During President Buhari’s visit to the White House ,U.S President Donald Trump commended the Nigerian military before the world. He said Nigeria have recorded remarkable success during the period under review particularly in the area of degrading the Boko Haram Terrorists in the North-East.
While the White House Press Conference was on, Nigerian Air Force remotely piloted aircraft successfully destroyed artillery guns and some gun trucks belonging to the Boko Haram Terrorist. As if on Que, days after Trumps commendations on the Nigerian army, CNN announced the rescue of 1,000 Boko Haram captives by the Nigerian army.
Nigeria’s renewed military power have led to a wide range of differing conclusions and, taken together, provide a mixed and confusing picture of the scale and nature of the threat. There are many who argue that the power of the current Nigerian military is commonly overestimated, suggesting that it is hostage to many problems inherited from its traumatic degeneration, critically challenged by overstretched, technologically backward, or all three.
The answer lies in between. Nigeria’s reorganized and rearmed Armed Forces are neither invincible nor still broken and incapable. Two points are beyond argument: First, in terms of equipment, experience, attitude, confidence, and more, the Nigerian military is a radically different force from the one that began the process of transformation in 2012.
Second, change is still taking place. Snapshots of Nigeria’s capability displayed in its guerrilla war with Boko Haram tend to conceal ongoing developments; the true capability of the Nigerian military is not static but a rapidly developing phenomenon.
As such, this broad overview of Nigeria’s military capability in 2018 should not be taken as a definitive description but rather an indicator of trends. Individual sections discuss a range of current factors affecting overall capability that are still in flux, including issues of affordability, manning, organizational development, and the implementation of lessons learned from a decade long war against Boko Haram.
This article also considers short-term timelines of opportunities versus threats perceived or actual—for the Nigerian military, before concluding with a number of broad recommendations.
We will not be going through the extensive and painful history of Nigeria’s military reorganization under former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan and its continuation and revision under current Buhari administration. What will be analysed here is what effect this reorganization, and the accompanying program of massive investment in rearmament and equipment, has had on Nigeria’s capability to engage and prevail in conflict.
Substantial progress is reported toward the goal of reaching set percentages of modern equipment in service. However, Nigeria efforts to modernise its armed forces are being hampered internally by extended delays by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in confirming tenders, alleged wrongdoing in acquisitions, frequently changing procurement priorities, and ambiguity by the services in formulating their qualitative requirements (QRs) for equipment.
The equipment aspects of the Nigerian military’s current development present challenges. There is serious doubt on the effectiveness of the transformation and re-equipment program overall, despite a higher standard of training and command, the Nigerian military is not ready for large-scale conflict because.
Let’s be candid here, the Nigerian army is not that qualitatively different from its 2011-model predecessor and does not really have that many of the latest armaments that meet the high demands of the twenty-first century. But the final shape of Nigeria’s security architecture is still forming and appears to be under adjustment based on experience from current operations with Boko Haram.
Nevertheless, the overall direction is pretty much discernible since President fired his predecessors Service Chiefs and appointed the present Service Chiefs 2016. After much trial and error, the driving aim of creating “permanent readiness units” seems near completion in the form of battalion tactical groups (BTGs) based on larger formations.
The defense industry has overcome its initial (and expensive) struggles to restart production despite being flooded with cash, and new equipment is arriving in appreciable and more or less predictable quantities.
The state Defence Cooperation DICON lacks the capacity technical skill to produce (at the moment) efficient weapon systems tailored to the needs of the Nigerian army. The government is taking the public private partnership initiative to reverse this trend through private-sector . Three years into the scheme domestic arms manufacturers are propping up.
TRAINING AND LESSONS LEARNED
Nigeria’s deployments of air, sea and land assets to the Gambia in January 2017 demonstrated substantial logistical achievements, honed by several years of practicing large-scale, long-distance deployments. Nigeria showed its ability to maintain large formations in the field after rapid deployments and sustain them over extended periods with little obvious degradation in performance
Similarly, in the northeast, a large number of Nigerian army, navy and airforce servicemen were deployed on short tours of three to four months, to maximize exposure to operating conditions.
The result is that a significant proportion of Nigeria’ss Ground and Air Forces have now been exposed to operational conditions over an extended period, if not to actual combat. These are providing Nigerian troops with practical experience in a much more effective manner than exercises, and their effect in combination with the continuing flow of new weapons systems and equipment can be assumed to provide substantial increases in Nigeria’s war-fighting capability.
The Boko Haram war and Niger Delta deployments provide different, but complementary, training and testing opportunities for equipment, tactics, and organizational structures. Boko Haram in particular, has provided Nigeria with valuable experience fighting a contemporary enemy of comparable capability, in combat involving heavy use of main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The Sambisa has likewise been a testing ground for Nigerian built UAVs, armoured vehicles etc. But it has also offered the opportunity for Nigeria to develop entirely new battlefield tactics with heavy emphasis on Air Power and ISR capability.
MANPOWER AND OVERSTRETCH
In 2016, the Defence Ministry announced that the Nigerian ground forces wants to add 100,000 new officers and enlisted men to its ranks, doubling its size to 200,000 soldiers, making it the second time in Nigeria’s history that the army will have a headcount of 200,000 or more troops. This makes the Nigerian army the biggest in Sub-Sahara Africa.
Here, Nigeria’s demonstrated ability to swiftly recruit and concentrate sufficient numbers of military assets for the immediate task at hand, and Nigeria’s far greater willingness to resort to military force, as the ground, air and sea assets to the Gambia in a matter of days would made a potential adversary take note.
EQUIPMENT AND CAPABILITIES
Paradoxically the Boko Haram war has also shown the extent to which Nigeria have focused primarily on low-intensity and counterinsurgency warfare, allowing its capability for high-intensity conflict to atrophy.
For instance, the Nigerian Air Force strike assets borders on ridiculous. The NAF frontline fighter is a Chinese copy of the MiG-21 fighter jet, a 2nd generation jet built shortly after WW2. Yet the same NAF just doled out $600 million for 12 Super Tucano aircrafts, a propeller aircraft specialized for COIN operations. The same NAF also fields armed drones and excellent ISR platforms.
So you see here that in terms of an overall modernization, Nigeria has focused on a range of niche capabilities and vehemently refuses to develop or invest sufficiently in its conventional capabilities.
However the bright spot of the Nigerian army is in artillery firepower. No country comes close in the region when it comes to artillery firepower, and don’t they know it. Nigeria’s range of rocket artillery systems used in concert with drones gives Nigeria the option of mounting artillery bombardments without concern over counter-battery fire.
Even if you take into account the presence of foreign military assets in the region, the Nigerian army fields far more artillery systems than the next 16 ECOWAS member states including Chad and Cameroon combined. Nigerian artillery also outranges those of any in the region.
On the downside, Nigeria has neglected to its potential detriment its air defence systems. The Nigerian army has been accustomed to operating across the spectrum without competition against non state actors. In a hypothetical scenario, Nigerian vital infrastructure and ground forces will be at the mercy of enemy aircrafts.
Nigeria’s extensive use of UAVs against Boko Haram has been so effective, drones are now an integral part of most manoeuver and tactical units, and their role extends well beyond targeting opposing military formations and into acting as artillery spotters and BDA (Battle Damage Assessment).
At the same time Nigeria is making rapid progress in developing its own UAV’s. Nigeria has already developed two classes of drones and announced recently its developing an armed version of the Tsaigumi UAV. Nigeria’s intetest in the development of armed UAV is as a result of the effectiveness, after their use was demonstrated in the Sambisa forest.
Nigeria’s lack of modern 4th generation fighter jets, especially with their ability to provide situational awareness to friendly forces, constitutes a critical capability gap. This limitation led Nigeria to focus on acquiring and developing reconnaissance capabilities with real-time delivery of information, and armed UAVs.