Four reasons why Nigeria's military can't contain Boko Haram
Despite having one of the continent's biggest and best-funded militaries, Nigeria's army couldn't fight off Boko Haram. What explains that? Brent asks Chris Ngwodo, Nigerian writer and political analyst. Here are four reasons why Nigeria's military can't contain Boko Haram.
CBC Radio ·
Amnesty International released new satellite images this week of a horrific attack in northeastern Nigeria by BokoHaram militants. Earlier this month, insurgents rampaged through the town the town of Baga. Amnesty International says as many as 2000 civilians were killed in more than a dozen towns. Despite having one of the continent's biggest and best-funded militaries, Nigeria's army couldn't fight off BokoHaram. What explains that? Brent asks Chris Ngwodo, Nigerian writer and political analyst. Here are four reasons why Nigeria's military can't contain BokoHaram.
1. Nigeria's army isn't trained to fight insurgencies
According to Chris Ngwodo, Nigeria has consistently misread the nature of the threat from BokoHaram at both the military and political levels. He says the army is struggling to prosecute a counterinsurgency campaign which it was never designed or trained to fight.
"The Nigerian military is a classical fighting force," says Ngwodo. "It just has found itself out of its depth when it comes to dealing with an irregular fighting force such as Boko Haram." Because Nigeria came out of three decades of military dictatorship, Ngwodo says its defensive and security strategies were developed to protect the regime in power, not to protect the nation-state and its citizens.
2. Not enough equipment and resources
Although the Nigerian military is one of the largest and well-funded in Africa, soldiers have frequently found themselves outgunned against BokoHaram militants. Nigeria's defence budget was $5.8 billion in 2014, and its military includes conventional weapons as well as fleets of jets, drones and helicopters. Ngwodo says they are all being used by Nigerian forces, but that soldiers say they don't cut it. "They [soldiers] do not feel that they have been resourced well enough to engage the enemy on equal footing," says Ngwodo. He says the result has been considerable discontent among soldiers on the front lines. In December, a court martial sentenced 54 Nigerian soldiers to death for mutiny.
3. Corruption keeps weapons from getting to the front lines
Ngwodo says corruption and financial misappropriation among Nigeria's top officials prevent Nigerian troops from getting the resources they need to adequately counter Boko Haram. Money that should go toward weapons or materials for soldiers may instead be end up in the pockets of senior government and military officials. "The very high levels, where strategic direction and armament procurement for the war effort are being directed — that's where you would be looking to understand exactly how these resources are allocated. Basically, it's a question of following the paper trail," says Ngwodo.
4. The U.S. won't sell Nigeria arms over human rights concerns
The United States says the Leahy Law prevents it from providing military arms to countries with a record of human rights violations. But Ngwodo says Nigerians see this argument as selective, pointing to the U.S. offering military aid to countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt which also have histories of human rights abuse. "We find a lot of hypocrisy in this kind of posturing by the United States. The Nigerian perspective is that that argument does not hold water," says Ngwodo.