By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well”, is a very universally acceptable aphorism.
Another wise saying that shares the same etymological resemblance with the above is that which was uttered from the mouth of one of the wisest men to have graced the face of the earth known as Socrates who stated thus: “Man know thyself because the unexamined life is not worth living”. For the benefit of the non-initiates, Socrates is one of the foremost fathers of Ancient Philosophy who helped shaped classical thinking.
Now that we have a bird eye’s view of who Socrates is in the pantheon of highly reputable scholarships, let me state also that the above key sayings are central to the theme of our reflection this morning which is on the specific roles expected of each and every one of us in Nigeria in the current war on terror. We must recall the coincidence of this reflection with the premier World news since last weekend about the killing of one of the World’s best known terror masterminds and indeed the most prized wanted terrorists of our contemporary times Abubakar Al Baghdadi who once presided over the maverick caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He was killed by the United States Special anti-terror Specialists somewhere near the Syrian/Turkish borders. Recall too that ISIS has in the last two years assisted the Nigerian based boko haram terrorists who pledged allegiance to the now killed terror kingpin. Back to our reflection.
The basic question that calls for introspection and immediate actionable plan is what is the logical rationale of starving the military of operational fund in the 2019 budget circle with the allocation of a paltry #100 billion as encompassed in the proposed budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari. That allocation is a little more than what a city in USA or UK would budget per annum. Mind you Nigeria inarguably has the largest land fighting soldiers in all of the black World.
However, from onset I must state that president Muhammadu Buhari who has an illustrious military background as a former General in the Army who actually led troops to fight off insurgents that invaded a part of Nigeria has not set out to undermine the war on terror.
He, President Muhammadu Buhari has indeed made it clear that he is determined to clinically ensure a quick end to the war and the eventual defeat of the terrorists.
Even with his best of intentions, the presentation of a budgetary allocation of just #100 billion has understandably triggered the debate on the necessity of doing what is most critical to ensure that the war on terror is not undermined. What this piece is arguing us that Mr. President and the National Assembly should think out of the box and work out a healthy budgetary package for the Nigerian Military which must be transparently deployed in finishing once and for all, the war on terror.
It is instructive to note that the institution which is suffering the heat of the terror due to the approach being deployed in tackling it is the Nigerian army. While it is agreed that one special role of the military is support of State’s internal security apparatus in quelling internal insurrection, its traditional role remains protection of the nation from external aggression in defence of sovereignty. The implications of over utilizing the military internally are diverse including grave consequences illegality, human rights violations, lack of popular support by the people and even the likelihood its mode of operation robbing off on other civil security agencies in the light of inter-agency collaboration.
This association has ability to influence the police to become brutal or increase the sophistication and aggression of the terrorists or terror groups who ordinarily should be weakened by intelligence of the police or other trained civil organizations in collaboration with the people with whom the criminals ordinarily associate and sometimes live among. This is one area of thinking.
This abnormality however can be corrected by return to the legal foundations and basis for these organizations and legality in operation; only intelligence with the public support and not use of brute force and brutality, can win the war on terror. There is urgent need to demilitarize the domestic counter-terrorist approaches.
A law based terror war is people oriented and respects not only fundamental human rights (which are the rights granted in the priority law of the land like the Nigerian Constitution) but also recognizes and accords the people due respect as partners on the war and thereby consciously protects the humanity of the people.
It must be clear that if the public is terrorized in the war on terror, the government will lose support in the war and that will complicate it. The object of the war should be defined to be the people’s interest for the security and safety of the public. It must be carried out in the most civilized way possible. A lot of times these essentials to the success of the fight are lost in the heat of emotion and stress occasioned by the havoc of the menace resulting in callous raids, arbitrary arrests lacking intelligence, unlawful arrests with ulterior motives, brutalization of suspects without iota of facts or evidence about their involvement or even outright arrests of relatives or friends who have not aided or abetted the crime.
It is said for the umpteen times that there is no such thing as vicarious criminal liability. The Supreme Court made this point abundantly clear in the case of PML (Nig) LTD v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2017) LPELR – 43480 (SC). So however closely related a person may be to a criminal or suspect of a crime, they cannot be held liable for their crimes unless they are culpable or complicit in the crime one way or the other. But the story never ends about how different security operatives raid houses or places and brutalize people who are not directly connected to the crimes. In some cases they are detained as a strategy to secure the arrest of their suspects. This is most cruel and illegal.
One option available to the USA and which was the safest for the US navy seal during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was to bomb his hide out at Abbottabad in Pakistan but it was not utilized to avoid incurring casualties of other occupants of the building who obviously were related to him. The lesson is very clear, even the attack on the world’s terror leader and most wanted man was not callous or reckless.
A law based war against terror is also fearless and jettisons the popular belief that law is only enforced against the poor. This factor is particularly important because although the actual perpetrators are recruits from vulnerable people, the masterminds are the politically inclined or high class members of society. For instance it is very disappointing that although some top politicians were fingered as the brains behind and sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria, they have never been invited by law enforcement agents for questioning let alone charged with the crime.
Again the war must be holistic. Although a system founded on might has propensity for abuse, the root cause or aggravating factor of criminality is inequality which largely stems from government irresponsibility and irresponsiveness. No nation can successfully win a war on terror when its most active class are either unemployed or grossly underemployed and underpaid. A youthful unemployed population is a threat to peace, stability and security if at all there can be such society. There is therefore a need to revamp the economy and as an urgent interim measure reduce cost of governance and increase employment.
It is the belief that peaceful co-existence and security are the desire of all; this is a fact self-evident in the communal nature of man. Crime is only an alternative that not all members adopt in response to the social malfunctions of the systems of society. It presupposes that any program meant to ensure the safety of that society would always be supported by it. The vulnerable percentage will also support the scheme if well implemented to their persuasion. It then remains a tiny percentage of the population involved in deviance or non-conformity and this group will naturally be overcome by government anti-crime strategy which will always succeed with the support of the public. Following this prototype, law based war on terror with public support is the panacea to the current insecurity debacle. This is why it is disturbing that the budgetary allocation given to the military in the new budget circle is grossly insufficient. Already diverse sections of the news media are running with the news that there is disquiet in the horizon about this paltry sum allocated to the military.
The N100 billion budget estimation for the Nigerian Armed Forces in the 2020 Budget is already raising dust among the military echelon, The Nation can authoritatively report. The Nation is one amongst the most regarded national newspaper.
The newspaper reports that whereas the military may appear to keep straight face over the matter, it was reliably gathered that the budget estimation for the entire Armed Forces did not go down well with Generals, who had expected a budget that can fund the war against the insurgency in the North-East.
According to reliable sources, the N100 billion budget estimate came as a rude shock, “considering that the country is in a war situation which should have reflected in the budget.”
A high-ranking military officer who did not want his name mentioned argued: “The military is poised to win the war against insurgency and other forms of criminality in the country but such figure (N100 billion) is a far cry from what is required to prosecute the war and run the entire Armed Forces.”
The source continued: “Take for instance, allocating the highest percentage of the Budget to the Ministry of Works and Housing as against the Armed Forces is not logical because you cannot construct roads or build bridges in a war environment. We hope there will be a supplementary Budget that will address this shortfall.”
Another source who also craved anonymity, insisted that “to sustain the winning streak recorded by the military against terror groups operating in the country, adequate funding is required.
“The welfare of the troops in the front lines should be given adequate attention as well as the wounded soldiers who need medical attention. We are not asking for pay rise but the N100 billion budget estimation for the entire Armed Forces does not reflect the reality on ground”.
Meanwhile the National Assembly Joint Committee on Army has met with the leadership of the Army to discuss possible ways of improving the figure before the Budget is finally passed by the end of the year.
The delegation led by the Chairman Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume met with the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai and other senior Army officers behind closed doors.
Although details of the meeting were not disclosed, it was gathered that how to source funds for the Armed Forces topped the discussion.
However, before the commencement of the closed session, Senator Ndume, said that visit was in continuation of the oversight functions of the Committee.
Ndume, who had condemned the N100 billion budget proposals for the Armed Forces as insufficient, stated further that following the leading role played by the Nigerian Army in war against insurgency, “the Committee embarked on a fact finding mission and NEEDS assessment across military units and formations to know what is going on.”
He continued: “After our tour, we decided to come to the center so that we can talk especially now that the budget of the Nigerian Army is out for consideration, so this not a visit that you will discuss the details to the press.”
But the Chairman House Committee on Army, Hon Abdul Razaq Namdas, in his speech, stated that the “budget for the entire Armed Forces is so insufficient and we are in a war period and there should be war budget, we will see what we can do together.”
He hinted that there is already a Motion before the House seeking for alternative funding sources for the Nigerian Armed Forces out the budgetary provision.
According to him: “It is interesting to know that on the floor of the Senate, there is already a Motion on ground stating to see how we can fund the Armed Forces even outside the normal budget because we realised that budget alone is not likely to take us there”.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, in his response, stated that funding is critical to the success of the Nigerian Army the Nation reports.
He said: “Funding is quite critical to all our activities including national activities, so you’ve taken the bold step by the call for independent funding channels for the Armed Forces in the National Assembly, if that is achieved, be rest assured that we will do our best to provide the enabling environment for security to thrive and by implication also national development.” (The Nation)
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state is amongst the many patriotic Nigerians across political party lines that have enlisted in the positively constructive national debate to give the Nigerian military a healthy budgetary package. It is expected that President Muhammadu Buhari who loves his primary constituency which is the military will hearken to these clarion calls and upgrade the funding portfolio of the military just as the National Assembly should as expected support this worthy call.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.thenigerianinsidernews.com