When the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War ended many thought that the country had been made a safer place, and the tendency was for Nigerians to relax about national security. But, as time has shown, the end of the 30 months Civil War merely revealed other deadly dangers. From countering the Kano Disturbances in 1980 to the Niger Delta militants that nearly crippled the nation’s economy, to an international web of terrorists seeking to undermine our culture and existence and campaigning to Islamize the country, the Nigerian military has not only been unable to relax, it has been forced to be more vigilant than ever.
Nigeria is prosecuting its first full-fledged military operations since the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War in 1970. Information emanating therefrom revealed that our army is geared to fight other armies. This accounts for why the war with Boko Haram has been so different and proving difficult for us.
Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s eleventh hour goal, crush Boko Haram within 6 weeks, before the 2015 general elections, failed. The President Muhammed Buhari government’s hope that bombing cities and towns of the northeastern Nigeria occupied by Boko Haram terrorists will defeat them also proves negative. Perhaps, the hit or miss strategy of President Jonathan worked in eliminating the original Abubakar Shekau, but was not effective in silencing the Boko Haram sect as the renew offensive by the group in recent times show.
Terrorism is a frontless battle. Terrorists all over the world are known to be very mobile; united by common ideology and adopt dynamic operational strategies. Like chameleon, they easily blend with their environment to carry out their evil.
As the ongoing war against Boko Haram demonstrates, the best way to prevent terrorism is to identify and kill the terrorists. Aggression remains the key to defeating terror. Recommending Vladimir Putin, President of Russia’s strategy against terrorism to Nigeria Femi Fani-Kayode said, the Russians have cultivated the courage to stop the pampering and to desist from trying to rationalize the evil of ISIS and the forces of terror. The Russians confronted and crushed the evil of terrorism in Chechnya, and now they are doing it in the Middle East.
While condemning President Barak Obama for encouraging and tolerating evil on the altar of political expediency and for supporting or covertly funding terrorists, Femi Fani-Kayode called on the international community to “encourage the Russians to keep the bombs flying and to send the demons to hell where they belong”.
He emphasized the need “for us to come together and cleanse our land of these godless creatures. They should be cleansed from the land and eliminated in the same way that cockroaches and rats are cleansed and eliminated from a filthy house”.
There is no other way better than to kill the killers. But, arms work only where intelligence is effective. Bombs that fly without solid intelligence to direct them usually end up destroying the crops instead of the weeds. Our security forces have erroneously relied heavily on information from purported escapees to their detriment. This information mostly belated, lacked real-time intelligence materials. Again, a situation where strategies and tactics are discussed in the news media does not paint our military in good picture.
During the America-British War of 1812 the Americans made a grave mistake that change the face of intelligence protection. During the lager part of that war it was unnecessary for the British to spy on the U.S. to find out what they were planning. The US was giving information away. In the first two years of the war, American Newspapers regularly published accounts of troops’ movements, official military correspondence, and letters from officers describing operations and actions. Naturally, British generals read these papers, which became a prime source of intelligence.
By 1814 the problem was so severe that the US Army had to publish an order forbidding the publication of military information in Newspapers. Ever since, the US military and the press have worked hand in hand during times of conflict. The US press remains free, but not at the cost of American lives to enemy attack. Information for public consumption must be separated from information for military use.
Our spies must intensify clandestine operations. Boko Haram can only be wiped out of Nigeria by some clever intelligence work, telemarketing campaigns that sell the leaders on the benefits of surrender; and which also unearths detailed information about the sect; and direct the bombs appropriately on target.
Disinformation must be encouraged and pursued. False information must be disseminated to mislead the enemy commanders into making the wrong moves so that they could be more easily defeated.
The fragmentation of databases by our law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies is unhealthy for the nation’s efforts towards protecting the nation from the forces of destruction. The tasks that our military and intelligence community currently face are enormous:
- Routing out and destroying terrorist cells;
- Improving security at our seaports, airports and on commercial airlines;
- Training and equipping those responsible to terrorist attacks;
- Reducing the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit;
- Improving security at our borders; and protecting potential sites of terrorist attacks.
One of the toughest jobs facing the DSS today is routing out Boko Haram and ISIS cells that may already be in place in several cities and towns of Nigeria, especially southern Nigeria. Reports have apparently established a clear link between Boko Haram and ISIS. In August, 2015 ISIS leader, Chief Imam Ahmed Al-Assir was arrested trying to fly into Nigeria via Cairo, on a fake Palestinian travel documents. Between July and August, 2015 several members of the Boko Haram sect were arrested across the country. One Usman Shuaibu known as Money and other frontline members of the group were arrested in Lagos, Enugu, Plateau, Gombe and Kano. Shuaibu admitted being the leader of the team of Boko Haram members that was dispatched from Sambisa Forest to carry out several attacks. He disclosed that 4 out of the 9 members’ team were used as suicide bombers in executing all the recent suicide attacks.
Just yesterday, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Bruatai while addressing troops in Lagos revealed that commanders of Boko Haram and some of its foot soldiers have infiltrated Lagos and other southern states. He hinted that security agents have already arrested a handful of the terrorists.
Recently, residents of Jos were warned to be alert following intelligent report that Boko Haram is planning to attack Jos. Crushing Boko Haram aggressively depends on the military’s ability to know more about the sect than the sect does about the military.
The DSS must be granted authority NOW to question as many northerners living outside their place of origin in a search for potential terrorist cells, spies, or people who might provide information helpful to the Nigerian military war effort. It may sound selective but necessary for security reasons.
The war against terrorism in the northeastern Nigeria has dislodged many terrorists, including Muslim fundamentalists and their sympathizers from the area and are now scattered all over the country.
Therefore, agents across the country should beef up efforts at interviewing this people in their homes, where they work, study, relax or do business. The DSS should be looking for three things:
- Potential terrorists – search for any links with Boko Haram, ISIS and possibly sympathetic radical Muslim groups.
- People with no known address and no known means of livelihood who relocated to their present station recently must be interrogated for the information they may have.
- Those who might be interested in helping Nigeria eliminate Boko Haram.
The DSS agents must know that the interviews are to be voluntary and to assure people that the government will protect them from any anti-Boko Haram backlash. The interviewees should also be assured that they would not be sent back to their home town.
The war against terrorism is a global war but each country’s terrorist group has its peculiarity in terms of the group’s characteristics, definition and selection of targets, methods of attack and above all, set goals. Set goals or demands of terrorist groups are important elements in the overall strategy to defeating the group. Where these goals or demands are not tenable like the ones advanced by Boko Haram, total elimination of the group is the best bet.
Intelligence holds the key to success or otherwise of any military operation. The subtle art of intelligence gathering and sophistical methods of deceiving the enemy often determines the outcome of key battles. Knowing where the enemy was going to be, when they were going to be there, and how many of them would be there, while keeping your own location and number secret, often made the difference. But, because the raw intelligence that led to victory was never publicly stated, historians tend to interpret the behavior of the confronting armies without taking intelligence into consideration.
The importance of intelligence was aptly demonstrated during the second war with Iraq. In addition to covert operations, there were huge intelligence gathering operations designed to facilitate the capture or assassination of Saddam Hussein. One method the US adopted was the monitoring of communications of Saddam’s bodyguards in an attempt to fix his location. The forces were also aided from above by a surveillance airplane known as River Joint. Despite efforts to hunt down Saddam Hussein, the US forces inside Iraq were also assembled a guerrilla forces of Kurdish dissidents, and woo Iraqi tribal and military leaders to defect, and monitored the movements of the Iraqi National Guards.
The second war against Iraq which featured both air and ground operations and which saw the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime by force was with minimum casualties and shorter period. The prolonged house-by-house fighting to capture Baghdad that had been feared did not materialize. The reason: the solid work of US intelligence. American spies were in Baghdad long before the war began, contacting religious, military and government leaders, explaining the gains of non-resistance once the war start.
How did American spies get into Baghdad? Many anti-war Americans travelled to Iraq to serve as “human shields”. Some of these orchestrated human shields were CIA agents armed with cell phones, laptop computers, and an impressive rolodex. Once in Iraq, they began what amounted to a telemarketing campaign, calling Iraqi leaders and selling them on the benefits of surrender.
In the national security business, you never can be sure who your friends are. National interest determines what happens at any point in time. Nigeria as a strong force and voice in the Multinational Joint Task Force, comprising troops from Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Benin, set up to fight Boko Haram Islamists should see beyond a Nigerian Boko Haram and focused on fighting a multinational Boko Haram terrorist group that has link with ISIS and other enemies of the country.
As pointed out earlier, conventional armies geared to fight other armies find it difficult to fight terrorists, without retraining, reorientation, and motivation. Towards this end, President Muhammed Buhari should create a Special Operations Command of well trained, equipped and motivated soldiers and grant them authority to conduct regional and global operations against terrorist networks.
The Special Operations Command should be empowered with men, technology, fund and other resources to plan and carry out certain missions, covert operations, and quick strikes with “hunter-killer” teams, independent of the current established combatant commands.
These missions, of course will be tightly coordinated with the NIA and DSS operations. It also calls for prior diplomatic arrangements so that covert operations can enter countries quickly, carryout their mission, and promptly exits.
Personal interests of our leaders and fear of coup have robbed this country of viable security institutions. What happen to the Nigeria National Guards which was conceived in 1989 to be a Rapid Response Force to deal with emergencies, but killed and buried in 1993 under conflicting circumstances? My expectations, like that of many Nigerians, that the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army created in the peak of the war against Boko Haram will be a Special Operations Command was dashed when it turned out to be another regular Division of the Nigerian Army with no specialty.
Now that coups and the fear of coups in Nigeria are history can we look at national security for what it is? National security goes beyond mounting sentries at your borders and moving inside your country accusing citizens of aiding and abetting terrorism and intimidating them. Our agents must be equipped and encouraged to move out. Russians has a successful record of fighting terrorism because apart from combing its cities and towns for information of security interest, it also snoops around the world for intelligence. Our battles for security must be fought away from home; guided by the three keys to national security which have never changed since the origin of conflict:
- Maintain a strong military defense;
- Acquire the capacity to learn the secrets of enemies and potential enemies; and
- Keep our own secrets secret.
Nigeria must begin to exert and exercise her dominance powers in the West Africa sub-region and beyond, security wise.