This interview about the fight against Boko Haram should get you worried

The death of Muhammed Abu-Ali along with six other soldiers on Friday night threw the nation into mourning. Abu-Ali, who until his death was one of the most effective commanders in the Nigerian Army, was buried on Monday along with his comrades.

There has been an increase in the number of soldiers killed by the terrorists in the past few months, and now questions must be asked about the conduct of the war, and whether everything is being done to give our troops the best chance of success.

This interview by Premium Times with someone with ‘deep knowledge’ of operations in the North East is troubling because it suggests that all is far from okay.

First, the impression is given that the talk of vanquishing Boko Haram is solely for the consumption of the political class.

It is sad that the Nigerian Army is announcing that the attacks are being carried out by remnants of Boko Haram terrorists when all reasonable persons can see that Boko Haram is still a formidable force. The Nigerian Army is more concerned with pleasing the political class while the grassroots people are still suffering.

It is the duty of the Nigerian Army public relations department to make the Nigerian Army look good but it is also necessary for the Nigerian Army to take practical steps to end this insurgency by improving the equipment state of the Nigerian Army and telling the government the true state of affairs.

The implications of the president not being told the ‘true state of affairs’ are chilling. Buhari came into power in part on a promise to end the insurgency and restore law and order in those areas. The composition of his national security team was weighted toward the North-East, precisely because of those challenges. If it is true that the President is in the dark, all bets are off.

Second, the dry season means that the regrouped Boko Haram terrorists can carry out more attacks.

It’s dry season here and the ground allows smooth movement of vehicles. Boko Haram terrorists have a better knowledge of the local terrain so they can easily access troops location and escape.

Is our army ready?

They are not, if you take Premium Times’ source at his word. The problem of poor equipment persists, just as it did under the Jonathan administration. Tanks and long range support weapons like artillery guns and mortar rounds are inadequate, and the question must be asked: “Why haven’t the problems of equipment been fixed up to now”?

A final issue is the sudden withdrawal of the mercenaries employed by the Jonathan administration after they had fought alongside Nigerian troops in the first six months of last year. Their contracts were not renewed, but what they brought to the table –  armoured fighting equipment and night fighting capabilities – has not been replaced.

It will be a real shame if, having made significant gains in reducing Boko Haram’s violence, those gains are lost because mistakes of the past are repeated. Perhaps the death of Muhammed Abu-Ali will ensure that the soldiers are finally given what they need to fight effectively.

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