BY Emmanuel Onwubiko
For a decade and still counting, Nigeria has had the misfortune to be confronted by the presence of home grown but foreign funded and trained Islamic terrorists including the notorious Boko Haram.
Their effects on the entire Nigerian geopolitics are enormous if we consider the statistical damages that terrorism has unleashed on the country and her citizenry. Casualty figures rise exponentially.
What the above means is that the military of Nigeria has battled the terrorists for over a decade with catastrophic consequences on both the society and the military as a statutory institution.
Also, counter terror war can only succeed and the Nigerian military’s successes in the theatres of battles come about by the quality of policies that promotes the welfare of the soldiers as the surest motivation to get the better of them in the war on terror.
One top General that once headed the Nigeria’s Army whose tenure witnessed phenomenal restructuring of the welfare scheme for the Nigeria Army is the Biu, Borno State born lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd) who is the Ambassador of Nigeria in Benin Republic. This gentleman General knows that one of the surest ways to get the best out of his combatants is to implement effective and result oriented staff welfare schemes which is aimed at building self-confidence, and to motivate soldiers to believe that their supreme sacrifices are celebrated and rewarded in their lifetimes.
A certain doctorate degree candidate who uploaded his thesis on ‘leadership and soldiers motivation’ has the following quick observation about the institution of the Army which is factually accurate and of universal application.
The doctorate candidate wrote thus: “The Army is a stabilizing factor for any Country that operates well defined by the rules, which leaves no room for interpretation, with a well-established hierarchy. Factors leading to the motivation of soldiers are: social cohesion, ideology, coercion and, last but not the least, financial reward. The leader in the Army requires courage, perseverance and a great responsibility.,” ( www.ideas.respec.org).
Hate him or like him, the former ARMY Chief of staff lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai showed courage, perseverance and a great responsibility.
He (Buratai) demonstrated without any shadows of doubts that a well-articulated and properly implemented welfare scheme is necessary for the delivery of efficient counter terror war. His successors and indeed the current Chief of Army staff lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya has started implementing similar appreciable welfare schemes for the operatives and officers of the Nigeria Army. We will talk about that but let us engage in brief intellectualizing.
Democratic nations such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom from where Nigeria borrowed our political system have institutional structures that implement diverse welfare packages for the members of their armed forces.
Great Britain has what is called the Army Welfare Service (AWS) which is the Army’s professional welfare provider; it delivers a comprehensive and confidential welfare service responsive to the needs of individuals, families and the Chain of Command in order to maximise the operational effectiveness of Service Personnel.
AWS delivers its services via Personal Support and Community Support, and in addition AWS sponsors WRVS and has responsibility for the Service Cotswold Centre.
Personal Support staff provides accessible, independent, confidential and professional specialist welfare services to Service Personnel and their families; and in doing so strengthen and enhance the resilience and resourcefulness of Service personnel and their families. Specialist advice is also provided to the Chain of Command and outside agencies and is delivered by Army Welfare Workers and Personnel Recovery Unit Social Workers.
Personal Support services help with matters such as: Domestic Abuse, Child & Adult Safeguarding, Bereavement, Relationship Difficulties, Stress & Anxiety Management, Emotional Wellbeing, and Signposting.
Community Support secures or directly provides learning and personal development opportunities for military personnel and their families wherever they are living. Non-formal education opportunities are provided within Community, Youth and Play Centres and Projects to children, young people and their families throughout the year and across the UK and overseas.
Community Support delivers additional activities during school holidays, including Easter and Summer programmes and offsite residential experiences. Community Support staff adopt best practice, are compliant with government legislation and guidelines, and in doing so promote a stronger sense of community and wellbeing.
Interestingly, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai built upon already established institutionalized structure of dispensing welfare to the members of the Nigeria Army. His successors keyed in appreciably.
A literature review of this welfare institution within Nigeria Army said it is focused and morale motivated troop to win all battles as well as render aids to civil authority in quelling all forms of insecurity.
Consequently, the NA established Army welfare holdings limited (AWHL) which later in 2008 metamorphosed to Nigerian Army Welfare Limited/Guarantee (NAWL/G). Its primary mandate was to coordinate the welfare of the NA personnel. it is also tasked to provide strategic policy, direction, streamline, harmonize and coordinate the activities of hitherto independent subsidiaries.
Its strategic mission is to turn “waste to wealth” by exploring opportunities within our environment to improve on the welfare of troops and profitability for the NA.
They are Nigerian Army Post Exchange (NAPEX), Nigerian Army Properties Limited (NAPL) and Nigerian Army Small Scale Drug Manufacturing Unit (NASDMU). Others are Nigerian Army Welfare Insurance Scheme (NAWIS), Post Service Housing Development (PHD) and Post-Service Homes Savings and Loans (PHL). NAWL/G has had 5 Group Managing Directors since its establishment. The present GMD is Brigadier General Adeyemi Adetayo.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya may have followed this well established framework on staff welfare to inaugurate welfare flight for troops of Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK) who are proceeding on a pass to and fro the theatre of operations.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement recently, said the inaugural flight was part of COAS’ efforts to cater for the welfare of troops and boost their morale.
While performing the symbolic ceremony at the Nigerian Air Force Base Maiduguri, on Monday, Yahaya said that troops’ welfare was one of his cardinal focus for the Nigerian Army.
He said it was in that regard that the initiative was birthed in order to ease the movement of the personnel of OPHK.
He said the initiative was aimed at addressing problems such as distance and other associated challenges while proceeding on pass to see their families and loved ones.
The COAS said the ongoing joint operations in the theatre had further strengthened the synergy between the services and other security agencies.
This, according to him, informed the decision of Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, to provide the Nigerian Air Force Charlie-130 aircraft to airlift troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN).
He added that personnel of other security agencies, as well as civilian staff of the AFN would also benefit from the arrangement when on pass from Maiduguri to other parts of the country.
According to him, the flight will be twice a month to meet the two weeks duration of leave passes in the theatre.
He added that personnel leaving on pass would be granted two weeks.
The COAS further directed that all security measures be strictly adhered to, as troops will be thoroughly searched, cleared and documented before boarding the flight.
He urged all troops to utilise the opportunity to promote synergy amongst all the services and security agencies in the theatre, in order to achieve success in ongoing and future operations.
Yahaya thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his guidance, directions and the confidence reposed in the AFN.
He also pledged his unalloyed loyalty and commitment to defending the constitution of the country.
He also extended his appreciation to the Minister of Defence, retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, and other service chiefs for their support and collaboration.
Earlier, the Chief of Operations (Army), Maj.-Gen. Olufemi Akinjobi said the welfare flight had been scheduled to cover three main hubs, namely Lagos, Abuja and Maiduguri.
According to Akinjobi, troops from Lagos will be housed and managed at Ikeja Cantonment, while those in Abuja will be at the Nigerian Army Forward Operational Base and those in Maiduguri will be at the Headquarters Theatre Command.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Faruk Yahaya, has felicitated with officers, soldiers and their families for their sacrifices to ensure the unity and stability of Nigeria. He was speaking during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD), at Army Headquarters, Abuja.
He said the celebration was in recognition of “our fallen heroes, gallant men and women, who paid the supreme price in the defence of peace, unity and prosperity of our dear nation, Nigeria, and the world at large.”
“Many of the fallen heroes laid down their lives during the First and Second World Wars, Nigerian Civil War, peace support operations across the globe and various internal security operations, including the fight against insurgency, terrorism and banditry.
Upon assumption of office in July 2015, Gen. Buratai toured army formations across the country to personally access the physical infrastructure in army barracks and get firsthand information about the problems of welfare confronting soldiers. He was saddened by the decay in army barracks and the acute shortage of office and residential accommodation for soldiers. He vowed to effect and change. He proceeded to engage governments at all levels, particularly the Federal Government for immediate intervention.
Gen. Buratai brought the attention of Nigeria to the horrible condition of army barracks in Nigeria at the inauguration of the multiple renovated residential accommodations for soldiers at the Maxwell Khobe Cantonment in Jos.
He had bemoaned; “It is an unfortunate situation but over the years you can see the state of dilapidation and state of decay in the barracks. The soldiers are staying in a very bad accommodation, it is unfortunate but these are just the measures that we are taking to address the situation and we will continue to solicit for more support from government. The decay is enormous but thank God that in this year’s budget there is provision for barracks renovation.”
Gen. Buratai reported rekindled the confidence and pride of soldiers with streaks of barracks renovations, building of new office and residential accommodation for the Nigerian Army across the country. The result of the renewed interest in the welfare of soldiers is manifest in more ways than imagined. The high spirit soldiers’ exhibit on assignments, posting excellent performances is in informed by the prompt payment of salaries and other legitimate allowances. Much more, soldiers now bask in psychological and physical happiness as personnel who live and operate in humanly habitable, decent and state-of –the art office and residential facilities.
And the then Army Chief has kept unflinching faith with the issue of soldiers’ welfare and has continued to explore new frontiers. the Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri, Gen. Buratai commissioned several residential and office accommodation in the sustained struggle to improve on the shameful shortage of office accommodation in Army Barracks.
Impressively, the projects were not just a reference point in quantity, but quality architectural edifices, which spurred instant excitement in the beneficiaries. They included 18 flats for personnel at the rank of Corporal and below , comprising both married and singles officers accommodation; a 20-bed Hospital and six offices for Human Rights Desk Offices to handle cases of alleged violations of Human Rights by soldiers within the 7 Division, Nigerian Army.
At the commissioning ceremony, Gen. Buratai hinted that “These laudable projects are meant to provide decent living accommodation for officers and soldiers and their families as well as conducive office environment to execute your tasks efficiently. I will therefore urge you all to make judicious use of the facilities while remaining focused in your tasks to consolidate our achievements so far. The Nigerian Army under my direction will continue to provide you with the requisite welfare and logistics to enhance your efficiency in the discharge of your constitutional responsibilities.”
The excitement it generated, says an observer, among officers and personnel was palpable, expressive of professionals relieved of a sickening problem of accomodation. The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, Nigerian Army, Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim Yusuf, captured the mood and leadership focus of Gen. Buratai in these words, “enhancing the welfare of Nigerian Army personnel remains one of the cardinal points of the COAS vision” in order “…to have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional roles’’.
But the Northeast is not the only region favoured by improved military infrastructure. The drums had earlier reverberated in several other parts of the country. Gen. Buratai commissioned projects at Elele Barracks, Rivers State at the activated 6 Division, Nigerian Army. Among the array of projects he commissioned were the Chief of Army Staff Guest House, constructed by the Rivers State Government and donated to the Nigerian Army; he unveiled Officers’ transit accommodation camp, the 6 Division’s Guests House and four blocks of 10 apartments for the Junior Non-commissioned Officers, in the Port Harcourt barracks.
A similar action also took place in the Northwest, as Gen. Buratai commissioned a Nigerian Army unit in Daura town, Katsina state under the 1 Division Nigerian Army. It is a unit his administration has created and provided with take-off facilities to enhance security in the area.
Joe Biden in a speech marking America’s exit from Afghanistan, said:
“Remember why we went to Afghanistan in the first place? Because we were attacked by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001, and they were based in Afghanistan.
We delivered justice to bin Laden on May 2nd, 2011 — over a decade ago. Al Qaeda was decimated.
I respectfully suggest you ask yourself this question: If we had been attacked on September 11, 2001, from Yemen instead of Afghanistan, would we have ever gone to war in Afghanistan — even though the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in 2001? I believe the honest answer is “no.” That’s because we had no vital national interest in Afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on America’s homeland and their fr- — our friends. And that’s true today.
We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war.
This is a new world. The terror threat has metastasized across the world, well beyond Afghanistan. We face threats from al-Shabaab in Somalia; al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and the Arabian Peninsula; and ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and establishing affiliates across Africa and Asia.
The fundamental obligation of a President, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America — not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.
That is the guiding principle behind my decisions about Afghanistan. I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan.
But I also know that the threat from terrorism continues in its pernicious and evil nature. But it’s changed, expanded to other countries. Our strategy has to change too.
We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries. We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few, if needed.”
Nigeria Army and other segments of the Armed Forces must put their eyes on the ball and carry through the well structured welfare packages for soldiers so we stop seeing retired combatants begging to survive on the streets for this is a grave disservice to these heroes of our Labour past.
- Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria