Memo to New Service Chiefs on Boko Haram

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ringtrue Yemi Adebowale Phone 08054699539 Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

I was on the frontline of the campaign for the removal of the languid service chiefs that worked for President Muhammadu Buhari for almost six years. Olonishakin, Buratai et al failed woefully to get the desired result against Boko Haram. It’s a shame that the terrorists became emboldened under their watch and seized numerous Nigerian territories in Borno State. Besides, while their reign lasted, soldiers on the war front were poorly motivated and ill equipped.

Also, the Commander-in-Chief did not help matters with his slipshod approach to the battle. Many expect a change with the arrival of General Lucky Irabor as the new Chief of Defence Staff; Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru as Chief of Army Staff and Air Chief Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Air Staff. In fact, nine days ago, Irabor confidently told Nigerians that this country would experience peace again. I have reservations about two of these new guys, particularly in terms of competence. I clearly stated this back in January. Notwithstanding, I am hoping for the best for this country. Nigeria desperately needs peace.

Today, I will narrow down to the war with Boko Haram. My dear service chiefs, I am not sorry to say that the peace promised might not be actualised in the North-east without a radical change in tactics and manpower of this battle against Boko Haram. I have not seen anything different in the approach to this war since you all resumed as service chiefs 45 days ago. You can’t be doing the same thing repeatedly and expect a different result. Well, our gallant soldiers are doing their best but lack the capabilities to end the war. We must hire the best brains from anywhere in the world to assist our military to end this war. The ultimate aim is to decapitate Boko Haram.

The strategy for getting result against Boko Haram is largely through aerial power. Modern technology for intelligence gathering and attacks, quality equipment and quality manpower will be needed. It also requires quality fighter jets and quality armoured attack helicopters. Our gallant military lacks the competence and equipment for these things. So, our service chiefs must pressure the President to approve the engagement of Israeli or Russian military contractors to assist Nigeria finish this war. This is the only way forward if our new service chiefs are truly interested in peace in the North-east. Of course, you all remember that the Americans shot down the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, from afar. They did not fly to Libya to do this. This is what is called modern warfare with precise drone attacks. We are in an era of fighting with drones. This is the edge foreign military contractors will give our gallant soldiers in the war against Boko Haram. The National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, who is now leading the deceit that the Nigerian military has the firepower and expertise to defeat Boko Haram without the services of mercenaries, should please shut up. Nigerians are weary of this deceit after almost 11 years.

As service chiefs, you all must committedly address the problem of low morale in the military. Our gallant soldiers are struggling to be at their best. Videos of our soldiers lamenting about lack of basic things on the war front abound. Many have overstayed on the war front. This is one of the reasons they are losing grounds to Boko Haram. Many have been needlessly killed by the terrorists. This list of needless deaths is very long. I will never forget how our gallant soldiers were ambushed by Boko Haram in Gorgi, Borno State, March 2020, and scores killed. Unofficial sources said the figure could be above 70. The terrorists targeted a truck loaded with soldiers, unleashed RPGs and incinerated the vehicle, killing all on board.

Commanders who complain about the poor working condition of our troops are usually dealt a solid blow by Buratai and the other service chiefs. That was what happened to the former Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. General Olusegun Adeniyi. A video, in which Adeniyi was seen complaining about a lack of military equipment to combat Boko Haram went viral. He also complained that insurgents were outgunning troops, noting that intelligence failure was responsible for an attack by insurgents that claimed dozens of soldiers. You all have to committedly address these problems. The good thing is that Irabor and Attahiru have been at the war zone too. Service chiefs must genuinely tackle the challenges of our gallant soldiers and truly lead from the front.

The biggest drawback to the war against Boko Haram is the persistent lies that the terrorists have been defeated. While previous service chiefs continued with this unending lies, Boko Haram became the deadliest terror group in the world, with thousands of Nigerians killed in the last five and half years. Guzamala Local Government Area in Borno State remains one of the strongholds of Boko Haram in Nigeria. As I pen this piece, the terrorists roam freely in this LG, while virtually all the natives have deserted the place. In all the 10 local government areas that form the Northern Borno Senatorial District, none is completely free of Boko Haram. This is why over two million IDPs can’t return home. Instead of facing this fact and mapping out strategies to end the dominance of Boko Haram in many parts of Borno State, those who should do the needful went about telling lies that no Nigerian territory was under the control of Boko Haram. It was so disgraceful. I sincerely hope that the new service chiefs will end the lies about territories not controlled by Boko Haram, face the realities in the North-east and fashion out pragmatic strategies to end control of territories by the terrorists.

There is also the issue of “Operation Safe Corridor” launched in 2016 by Buratai et al, to de-radicalise, rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-Boko Haram fighters into the society. This is one policy that has emboldened these outlaws. They know that if captured, rather than pay the price for terrorism, they will be rehabilitated and given money. This nonsense must be stopped by the new service chiefs. Captured Boko Haram fighters must face the full weight of the law for their atrocities. Hundreds of captured Boko Haram fighters have completed the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration (DRR) programme, yet, terrorism across the North-east persists. Many of the so-called repentant fighters have rejoined Boko Haram.

That was why Ali Ndume, the senator representing Borno South, said the ex-insurgents would never repent. He added: “This government’s programme is unacceptable to our people. The right thing is to stop it, forthwith. They are like Kharajites – a notorious killer group in ancient Arabia. Many among those released have since ran away. They will never repent. The government should know what to do about them, but not re-introducing someone to you, who has killed your parent, or your relations.”

Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State also recently raised the alarm that some of the so-called repentant terrorists who passed through the Operation Safe Corridor programme had rejoined Boko Haram after carefully studying the various security arrangements in their host communities during the reintegration process. He also faulted the delay in the prosecution of captured terrorists.
The new service chiefs must ensure that captured Boko Haram fighters and their sponsors are severely punished to serve as deterrent to others. Those captured on the field must be immediately neutralised. This is the only way to send a strong message to the terrorists that the Nigerian military is determined to end their madness.

Minimum Wage Has No Business on Exclusive List
Surely, the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress does not want this country to make progress, with its ill-advised protest against moves by the National Assembly to remove Minimum Wage from Exclusive to the Concurrent legislative list. The nationwide protest last Wednesday against the proposed amendment of the Constitution was selfish, preposterous, unfeeling and shows lack of understanding of the challenges of this country. In countries where true federalism is practiced, there is always a federal and a state minimum wage.

For example, in the United States, there is a federal minimum wage that has been $7.25 per hour since July 2009. In the component states, California andMassachusetts have $14 per hour and $13.50 per hour minimum wage, respectively. As of January 2020, there were 29 states and D.C with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage. What this means is that in a truly federal system, the minimum wage should be set by a range of federal, state and local laws. This is what is in practice in the US, where federal government and component units have separate minimum wage. They all pay according to their ability.
Generally, employers in the US pay workers the minimum wage prescribed by a range of federal, state or local laws. The NLC must get this right. This is what is called a federal system. Nigeria cannot be an exception. Minimum Wage must be rightfully removed from the Exclusive list in the Nigerian Constitution for this country to make progress on the labour field.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and his selfish members should stop dragging this country behind. All these threats of strike if the National Assembly does the needful on this issue must stop. Removing the Minimum Wage from the Exclusive legislative list is clearly not an attempt to undermine Nigeria’s working class as claimed by the NLC. As things stand in this country, so many states don’t even pay the so-called National Minimum Wage. I can’t understand how the NLC expects a state like Lagos to pay the same minimum wage with Kwara. The National Assembly must not be deterred in its noble quest to amend the Constitution and shift Minimum wage to the Concurrent legislative list.

CBN and Access to Export Proceeds
I am still struggling to understand the so-called gains that will accrue to Nigeria with the N5 for $1 promotion introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for money received by Nigerians through international money transfers. During the two-month promotion, the CBN shall through commercial banks, pay to remittance recipients the incentive of N5 for every $1 remitted by a sender and collected by the designated beneficiary. The CBN said this step would encourage forex inflow into the economy and ease the current liquidity challenges in the country’s forex market.

Yes, it may improve forex inflow, but it will only ease liquidity in the parallel market. The recipients will obviously sell their Dollars to Bureau de Change operators because of the huge gap between the official and parallel market rates. The forex inflow will also not impact on our critical external reserves because the Dollars will go straight to the recipients and they will sell in the parallel market. The banks will only keep their little commissions.
For me, one area the CBN needs to quickly address, if it is genuinely interested in improved forex inflow, is to allow exporters unencumbered access to their export proceeds.

The useless practice of imposing NAFEX rate on export proceeds should be discontinued in the spirit of the current move to provide an inducement for forex inflow. A lot of forex diversions take place because of this restriction. Of course, this is because of the huge gap between official and parallel market rates. I believe FDIs and FPIs should also be allowed greater flexibility in the conversion rates of their inflows. A mixture of these supply-side tactics would have a significant effect on forex reserves and forex liquidity. Naira exchange rate will also benefit significantly.
Of course, those running the show at the CBN will argue that most exporters must comply with restrictions on their forex inflow because they also enjoy official rate for their imported components; that FDI and FPI also get official rate for their outflows. Then, the next decent thing to do should be to cremate Nigeria’s multiple forex rates. Let’s end the folly. The CBN and banks should start selling forex at prevailing market rates. It’s also a way to end all the abuses associated with Nigeria’s forex business. This is the way forward for this country.