Alex Badeh, the immediate past commander of the Nigerian military, has revealed that the effectiveness of the fight against the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, was greatly hampered by fifth columnists within the military who leaked sensitive information and operational plans to the terrorist sect.
Mr. Badeh, whose hometown, Mubi, was briefly captured by Boko Haram in 2014, was speaking on Thursday during his valedictory ceremony from the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He said the activities of saboteurs within the military led to the unnecessary deaths of many soldiers and officers who unknowingly walked into ambushes laid by Boko Haram who had prior knowledge of troops movement.
“The activities of fifth columnists in the military and other security agencies who leaked operational plans and other sensitive military information to the terrorist, combined to make the fight against the insurgents particularly difficult,” he said.
“The activities of these unpatriotic members of the military not only blunted the effectiveness of the fight, but also led to the needless deaths of numerous officers and men who unwittingly fell into ambushes prepared by terrorists who had advance warnings of the approach of such troops.”
Describing his task of coordinating the war against the insurgents as the “most complex and challenging assignment” of his 38-year-long career, he said he was saddled with the task of leading a military which lacked the “relevant equipment and motivation to fight an enemy that was invisible and embedded with the local populace”.
He said the decision of some countries not to sell arms to Nigeria to prosecute the war also limited the capability of the military to effectively fight the insurgents.
Citing human rights abuses perpetrated by the Nigerian military in its campaign against the insurgents, the United States, for instance, refused to sell arms to the Nigerian military and blocked an arms deal with Israel on one occasion.
Nigeria’s decision to purchase arms from the black market led to the confiscation of $15 million illegally transported into South Africa by arms dealers contracted by the government.
Nigeria later bought arms from China, Russia and other Eastern European countries to turn the tide against the insurgents.
Mr. Badeh also blamed successive governments for neglecting the military over the years thereby reducing its capability as a fighting force of note. He said unlike the situation the Nigeria military found itself in, an effective military is built during peace time and adequately trained to combat future threats. He also blamed previous governments for listening to foreign advice to cut the size of the Nigerian military.
“Permit me to also add here, that nation’s militaries are equipped and trained in peace time, for the conflicts they expect to confront in the future,” he said.
“Unfortunately that has not been our experience as a nation. Over the years, the military was neglected and under-equipped to ensure the survival of certain regimes, while other regimes, based on advice from some foreign nations, deliberately reduced the size of the military and underfunded it.
“Accordingly, when faced with the crisis in the North East and other parts of the country, the military was overstretched and had to embark on emergency recruitments and trainings, which were not adequate to prepare troops for the kind of situation we found ourselves in. It is important therefore for the government to decide on the kind of military force it needs, by carrying out a comprehensive review of the nation’s military force structure to determine the size, capability and equipment holding required to effectively defend the nation and provide needed security.”
He thanked the personnel of the Nigerian armed forces who showed uncommon patriotism and commitment in the fight against the insurgents despite fighting under a very challenging condition.
“Despite these challenges, I am glad to note that a lot was achieved during our time in the fight against terror,” he said.
“The achievements recorded are largely due to the commitment, patriotism and fighting spirit of our men and women in uniform who saw the fight against terror as a task that must be accomplished no matter the odds and in spite of the campaign of calumny against the military by a section of the media with their foreign collaborators.”
Mr. Badeh, now a retired Air Chief Marshal, and other service chiefs, were sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 13. He was replaced by Abayomi Olonishakin, a major general.