The security environment in which Nigerian forces are operating and for which they must prepare is getting more and more complex and demanding than it was a decade ago.
Nigeria’s new security architecture must take account of the need to deter a large-scale aggression not just on the ground but from the air. The Nigerian military has not moved quickly enough to provide the capabilities and basing posture required to meet the manifold challenges posed by the rapidly modernizing armed forces of our potential adversaries.
NIGERIA has engaged in unremitting Counter Insurgency Warfare for 8 years, and has not commute the resources needed to build and sustain the conventional capabilities that it needs to defend itself from a near peer adversary. Meanwhile Nigeria’s most capable adversaries have taken advantage of Nigeria’s preoccupation with its internal struggles to make huge improvements in a broad spectrum of their conventional capabilities ranging from sophisticated air defences to better aircrafts, as well as forge strategic alliance with powerful countries.
Against this backdrop it is only prudent that given its massive advantage in resources, Nigeria can and should be evolving its capabilities, posture and operational concepts to address these developments.
My research point to four independent but complimentary lines of capability Nigeria need to develop.
- Strengthen Nigeria’s military posture in key theatres.
Whether by design or just happenstance, the Nigerian military has, since the beginning of the Niger Delta militancy down through the Boko Haram insurgency become comfortable and accustomed to relying on a generic approach to project power, in which thousands of troops are out on a Hercules C-130 aircraft and deployed forward following warnings or the actual initiation of hostilities.
While this might work in peacekeeping deployment and counter insurgency, it is less appropriate for theaters in which Nigeria faces threats from highly capable adversaries, especially if enemy heavy ground forces that will play important roles in an effective defence are just in some cases mere kilometres away from border. Without an effective supporting force, this leaves Nigerian ground forces open to massive counter attacks deep in Nigerian territory, forcing the attacking troops back into defensive roles.
Strengthening Nigeria’s defence posture means investing in base infrastructure that is more resilient in the face of large-scale attacks by aircrafts and cruise missiles. This means every combat unit in the Nigerian armed forces must have some modicum of air defense capability. If we cannot invest in air defence missiles then we should be acquiring more interceptor aircrafts to plug the capability gap to a degree.
- Improve capabilities to suppress and destroy enemy air defences.
In Liberia, S-Leone, and even during skirmishes with neighbouring countries, the Nigerian military have operated virtually without regard to the threat of enemy air attacks and have enjoyed freedom to manoeuvre, allowing them to observe and attack targets.
But the military balance is changing rapidly. Dense arrays of modern, mobile, surface-to-air missile systems and modern fighter aircraft gives our Francophone adversaries the ability to potentially deny Nigerian forces the crucial advantage it once wielded and Nigeria’s capabilities to counter these have not kept pace with the threat because we have been focused in low intensity Counter Insurgency type conflicts for a decade.
This mirrors the situation the United States finds itself in today. Before the proverbial war on terror, the U.S had a sizeable lead in almost every spectrum of military power – the Patriot SAM system was the most advanced in the world the Harpoon anti ship missile had the longest range. America was twenty years ahead in stealth technology.
Then America focused on the war in Iraq and A-STAN for 11 years. The F-22 program was cancelled to free up funds for low intensity conflicts. Thirteen years and $3 trillion later, the U.S pulled its head out of the sands of the Middle East to a new reality. In the intervening years of America’s focus on low intensity conflicts China and Russia had modernized and even surpass the United States in key conventional metrics.
Suddenly the Harpoon anti-ship was hopelessly outdated in the face of supersonic Russian, Chinese and Indian cruise missiles.The Chinese had gone a step further with the DF-11 (carrier killer) missile, a cruise missile on a ballistic missile trajectory. Suddenly the U.S finds itself playing catchup.
The Nigerian military today is in a similar predicament. Our adversaries’ heavy investments in these defences as well as its strategic alliance with world powers is tilting the military balance in their favour.
Nigeria should not underestimate the level of damage modern air forces with precision weapons can do on the battlefield. Accordingly Nigeria, fielding improved capabilities to suppress enemy air defenses should have outsized effects on deterrence of aggression.
Win the fight for information superiority
Recognizing the critical importance of accurate, timely information and agile command and control in modern military operations. By forging close military ties with the United States and France, our adversaries are investing heavily in capabilities intended to improve their understanding of the battlefield. These capabilities include drones and airborne sensors, robust communication systems and command facilities.
Nigeria has more satellites in orbit than the rest of Africa combined with four satellites in orbit and two more Chinese launches planed for 2019. The military should explore ways to use civil-sector communications and imaging satellite constellations in military operations. This will give the Nigerian military an improved situational awareness and active defense.
Crafting the National Defense Strategy and Forces to Implement It.
Those tasked with formulating a new national defence strategy and the forces to implement it must surely understand that usual “fire brigade” approach to planning and resourcing will not suffice.
New priorities must be chosen and additional resources focused on investments of greatest relevance to those priorities. As a foundational step in this endeavor, Nigeria’s leaders should consider directing each component to build its force so that it can, as part of a joint and combined operation, defeat any single adversary, including the most capable of them.
On a bright note, it is good to see the Nigerian army has taken the first step towards this endeavour with the recent launch of the Nigerian Army Aviation Corps. This should be expanded to all the components of the Nigerian armed forces
A Revised Force Planning Construct
A new force planning construct should be geared towards having the capability to confidently carry out the following :
1. Defend the homeland.
2. Deter and, if necessary, defeat aggression by any single adversary state.
3. Sustain operations against selected violent extremist groups.
4. Deter opportunistic aggression by a second state adversary like our Francophone neighbors.
Strengthen Nigeria’s military posture in key theatres like the Lake Chad Basin and Bakassi area.Nigeria should station more heavy armored forces and artillery along our northeastern and southeastern flank, Increase forward-based stocks of munitions in both the northeast and southeast Command areas of responsibility.
Improve the resiliency of air bases with investments in hardened concrete shelters, fuel dump, and other passive protection measures, decoys, and modern anti-aircraft defenses.
The key to making this approach work is to size and equip each major force element—Army combat brigades, Air Force and Quick Response Squad, Navy and SBS Expeditionary Unit and so forth—so that it can meet the demands posed by the most stressing scenario for that force element.
As examples, the Nigerian Army 21 armored brigade combat units would be sized to meet the demands of their biggest fight (three-day war with Chad scenario) but equipped to successfully combat their most sophisticated foe (French or Franco alliance ground forces).
Nigerian Air Force fighter squadrons would be sized and equipped to prevail against the largest and most capable threat they face (French or NATO. think Libya), and so on. This would have the effect of promoting force modernization as the highest priority for resourcing while ensuring adequate capacity for at least one war, something that has been lacking in Nigeria’s force planning.
DICON, for years have been alloted millions of dollars with nothing to show for it as regards developing new capabilities that can address many of the operational challenges facing the Nigerian military today. Make small arms and flak jackets does not cut it.
Much can be done to reverse this trend of wasting precious resources by scrapping DICON and partnering with Nigerian universities to develop capabilities for the military. I’ll rather put my $5 million in annual RnD (research and development) on a Nigerian university than waste it on DICON. Well trained Nigerian engineers from the University of Surrey in London built the NIGCOMSAT-S from scratch. Nigeria is blessed with so much human capital.
Universities can be tasked with developing military capabilities that gives Nigeria the ability to deter aggression by near peer adversary in the conventional spectrum and at the same time support a sustained campaign against barbaric Jihadi groups like Boko Haram.
Nigeria is by no means a poor country. The government can allot between $10 to $20 million in RnD annually to universities and other institutions and charge them to develop the following capabilities :
Consolidate on Nigeria’s domestic drone production know-how by forging a partnership with the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology to develop field sensors and weaponize the Gulma Tactical UAV and mass produce them, or alternatively develop a new class of drone and aggressively explore options for lower cost weapon delivery system, like was done with the stripped down Alpha jet the Americans sold to Nigeria, and explore new concepts for swarming drone autonomous weapons.
Nigeria has a guided missile program, with several tests conducted at the Ekpe missile range. Nigeria should accelerate the development and fielding of guided missiles and rockets.
Nigeria should invest in airborne and terrestrial backups to key space based capabilities. Nigerians are internet savvy and pretty good in one dark area. Some Nigerians are brilliant in hacking foreign banks and laundering the money. These talents can be put to good use by investments in both defensive and offensive cyber capabilities.
Nigeria has arguable the largest and most effective intelligence gathering aircrafts and surveillance platforms in black Africa. However we need not rest on our laurels. Nigeria should continue to expand intelligence collection and analysis capacity. Acquire two to three wings of light reconnaissance-attack aircraft for more cost-effective air operations in permissive and semi-permissive air defense environments.
Forging Military Cooperation.
Obviously, countering the threats that potential adversary states pose is not solely a problem for Nigeria. In fact, it would be unwise and infeasible for Nigeria to attempt to address these challenges unilaterally.
Allies and partners, particularly those directly or indirectly threatened by adversary activities in the same region, have a strong interest in ensuring that their forces can impose a high price on an aggressor and contribute effectively to combined regional operations that Nigeria will lead.
Nigeria provides %70 of the funding for ECOWAS. If Nigeria falls West Africa will be greatly impacted. So it is in the best interest of the 16 ECOWAS member States to put aside their differences to support Nigeria in a quest for a common defence posture.
There are a host of options available to Nigeria and partners seeking to increase their contributions to the common defense. Benin and Togo , for example, could significantly strengthen its defenses against an invasion by investing in short-range unmanned aerial vehicles provided by Nigeria.
Ghana, the second most powerful country in West Africa could help Nigerian forces to increase the resiliency of its base structure by granting access to air bases on its territory and providing host nation support services to deployed forces, as happened in Senegal in January when Nigeria deployed aircrafts and men to forward bases in Senegal during the Gambian political saga.
Poorer states Liberia and S-leone could invest in border monitoring and secure communication systems, while other allies could raise the readiness levels of their armored maneuver forces. The Nigerian government force planners should work closely with ECOWAS partners to identify ways in which their planned investments and those of Nigeria can maximize complementarity and interoperability. Investing in new ways to equip, enable, and employ Nigeria forces is the greatest leverage in restoring credible conventional deterrence.
The gradual erosion of the relative military capabilities of Nigeria has been known our potential adversaries for years now, and they have exploited it. The two things that are needed now to reverse this decline are money and focus, This can make the greatest and most enduring contributions to rebuilding Nigeria’s military capability.
With Boko Haram mostly defeated, let us use this opportunity to rectify the strategy forces mismatch that has arisen over the past several years and put the Nigerian military back on a path toward fielding forces that can defeat any adversary.
One note of caution:
Fielding the sorts of capabilities I have highlighted here should not, in most cases, be expected to restore to Nigeria the degree of overmatch that we enjoyed against regional adversaries of the past, such as Chad and Cameroon. Any major conflict involving Chad or Cameroon is bound to be a costly and bloody affair. But I believe that it is within Nigeria’s means technologically, operationally, and fiscally to field forces capable of confronting even the most capable adversaries with the prospect of defeat if they choose aggression. That is the gold standard of deterrence, and it is the standard to which I believe the Nigerian military should aspire.
I look forward to answering your questions thoughts in the comment section,