General Christopher Gwabin Musa: Tackling Insecurity with the Right Blend of Kinetic, Non-kinetic Warfare

General Christopher Gwabin Musa as Chief of Defence Staff can best be described as a square peg in a square hole. With experiences garnered as Theatre Commander for Theatre Command North-East Joint Task Force Operation HADIN KAI (OPHK), he has been leading the Armed Forces of Nigeria with the right mix of military intelligence and diligence. But perhaps, his best known selling point is how he has juxtaposed kinetic and non-kinetic warfare in tackling the broad spectrum of insecurity. As he clocked one year in office on June, 2024, he engaged Chiemelie Ezeobi and a few other selected media executives on the gains made so far in the war against terrorism, insurgency and other security challenges, while highlighting their loyalty to democratic governance

When President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appointed General Christopher Gwabin Musa as the Chief of Defence Staff on June 19, 2023, the brief was simple, yet heavy. Leading the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), the CDS was charged to maintain teamwork to ensure peace and stability in the country.

At his decoration to the rank of a General, the CDS had further said that while the appointment is a clear manifestation of the confidence reposed in them, they would carry out their duties with utmost dedication and full loyalty to the government and go wherever they are ordered, whether by air, sea or land, adding that they will “ensure that Nigeria is projected in good light”. 

Leadership Concept

Setting the ball rolling in fulfilment of that directive, General Musa mapped out his strategy “To nurture a professional Armed Forces of Nigeria that is People Centric, capable of meeting its constitutional responsibilities in a joint and corroborative environment”.

Suffice to say that this leadership concept has been the guiding principle in coordinating and implementing the trajectory of the military- the Nigerian Army (NA), Nigerian Navy (NN) and the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).


One year after that pledge, the reforms the CDS instituted seems to have paid off as he has been able to build on intelligence gathering, restore confidence of troops and men,  embraced teamwork and cooperation, restored harmony in counter-terror operations, professional conduct and discipline. 

Running a tight ship, the CDS has also engineered discipline, cohesion and diligence in the whole gamut of the  Armed Forces. All these and many more were captured in the compendium put together by the acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, which was launched at the recently held one year in office Media Parley with some executives at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja. 

Championing Non-Kinetic Warfare 

One thing the CDS had promised to do was to improve on the mandate of sustaining peace and tranquillity in the  country. To do this, he has been able to find the right blend of balance between kinetic and non-kinetic warfare in leading the military and their interface with civil authority. 

Stating that non-kinetic approach is the use of informational, psychological, diplomatic, economic, social and civil-military cooperation as part of instruments of national power to pursue national interests, the CDS also noted that it involves collaborations between the military and civil actors to achieve national interest through the application of non-lethal force or means that are sub-lethal or not intended to be lethal to dispose of the enemy. 

In reality, this ethos has been the guiding principle of the CDS’ leadership. Even when the military becomes sorely tested, his affinity for non-kinetic warfare has been a steadying balance. 

Speaking on this, he said why asymmetric warfare is a bit difficult is because “you are dealing with people without arms so it’s not written on their head that they are Boko Haram or others so what they do is once we come out, they hide their weapons and come out like ordinary people and you can’t kill everyone and by the time you don’t see anything, you just pass and that’s why it’s a very tricky kind of operation but we are doing all we can. 

“As we speak, the areas are free, what they do is they have areas they hide, do things, drop their weapons and you see them as normal human beings but we are working to address that problem. We recommend to the FG that such areas should be turned to farm lands  because we need to go into commercial farming. The idea of sustainance farming for over 200 people isn’t good enough, we must get into commercial farming so that we can feed ourselves.”

Tackling Insecurity Holistically 

Upon assumption of office, General Musa had vowed to go after terrorists, bandits and other criminals in full force, defeat them and ensure that Nigeria is secured.

One year down the line, General Musa believes that the AFN has kept their word as they have indeed taken the war to the enclaves of the terrorists, even though they have not been completely wiped out- a phenomenon he says is still achievable. 

In fact, in Quarter 1 of 2024, the Defence Headquarters revealed that troops neutralised no fewer than 2,352 terrorists, apprehended 2,308 and rescued 1,241 kidnapped hostages in different operations nationwide between January and March.

At the media parley, the CDS said the security challenges bedeviling the different regions are being handled simultaneously. 

In the South-east, he said the enhanced security of the region is key as well as guaranteed public safety for socio-economic activities. Pointing out the major cause of the insecurity and Simon Ekpa, the factional member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), he charged the international community to ensure he is stopped and prosecuted. 

Revealing that the group have made a lot of human sacrifices, killed people, he said their actions are against Humanity and God, adding that they are fighting for their pockets and not freedom like they claimed.

Although he said the South-west is stable, he noted that some acts of criminality are being tackled by the police, with support from the military. 

For the FCT, he said they have increased  patrols to enhance security, adding that given the reports of kidnapping and banditry at the outskirts, they are tackling the entry and exit point of Abuja.

Still on kidnapping, he lamented that it has become a business, just as he said the Armed Forces cannot do it alone as they need the support of the citizens and other security agencies too.

In the South-south, the CDS said it is critical for Nigerians to stop these acts of vandalism so the future generation can thrive, adding that they are doing everything to curb oil theft and to boost production. He however added that the Operation DELTA SANITY that is ongoing has been clearing those areas with lots of recoveries made. 

In the North-east, he said the issue of terrorism and insurgency are being tackled despite the challenges and life is returning to normal in most of these areas. 

“Most times, over time, the forests were left opened. We used to have forest guards but we left them open until the criminals took over so that is being restored and efforts are being made by Civil Defence to have forest rangers. If you go to Maiduguri, you will be surprised that it is one of the safest place in the country but most thing it’s worse. 

“We are trying to ensure everywhere is free. We have over 1000 entry points unmanned and I am happy the Ministry of Internal Affairs is doing a lot. We have to also enhance the security of border communities because the issue of smuggling, a lot of people think they are making money but they are being compromised. Some of these people bring rice and weapons too, so we are enhancing those ability and capacity within the border areas.”

Streamlining the Amnesty Programme 

Addressing THISDAY’s concern that the Amnesty Programme might be brooding informants for terrorists, he said it’s not a “Go and Sin No More” programme. “Normally, in military operations, if your enemy surrenders, you are duty bound not to kill him. That is why we are giving them that option. What we realised from them is that it’s not everybody that was part of them. Some of them were forcefully recruited. Some of them were enslaved.

“From Maiduguri, some of them were captured and used as farmers and labourers. Our duty is to identify who is who and the community members are helping us to do that. What we did is that we ensure that the community is also a part of the team working with the military, so they help us in identifying them.

“One other critical aspect is that the victims are also looked after. Because most times, we tend to look at the perpetrators and forget the victims. So we make sure that it is holistic. What we do is that we profile them. Those who don’t have any basic case or are not perpetrators are treated separately. So we are able to profile the elderly, children, and women separately from the main actors.

“The main actors are being kept. And what we are projecting is to have a kind of reconsilatory commission, the way it happened in Rwanda. No matter how you fight war, you must sit back with your enemy to deliberate and discuss, and that’s all part of it. Mediation and deliberation so you can get full spirit of those issues. So the word is Surrender not Amnesty. And we are still going to do the legal works which is just to be able to get the facts and prosecute adequately.” 

Upholding Tenets of Democracy 

A year ago, he had urged personnel to uphold the tenets of democracy, safeguard citizens’ rights, and ensure a peaceful and secure environment for all. Even now, he had not budged in his commitment to supporting and strengthening democracy for the benefit of all Nigerians.

“We want Nigerians to understand that the armed forces is here to protect democracy and ensure it thrives. The military will continue to support democracy because we thrive better in democracy,” he said at the media parley. 

Training, Welfare of Troops

A welfarist to the core, he had also promised to prioritise the welfare of personnel to enable the military to get the best from them. How best has he done that? From logistics to insurance, housing, medical and hazard allowances, General Musa has placed premium on that too. 

At the moment, his concern that personnel are not covered in the Federal Housing Authority Policy or the NHIS, not covering gunshot wounds, are valid. To ameliorate the situation to an extent, he said since budgetary allocation cannot cater for this, they are looking at the Armed Forces Trust Fund. Welfare-wise, he said the president is working on increasing the per day allowance for troops. 

Beyond welfare, premium has been placed on training as they conduct local and overseas courses with over 85 personnel attending  training on counter terrorism in US, Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan and several others. 

Uniting Nigerians with the Sussex’ Visit 

For a national that has so much polarised along ethnic, religious and political lines, the CDS did the unthinkable- he invited the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan to Nigeria.

Although the idea was to champion the cause of wounded soldiers through the Invictus Games, the international adaptive sporting competition for wounded servicemen, women and veterans which Prince Harry founded in 2014, the visit not just brought so much joy and hope to  Nigerians at large, but united them for a common purpose. 

Interagency Cooperation

A chief proponent of interagency collaboration, General Musa believes that the synergy of working together with other security agencies will achieve more results than working in isolation. 

International engagement-wise, the military has not been found wanting as they engage in International Peace-keeping. The CDS said they presently have about 650 personnel in Gambia, Sudan an Guinea Bissau, plus request from Central Africa Republic and Sierra Leone to enhance training on capacity building for their armed forces. 

On defence, diplomacy and international cooperation, the military has Increased collaboration with regional partners, enhanced national and sub-regional stability, and effectively managed the security situation created by military coup in Niger.

Nonetheless, THISDAY raised the question on the need for balance in championing interagency cooperation, especially when it comes to civil organisations that are performing the job of security agencies. 

The CDS, while agreeing that there is need for balance, said “If we don’t handle them properly, they become a nuisance and also become a problem. But in the North-east, we are positively making use of the natives because they understand the terrain, they know the people who are there well. So what we did is that the communities were allowed to select the members of the group, they brought them down to the police and DSS for profiling, handed over to the military who took them through military training on the mandate to secure their community. 

“Because if you put all the agencies we have together, we cannot man the entire country. So we use them to hold on to their community, not to allow anyone to penetrate it until the military comes in. And for the other areas, we are also advising them to do the same. The danger is, don’t use one ethnic group, else it becomes dangerous. Because the tendency is that we will be viewed as though we are against one ethnic group. With over 350 ethnic groups in Nigeria, it will be problematic if we allow that to happen.

“That is why it is important that they are regulated properly and other agencies are also brought it. If we believe in the Armed Forces and police, and they are properly funded, we can do so much. It’s work in progress, and I am sure we will get there.”

On the issue of the incessant unmanned drones that fly recklessly in the airspace, he said: “These are things we are also getting into, especially on how to regulate them because if we don’t, people will start settling personal scores with them.”

Prospects for the Future 

General Musa is very optimistic of the future. Although he said there is need for more equipment to tackle the insecurity in all the regions, he said force multipliers  and combat enablers-the use of satellites, drones, counter IUD instrument are being put to use. 

He also said the AFN under his command is keen on development of new capability and they are working with their foreign partners to enhance the capability of personnel.

Despite the successes recorded, he said they constantly  review their defence headquarters operations by examining the shortcomings, loopholes and gaps and fixing them, with the overarching objective to be better at what they do. 

While thanking President Tinubu and the National Assembly for the support in the past year, he however appealed to Nigerians to have faith in its military, adding that success cannot be achieved overnight. On the same note, he urged Nigerians to rally round and support its military. 

About General Christopher Gwabin Musa 

Born Christopher Gwabin Musa in Sokoto State, North-west Nigeria on December 25, 1967, he attained primary and secondary education in Sokoto too.  

He is however from Zangon Kataf Local Government Area in Kaduna State. In 1986 he was admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna State and on September 1991 he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as a second lieutenant in the Infantry Corps.

Of the Infantry Corps and a Member of the 38th Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy, General Musa has held the following appointments including Platoon Commander at 192 Battalion;

Intelligence Officer at 192 Battalions; Administrative Officer at 2 Div Camp (Garrison); Pioneer Adjutant 195 Battalion; Operations Officer – NIBATT 8 UNAMSIL; 195 Battalion 2ic; 149 Battalion 2ic; and General Staff Officer 1 Training/Operations at HQ 81 Division.

Others include Commanding Officer 73 Battalion; Assistant Director Operational Requirement at Department of Army Policy and Plans; Infantry Representative/Member Training Team at HQ Nigerian Army Armour Corps; and Deputy Chief of Staff Training/Operations at HQ Infantry Centre and Corp.

He was also Chief of Staff at HQ 2 Division; Commandant Depot Nigerian Army; Principal Staff Officer (Combat Arms) at Army HQ Department of Projects and Programmes; Pioneer Executive Director Nigerian Army Farms and Ranches Ltd; and Commander 82 Division Task Force Brigade OP LAST HOLD in the North East.

Not left out were his roles as Commander Sector 3 OP LAFIYA DOLE; Comd Sect 3 Multinational Joint Task Force in the Lake Tchad Region; Chief of General Duties TRADOC; Director Campaign Planning AHQ DATOPs; Director Training AHQ-DATOPs; 

Senior Research Fellow, Nigerian Army Research Centre; Theatre Comd JTF (NE) Op HADIN KAI; and Commander Infantry Corps, from where he was made CDS six months later. 

He has in his kitty the Forces Service Star, Meritorious Service Star, and Distinguished Service Star, as well as the General Operation Medal, Command Medal (CO 73 Bn), Chief of Army Staff Commendation Award, Silver Jubilee Medal, 

Meritorious Service, Centenary Medal, Training Support Medal, OP LAST HOLD Medal, OP LAFIYA DOLE Medal, MNJTF Medal, Grand Service Star (GSS), Field Commander Medal of Honour (FCMH), and Operation HADIN KAI Medal (OPHK), amongst several others. 

In 2022, Musa won the Colin Powel Meritorious Award for Soldiering; and also, the African Youths Initiative For Good Governance and Peace honoured him with the Nelson Mandela Exemplary Leadership Award, for his outstanding contributions to peacekeeping, and protection of the Nation’s territorial integrity; also awarded the Fellowship of the Institute of Leadership Assessment and Development during the second edition of the Africa-Dubai Investment Business Summit held in Dubai; as well as the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria’s Golden Star Award for the Fight against Insurgency. 

While he received the National Honour of the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), the Atyap Chiefdom bestowed on him the Tsuung Atyap, meaning “Pillar of Atyap”. General Gwabin Musa is married to Mrs. Lilian Oghogho Musa, the National President of DEPOWA and they are blessed with four children.

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