been binge borrowing, Nigeria may be plunged into insolvency by the huge repayments commitments.
Starvation in Plateau IDP Camps
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Riyom Town Hall camp in Plateau State are still wallowing in hunger. It is a shame that governments at all levels and emergency agencies have failed to respond to this humanitarian crisis several weeks after I drew attention to it. A large number of these hapless people, who were displaced from their villages by rampaging herders are starving and sleeping on the bare floor.
One of the IDPs, John Langai, remarked during a visit to the camp by a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): “We have been living in degrading and dehumanising conditions ever since we moved to the camp in June. Many of our people were killed, our houses burnt by the attackers and our farms destroyed. Those of us who survived have nothing to eat; in fact we have been starving. We don’t have what to sleep on. As you can see, the women are on bare floor over there. Many have contacted diseases due to overcrowding and some have even died as a result.”
Mrs Blessing Gyang, a survivor, who lost five members of her immediate family including two of her brothers, described life in the camp as terrible: “People queue to use the toilet provided by the ICRC. Many people, especially women, have contacted different kinds of diseases from the toilets.”
The IDPs have every reason to be angry. Relief materials delivered to their camps are grossly inadequate. Some have died due to hunger and poor medical care. Besides, they are desperate to return home, but killer herders still roam freely in their towns and villages. Some Plateau youths had earlier attacked Lalong at the Government House, Jos, over his alleged support for killer herders.
Governor Simon Lalong is the biggest disappointment as Plateau IDPs battle for survival. Lalong has evidently abandoned victims of herders’ attacks in Plateau State. He has been acting as if he’s one of the herders. This governor speaks more in support of the herders than his people. That was why IDPs at Geo-science camp, Jos South LG, pelted his convoy with stones few months back. I believe the people of this state know what to do in 2019.