Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The unending insurgency in the North-east and rising internal security challenges, necessitating increasing military engagements in domestic security, have once again raised the need for the country to enlarge the size of its troops, security experts have told THISDAY.
Although as part of the efforts to encourage professionalism and boost the morale of her officers and men, the military last weekend promoted over 300 senior officers across the three services, the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force, experts say much more would have to be done to enhance the efficiency of the defence forces.
THISDAY gathered that beyond the difficulties encountered by the military in the theatre of North-east operations, an area equivalent to three other countries in land mass, the military is also engaged in widespread internal operations believed to be stretching its capacity.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, had recently raised the alarm over the gap in the manpower requirements of the military.
Ndume had said the Nigerian Army, for instance, had 154,000 soldiers and 6,000 officers when it needed a minimum of 400,000.
He said the gap showed that Nigeria was not sufficiently committed to ending the war against insurgency.
“Let me say here that you can’t fight a war of this magnitude and this vast land with only 150,000 soldiers,” he said, adding: “Right now, the population of the Nigerian Army is 150,000 with 4,000 recently released, a total of 154,000 soldiers. Also, you can’t fight this war with less than 400,000 soldiers.’’
Given Ndume’s figures, Nigeria needs to double its troops count in the next few years, say an analyst.
Top military sources, who justified Ndume’s alarm, told THISDAY at the weekend that there was a 20 per cent shortfall in the manpower requirements of the military.
Responding to a question on the military’s capacity to confront a foreign adversary, a source said the military was presently focused on internal security threats.
“What is established is that there is a 20 per cent shortfall in the manpower requirements of the military. But the military is focused on internal threats. What we have is internal threats and we are addressing it.”
A global military ranking institution, Global Fire Power (GFP), citing United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Fact book, has ranked Nigeria 43rd in its 2019 global military ranking.
The ranking is based on population of the country, manpower/personnel strength, financial strength and military arsenal.
Nigeria is credited with 181,000 total military personnel; 172,400,000 available manpower while those fit for service stood at 40,710,000 even as citizens reaching military age stood at 3,456,000.
According to the report, out of the total military personnel, 124,000 are active while 57,000 are reserved.
Defence spokesman, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, declined to discuss the issue when contacted by THISDAY.
But defence sources told THISDAY that efforts to get the appropriate authority to respond to the demand of the military in this regard have been unsuccessful as the powers that be are placing more emphasis on procurement of armament to the exclusion of the need for more men that would handle the equipment.
A security analyst, Mr. James Manchap, however, allayed Ndume’s fears, stressing that the manpower need of the military globally is now bridged by deployment of technology.
“Size of the military is still important but most nations are now heavily dependent on technology,” he explained, adding: “There is heavy reliance on new war strategies, composite air power, cyber warfare, deployment of drones which is also part of it.”
He said the enhanced numbers of military personnel “is still important considering the sheer size and population of Nigeria and the multiple security threats it faces.”