Following the untimely death of the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Attahiru Ibrahim, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Major-General Farouk Yahaya as his successor. Attahiru, who died in a plane crash in Kaduna last month, stayed barely four months in the saddle as the COAS. Within this short period, he made his mark. The expectation of many Nigerians is that Yahaya will continue from where Attahiru stopped and even do more.
The task is already cut out for him. Currently, Nigeria is buffeted from all fronts by a wave of insecurity. Killings, kidnappings, armed robberies, insurgency and many other forms of criminality have become the order of the day.
In the South East, security men are targets as scores of them have been killed and their stations and operational vehicles set ablaze since December, last year. Similarly, other parts of the country are not free from violence. These days, travelling to any part of the North by road is a huge risk as bandits are constantly on the prowl. Recently, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) and security aide to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Christopher Dega, was assassinated in Jos, Plateau State.
The wave of insecurity is exacerbated by ethnic/sectional tension that has pervaded the entire country. Agitations for self-determination have heightened. Before now, such agitations were only known in the South East. Today, some elements in the South West have joined the fray.
Besides, abduction of school children, which we thought would have ended with the April 2014 kidnap of 276 Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram insurgents, has continued with increased ferocity. A few days ago, bandits abducted 136 school children from an Islamic school in Tegina, Niger State. This is the second abduction of children in Niger State this year. In February, bandits had similarly kidnapped about 27 schoolboys and 15 workers of the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of the state.
Outside Niger State, it is the same story. Between December last year and now, over 800 students have been abducted in northern Nigeria. They include the over 300 girls from Government Girls’ Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara State; the over 300 boys from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in Katsina State; the 23 students of Greenfield University in Kaduna and the 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna.
This is not forgetting Miss Leah Sharibu who is still under the custody of Boko Haram. Miss Sharibu was abducted in February 2018 along with 109 other students from Government Secondary School Dapchi in Yobe State. She was not released with others because she refused to denounce her faith.
Definitely, the military will be overstretched in trying to tackle the sundry security challenges. The COAS, together with other Service Chiefs, must map out new strategies to deal with them. A major part of these strategies will be how to effectively secure the borders. It has been established that most of the criminal herdsmen terrorising Nigerians currently migrate from some neighbouring countries. They enter the country easily and eventually settle in some forests from where they emerge to kidnap and terrorise innocent people. This is why the Ondo State Governor recently ordered unregistered herdsmen to leave the state forests. And this is also why the Southern Governors Forum, recently, banned open grazing in the southern part of the country.
The military must find a way to smoke these criminal herdsmen out of their forests and deal with them accordingly. To succeed in this task will not be easy. In his first meeting with the new service chiefs in January this year, President Buhari alluded to the security challenges when he said that we were in a state of emergency. He charged the service chiefs to be patriotic and serve the country well.
We hasten to add that this patriotism may be far-fetched if the military hierarchy does not embark on serious military reforms. Overtime, the morale of our soldiers is said to be very low. There have been reports that their welfare is not adequately taken care of. Sometimes, their allowances are not promptly paid. Sometimes, they reportedly buy their uniforms and are not given modern weapons to fight insurgents and bandits. There is need now to change the situation. Besides, there are allegations that fifth columnists have infiltrated the military. Strategies to combat insurgents are often revealed to the terrorists, who, sometimes, lay ambush and kill some of the soldiers.
The new army chief must find a way to sniff out these saboteurs in their midst and deal with them decisively. The best way to do this is to strengthen the intelligence unit of the army such that any bad egg could easily be detected and taken out. Though the task is enormous, it is not insurmountable. Yahaya will succeed if he puts fairness, equity and diligence first in the discharge of his duties. He has to collaborate and share intelligence with the other service chiefs. We congratulate him and wish him well in his new assignment.