Richard SoleTuesday, June 3, 2014
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Washington D.C., USA




Collateral Murder?

orno State in Nigeria is one of the poorest, most neglected parts of the planet. This isolated, dry, dusty corner of Nigeria is a place you would only travel past on your way to the Sahara Desert- This is the new battleground between militant Islam and the Nigerian government.

Nigeria has a strategy in place, but this military strategy has been to attack villages that harbor suspected militant. The killing of innocent civilians and mass murder estranges local communities living in Nigeria's North East. What human rights observers call the extra judicial killings of thousands of civilians, who were suspected of helping Boko Haram. Nigerian security forces steamroll in to villages wreak havoc and kill recklessly.

U.S. Administration officials say they have tried to persuade Nigerian authorities to adopt a more holistic approach to fighting Boko Haram, which the State Department branded a terrorist organization last year. The Pentagon, for instance, has supported programs to counter improvised explosive devices and build greater cooperation between the Nigerian military and the public, in part to help generate tips on suspected terrorists. Washington Post reports that the efforts have had mixed results, at best.

Alice Friend the Pentagon's senior policy official for Africa was quoted Thursday May 15th 2014 on American efforts to work with the Nigerians, "finding Nigerian army units that have not been involved in gross violations of human rights has been a persistent and very troubling limitation".

The United States Offers Assistance

Jonathan refused U.S. advise about how best to counter the rebels. Pentagon reports that the Jonathan administration has refused help from United States which has been offered many times in the past. Nigeria budgets $3 billion annually on defense however, New York Times report that many of allocation is skimmed off at the top and little is left for equipment. Just weeks ago, soldiers of the newly created 7th Division mutinied against the General officer commanding the division nearly killing the GOC.

Alice Friend the Pentagon's senior policy official for Africa was quoted on Thursday May 15th 2014 as saying that "The Nigerian army's 7th Division, deployed against the insurgency in the country's north, "has recently shown signs of real fear," Ms. Friend said. "They do not have the capabilities, the training or the equipping that Boko Haram does."

Corruption impacts Nigeria's ability to confront Boko Haram

The Islamic insurgency is increasingly taking on the military in direct fighting, she added, and "is exceptionally brutal and indiscriminate in their attacks."

As a result, "we are now looking at a military force that is, quite frankly, becoming afraid to even engage," Friend said.

Alice Friend, the Pentagon's principal director for African affairs. "The Nigerian military has the same challenges with corruption that every other institution in Nigeria does. Much of the funding that goes to the Nigerian military is skimmed off the top, if you will."

At a recent hearing, administration officials condemned the kidnappings and committed American aid to help rescue the girls. But they also voiced frustration at Nigeria's political and military leaders for failing to heed Washington's warnings about the extremist group.

A muted government

Jonathan was late to respond. New York Times reports that Mr. Jonathan, who leads a corrupt government, has little credibility, he initially played down the Boko Haram's threat and claimed security forces were in control. It was not until more than two weeks after the kidnappings, that he called a meeting of government officials, including the leader of the girls' school, to discuss the incident.

As in law, Justice must not only be done - but it must be seen to be done. It is on this axiom from which the principle of good governance emanates. This is evidenced in how Nigerians look at the important arm of the government-governance must not only be done-It must be seen to be done. The whole point of this exercise is to expose and regularly subject government policies and decisions-or lack of it, not just to scrutiny outside of government circles, but to public comment and even criticism.

I visited Nigeria in mid-March 2014 and in the same manner that the stubborn power shortage issue was not addressed with a statement by the government - There was no statement from the government and despite the frustration of a great many Nigerians, power shortage persisted and has become the new normal. In the same token, the abduction of over 300 girls- between 12 and 15 was not addressed until almost three weeks into their abduction.

It is an embarrassment that brought the issue of governance to the forefront. The abduction became center stage issue, and Jonathan was forced to make a statement after a viral social media campaign using the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls, took on the mantle that ignited a global call for action.

Nigerian Army has not fared any better. What the army could not do, villagers did better. On Tuesday May 6th 2014, residents of three villages in northeastern Nigeria took security into their own hands, repelling attacks by Boko Haram insurgents and killing more than 200 of them, residents and officials said.

The question is how were the villagers able to get actionable intelligence that Boko Haram will attack and were able to prepare for battle and the Nigerian Army was not aware. Hundreds of Boko Haram fighters stormed the villages of Menari, Tsangayari and Garawa in the ethnic Shuwa-dominated Kalabalge District on Tuesday May 6th 2014. Boko Haram -- the group responsible for the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls from the same region were met with stiff resistance as locals put up a fierce fight. This gallant fight of vigilantes beating back Boko Haram insurgents exposes Nigeria's soft underbelly. Isn't Nigeria supposed to be a military power in the Sub African continent? Nigerian military has seen action in Mali, Sierra Leone, and Liberia etc. Now Boko Haram is killing Emirs and local leaders turning Nigeria's northeast into a lawless state. With this lackluster effort at Boko Haram, Regional competitors will soon be in a position to muster and contest Nigeria power.


Please Read the conclusion on Counter Insurgency (COIN) Conduct: Afghanistan and lessons for Nigeria.