Monday, 2 June 2014

THE INSIDER: Intrigues of anti-terror war exposed - TheCable

Nigeria Military
The insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country is set to last for much longer as a result of intrigues in the presidency and the military, government insiders have told TheCable.

There have been opportunities for President Goodluck Jonathan to take decisive actions to bring the insurgency to an end, but he has not acted mainly because the military chiefs are opposed to it.

“In truth, the president is not opposed to dialogue, negotiation and amnesty. It has become glaring to everybody that you cannot defeat insurgency with a pure military approach. But the military top echelon does not want to hear anything short of military action against Boko Haram,” a presidency official said.

A senior security source lamented that the military chiefs do not want the war to end “for selfish reasons” and not for professional purposes.

He said: “What they tell the president is that it will be humiliating for the military if he declares outright amnesty for the militants. They tell him they will lose face. They tell him the Nigerian military has the capacity to confront and contain Boko Haram.

“But the truth, which the president himself is apparently aware of, is that they are benefiting from the crisis. Somebody’s wife gets the contracts to supply food. Another person’s cousin supplies sleeping kits. Another supplies water, and so on.

“Most disheartening is that the allowances of these soldiers are being skimmed off. They are never paid in full. Somebody, some people are stealing this money. These boys are suffering and dying for nothing.

“It is common knowledge now that they are poorly equipped and are often at the mercy of the militants who kill them at will. Intelligence gathering is at its lowest ebb in the history of Nigeria. But the military chiefs are having the time of their lives.”

Corruption

The presidency source said the problem of corruption in the military has been there for a while but Jonathan is looking the other way because “he practically has no one to help him”.

He said: “A service chief that was removed recently had amassed so much wealth in office he is now thinking of becoming the governor of his state in 2015. He bought a whole housing estate in China while our soldiers were being killed for fun in the north-east. To them, the longer the war goes on, the better for their pockets.”

The official said the recent mutiny in Maiduguri took the military chiefs by surprise because they never imagined a soldier could fire a gun at a commander.

The general officer commanding (GOC) the 7 division, Maj-Gen Ahmed Mohammed, narrowly escaped being killed by frustrated soldiers who have now been put on in-house trial.

“The GOC had to be redeployed immediately for his own safety. The soldiers were trying to take out their frustration on him. It was more of a message to the whole nation than a personal grudge against Mohammed. Some of the soldiers are also suffering depression,” the source said.

Fifth columnists

Nigeria has recently stepped up the war against terrorism, getting cooperation from the neighbouring countries.

This agreement is expected to improve the war, but the optimism is tempered by the realisation that there are, as it were, fifth columnists in the military high command.

“Cameroon, Niger and Chad will only protect their own territories. They won’t come to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram,” the security source said.

TheCable was told that the Western countries working with Nigeria to improve security and train the country’s agencies are “amused” at the conduct of Nigeria’s senior military officers.

Utterances A top American official was said to have recently complained about the “drunken behavior” of a very top military chief.

“Some of our bosses have been less than professional in their utterances and public conduct,” the security official disclosed. “The Americans are worried that their efforts may be frustrated.”

Nigerian government has done a lot in recent times to shore up the image of the military because of the growing criticisms.

In his Democracy Day speech, President Jonathan praised the military. “Despite the challenges we face, we must commend our security forces. We must not forget their gallantry and successes in liberating nations and in peacekeeping, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and many places in Africa and beyond. Our forces have paid the supreme price in several places at several times,” he said.

Deadly attacks

Defence headquarters has also issued several statements in recent times alleging a ploy to discredit the military and demoralise the soldiers who are fighting Boko Haram.

But the failure of the military to prevent deadly attacks by the militants continues to raise questions about the future of the campaign.

“There is no defined, coordinated and effective approach to the insurgency. Nobody can tell you that this is the war plan and this is how well we have implemented it. All that the security chiefs do is to give gists, like gossip, to the president on the situation in the north-east.

“Let’s just say we talk a hell lot about fighting Boko Haram but we don’t know how to go about it. We don’t even know where those guys are coming at us next. The day the president realises this and changes the way he relates with his security chiefs, that is when things will begin to change,” the source said.

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