Nigerian Army and the Buhari legacy in 6 years

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Nigerians who are very observant might notice one peculiar character with the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015. He does not believe in what advertisers call self-marketing of his achievements as the democratic leader of Nigeria. 

President Buhari has absolute faith in the dictum which says, action speaks louder than words. He does not buy generous space in the media on any Democracy Day to publish his scorecard, as cultured with Nigerians since return of democracy in 1999. Self-praise-singing is not one of President Buhari’s trait.

He prefers to let those who have seen and felt the impact of the development strides of his administration to speak instead. But as a listening leader, he has always bowed to public demands for accountability in the running of his government. He respected the same popular wish of Nigerians on May 29th, 2021 when his administration clocked six years, by tendering a brief account of his stewardship, as he awaits the official Democracy Day on June 12th.    

Therefore, many Nigerians observed and were truly surprised that President Buhari’s account of his six years stewardship of Nigeria on May 29, 2021 excluded a mention of the Nigerian Army? He allowed Nigerians to speak about the great transformations, which has appreciated incredibly under his administration, in professionalism, patriotism, loyalty and structural development. 

Consequently, the presidential scorecard titled; “The Buhari administration at 6: Counting the blessings one by one,” was segmented and captioned, sub-sector by sub-sector.  Yet, even though President Buhari bowed to the popular demands of Nigerians by releasing his records of what most Nigerians brand “dividends” of democracy, the Nigerian Army as an institution was not mentioned. Ironically, that’s where Mr. President has really invested his heart as leader.    

From his six years expositions on security, roads, economy, Niger Delta, international relations and so forth, the sub-captions registered prominent presence of President Buhari @6 years of Nigeria’s leadership. But the delivery conspicuously snagged by the exclusion of the Nigerian Army, the globally acclaimed ground force in Africa.

The Buhari @ 6 statement signed by Presidential Media Adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, never intimated Nigerians with the awful structural, administrative reformations and innovations in the Nigerian Army under the Buhari Presidency. The new or renovated Army barracks across Nigeria, office accommodations, Army referral hospitals, new Army Divisions, new Army schools, rehabilitated old ones and Forward Operations Bases to combat all manner of insecurities in Nigeria were skipped by that wholesome presidential statement of stewardship.   

Nonetheless, the NA has enormously contributed to national security, ranging from combating terrorism of varying sects, armed banditry, violent secession, impaired or disarmed ethnic-militias or warlords, and the pervasively generalized armed gangsters of bloodshed in the country. In the last six years, the Army has struggled hard enough to secure or protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria against all odds. And some soldiers have even paid the supreme or ultimate price in the process for their beloved country.

Nigerians are aware that in President Buhari’s six years as the democratic leader of Nigeria, even the gadflies who have orchestrated overwhelming insecurities in the country, knows that the country would have been worse without the patriotic sacrifices of the Nigerian Army, which leads other arms of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN). But Nigerian soldiers have courageously and gallantly proved their mettle as the best ground force in Africa.

At the risk of toadyism, President Buhari has ebbed on the Nigerian psyche, an immensely impactful control of Nigeria’s insecurities right from 2015, through the instrumentality of the NA. The appointment of Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd), as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations lubricated the path and spiced the cake. He reformed, transformed and repositioned the Nigerian Army into a professional, disciplined, patriotic and loyal armed force which is today the pride of Nigeria and Africa in the discharge of its constitutional roles very responsibly.

Before the Buhari Presidency, the NA was somewhat a forgotten graveyard in all ramifications, manifest in its poor handling of insurgencies and insurrections in parts of the country. However, today the narrative has changed evidently with the rare and result-filled institutional innovations, reforms and practical developments of the NA, courtesy of the ex-COAS, Gen. Buratai (rtd).  His Excellency, Ambassador TY Buratai,  who is now, Nigeria’s envoy to Benin Republic in retirement from active military service, changed the face of NA with the active support of Mr. President to unimaginable celestial abodes.  

Under the Buhari Presidency within six years, the NA established three specialized and civilian-inclusive Army institutions, which are the most prominent legacies the Army ever kissed its fragrance for several decades of its existence. Notably, the NA established the Tukur Buratai Institute for War; the first Nigerian Army School of Aviation, which has matriculated and convocated Army pilots and technical crew members for over two academic sessions now.

Through the Senate Standing Committee on Army, it sent a bill to National Assembly (NASS) for the lawful permission to operate a specialized Nigerian Army Airwing to beef up its operations, with fighter jets in the trenches, at arms-reach for troops, in order to allow soldiers in the frontlines, expeditiously respond to Boko Haram attacks in the Northeast.  It’s same practice obtainable in the United States, Japan, and Asian countries. But as usual, Nigerian politics at NASS submerged this very important bill, which is very potent in combating terrorism in the country.  

Nonetheless, by far, the prime achievement of the NA under President Buhari is the establishment of the first Nigerian Army University, Biu, (NAUB). It is an institution where both the military/para-military personnel and civilians are trained or work. NAUB, Africa’s first green university took off in 2018 and it is a degree-awarding institution, just like any other conventional university in Nigeria.

It has a higher civilian admission quota than the Military and matriculated its first batch of 1,016 students for the 2018/2919 academic session. NAUB also admitted 1,000 student’s same academic session for the varsity’s   remedial programme in the first year of operations.

NAUB is a project conceptualized by the Buhari administration right from the outset. In President Buhari’s inaugural speech in 2015, he vowed to extinguish Boko Haram terrorists and promised Nigerians that his administration would also commission a sociological study to enable Nigerians discern the character and dimensions of Boko Haram and how to avert it in future.

President Buhari echoed; “Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connexions to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a recurrence of this evil. For now, the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram.”

Therefore, the establishment of NAUB was President Buhari’s fulfilment of his initial pledge to Nigerians and commitment to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RRR) of the insurgency ravaged Northeast region. NAUB is truly expansive and targeted to rank among the best world class universities within the next 50 years. When fully operational, NAUB will function on 14 faculties, 113 departments and 493 academic programmes.

Therefore, ab initio, NAUB in conjunction with Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), offered admission to candidates for courses in faculties of computing, engineering, environmental sciences, management and social sciences, natural and applied sciences, cyber security and intelligence-gathering.  Barely three years of its existence, NAUB has a biotechnology centre and an evaluation site for military equipment.

Modelled after the Silicon Valley in the United States, aside its academic research and learning treasures, NAUB is also designed as an employment hub for the host communities and a revenue generating venture for government, with a solar farm project of between 300-400 trees comprising neem, gum arabic and cotton trees. It has already, effectively harvested these treasures for the consummation of Nigerians of all regions.  

At the foundation-laying ceremony of NAUB in October 2018, President Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu excitedly proclaimed;  “I commend the Nigerian Army for the commencement of the university which will serve as the brain box for enhancing its responses to meet the challenges of the 21 century…the university represents the future of Nigeria’s self-reliance in the area of science, technology, research and capacity building training in all fields of human endeavor through the application of modern teaching approaches to equip students with tools to live and work in the 21 century.”

The ex-COAS who vigorously pursued and achieved the NAUB project said; “The Nigerian Army of today cannot afford to remain static and must therefore explore the fields of science, engineering and even the humanities.”  The location of the university is also good for inter-ballistic displays, production of laboratory equipment and increased military presence in communities hosting it.

Besides, in the last six years, the Nigerian Army built a new Army Reference Hospital in Maiduguri.  In 2020, the second new Army Reference Hospital was started in Ebonyi state, the Southeast region. It is aggressively developed structurally at Nkwagu Cantonment, Abakaliki to offer the best medical care to “Wounded Soldiers in Action” (WIA) and families of Army personnel. Also, all of these hospitals offer medical service to both the military and civilians’ at very affordable rates.  

The Nigerian Army has also renovated and refurnished previously dilapidated Army barracks across the country. Nigerian soldiers had no befitting dwelling places, endured ragged barracks, managed severe shortage of office and residential accommodations. Nigerians not forgotten the pigsty state of Army guest houses and camps throughout the country.

These Army barracks, with Lord Lugard’s structural emblems and insignias were neglected since Nigeria’s first post-independence era Defence Minister, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu erected the structures in the early sixties. But President Buhari has changed the narrative with modern architectural masterpieces. Also, these barracks have been remodeled. The obsolete amenities and facilities in these Army barracks and units have been replaced with state-of-the-art latest models within the last six years.

Today, the Nigerian Army most catchily has radiated with its new status in office and residential accommodation with the fantastic modern structures at the Muhammadu Buhari Cantonment at Giri, comprising new 150 flats of accommodation in the barracks; the Nigerian Army new Army Forward Operations Base’s (FOB)/military barracks at Okene in Kogi State and the newly built headquarters of the 331 Artillery Tactical Forward Operation Base (FOB) in Biu LGA of Borno state.

Others include, the completed new blocks of multiple flats of accommodation for soldiers in the Bukavu Barracks at the 3 Brigade Kano; the renovated and remodeled accommodation for 120 soldiers in Ribabu Cantonment and Dalet Barracks, under 1 Division Nigerian Army, Kaduna, comprising fanciful 120 flats as relocated in other barracks throughout the federation.

There are also new buildings constructed at the Nigerian Army School of Artillery in Kachia, Kaduna state; renovated and modernized office of the Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters Abuja; newly built and equipped Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) Abuja, which functions both as office accommodation and modern resource venue for workshops and seminars for the military.

What about the Nigerian Army’s fruitful partnership with Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) in the manufacturing of Ezugwu (MRAP) war machine, which is very effective in terrorism combats in the Northeast? Under the Buhari Presidency, the Nigerian Army, often described as an isolated island of its own is harnessing home-grown technology to revive its dormant culture in weapons manufacturing.  

As a retired Army General himself, President Buhari has gone the axiomatic extra mile to make his primary constituency comfortable. Therefore, through the Nigerian Army leadership right from 2015, Mr. President has partnered private estate developers to resolve residential and accommodation deficits. The Nigerian Army embraced welfare administrative policies like the NA Property Limited and NA Welfare Limited by Guarantee, Army Post-Service Housing Scheme and Nigeria Army Farm and Ranches to make life much easier for soldiers.

Needless to say, the Nigerian Army’s partnership with Betonic West Limited birthed a N7.5 billion Army Post-Service Housing project in Otukpo and Ohimini LGAs of Benue state. And stretching it further, the Army in synergy with Belemaoil Producing Limited, completed a 3-story building of 30 flats at the 16 Brigade Headquarters, Camp Buratai, Yenagoa, Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta.

But another big bang is the establishment of two Army Divisions under the Buhari Presidency.  The new Army Divisions 6 and 8, established in compliance with the Presidential directive on new Nigerian Army Order of Battle (ORBAT) are located in Port Harcourt, Rivers state and Monguno, Borno state respectively. They are fully built with modern architectural structures for soldiers and operating to assist in curbing violent crimes in these regions.

President Buhari was concerned that the prosecution of the counter-insurgency operations under his predecessor was fraught with allegations of human rights abuses. Nigerians groaned; the international community kicked against it and amplified the menace of perceived military rights abuses.

Mr. President reflected this reality in his inaugural address to Nigerians in 2015 thus; “For now, the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces.”

And sticking to the mindset of Mr. President, the Nigerian Army established the first ever, Human Rights Desk in March 2016 at Army Headquarters’ (AHQs),  Abuja and replicated it in all Army formations and units to ensure easy public accessibility.

Even after Gen. Buratai, the initiator of this novel policy left office, a human rights critic and seasoned commentator on rights violations in Nigeria, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko who is also the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) wrote passionately about Nigerian Army’s changed and redirected posture on human rights violations in the prosecution of the anti-terrorism wars.  

He eloquently bellowed; “… (Gen) Buratai (rtd) started and institutionalized measures intended to eliminate rights abuses by the personnel of the Nigerian Army. The first was an understanding of Civil-Military Relations/Cooperation, particularly in a period of multiple and dynamic security challenges such as terrorism, farmers–herdsmen clashes and violent secessionist agitation among others. He empowered the Department of Civil–Military Affairs (DCMA) to function effectively, especially in the campaign for the protection and respect for human rights”.

The Army also partnered with some human rights organizations such as the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to develop capacity to enhance professionalism and responsiveness, in promoting humanitarian principles and in conducts during operations. Equally laudable initiative by the Buratai’s leadership in its consistent efforts to checkmate right abuses was the establishment of Human Rights Desk at the Army Headquarters and in all the formation headquarters across the nation. This move… marked a departure from the old order when the Military was on the defensive whenever allegations of human rights violations were leveled against it.

Again, Onwubiko reminisced; “… the Nigerian Army ensured that they assigned all cases pending in civil court against it to competent registered Nigerian Army external advocates or military lawyers in the Directorate of Legal services…despite efforts by moles and saboteurs embedded within the Army. These moles were derailing the objectives of the counter Terror War and alleging lack of respect for fundamental human rights”.

Pleasurably, by October, 2020, the Nigerian Army Human Rights Desk treated 350 petitions from Nigerians and soldiers, and discharged 90% of the cases, revealed by Army Human Rights Desk officer, Capt. Veronica Williams by end of 2019, whilst still investigating pending cases. The strict observance of human rights of Nigerians by the Nigerian Army led to the decision of US Congress under ex-President Donald Trump to endorse partnering Nigeria on combating insurgency, evident in the contract of purchasing the 12 Tucano fighter jets.

This is just a scratch of what the Nigerian Army achieved under the leadership of President Buhari in six years. The new COAS. Major Gen. Farouk Yahaya is another ardent enthusiast and believer in the sacredness of excellence, who believes terrorism of all breeds must end in Nigeria.  He will not disappoint President Buhari as he is ready by words and actions to sustain and even improve on the Nigerian Army legacies under a Buhari Presidency.

Gen. Yahaya is an exciting soldier on the bloc, who smiles always, but deadly when you offend the interests of his country. He came fully prepared to finally blight the fires of insurgencies and insurrections in Nigeria. President Buhari has not made a mistake in his choice of the COAS and ombudsman of the counter-insurgency operations as symbolized by Gen. Yahaya. The Senate should expedite action on his speedy confirmation in order to allow him fully concentrate on this sensitive and urgent national assignment.  

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