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Nigeria And A New Defence Policy Print

Vanguard (Lagos) - December 10, 2006 - By Obi Nwakanma

GENERALS of the Nigerian armed forces, including former chiefs of the various armed services met recently and proposed a review of Nigeria's Defence policy. The newspaper reports did not tell us what the current defence policy under review is, but the broad tenor of the reports indicate, from the communique, which was read by General Martin Luther Agwai, the serving Chief of Defence Staff, a move towards the adoption of the controversial ministry of Defence reform proposal prepared by the Military Professional Resource Institute, (MPRI). Thisday's report of the meeting described MPRI as United States based training, simulation and government services company of highly skilled and experienced military, law enforcement, diplomatic and private sector leaders who were contracted by the Clinton administration to re-professionalize the Nigerian military.

Thisday is kind in its euphemism. In plain terms, the MPRI are military contractors; a mercenary army contracted to provide mercenary instructions to a national armed forces. The unanswerable question thus is, how can an army of privateers professionalize an entire national armed forces? There is a grey area here, a veil which Nigerians are yet to penetrate about the entire arrangement. The reports also indicate that former Chief of Defence Staff, General Victor Malu opposed the presence of the MPRI in Nigeria, and in various interviews which he has granted on this matter, Malu acknowledges his anxieties about the strategic dismantling and undermining of Nigeria's national defence capability by the presence of the Americans at the key policy epicenter of Nigeria's Ministry of Defence; and furthermore that his stance led to a professional disagreement with the president, and his eventual disengagement or ouster from the service. We also understand that Malu refused to attend this meeting in which his successor, General Agwai has called for the adoption of the MPRI program.

The apparent, key elements of the proposal, from Agwai's communique are, a push to harmonise procurement procedure, the need for a strong Research and Development for the military, the establishment of a Permanent joint Headquarters for the military, and the need to have the joint services department moved from its current location in the ministry of Defence and  established under Defence Headquarters. The principal implication of the last two elements of the proposals is basically to remove the armed forces and its professional base from the oversight of the ministry of Defence. This is of course, almost imponderable, because it leaves the national Armed Forces as a free agent, capable of autonomous authority, and outside of the bureaucratic control of the Nigerian state through the MoD. It means that whoever controls the Joint Headquarters of the armed forces, basically controls the authority to procure and distribute materiel, control deployment, and operate with limitless authority outside of any national security initiative as may be determined by the acts of parliament.

Another scenario, which ought to make us pause on this initiative is that, if we have on any occasion, the ill-luck of a less patriotic chief of the joint staff, he could be capable of being bought. For instance, if the republic of Tasmania, say, wished to further its design on Nigeria, supposing it has one, and it has the resources to funnel limitless slush fund and equipment to the Nigerian Armed Forces under this initiative, it could use the National Defence forces to check the sovereign will of Nigeria; it could undermine the country at will, and it could, if it wished, install puppet regimes, answerable to their local agents, the Nigerian armed forces, at will.

Then, the real meaning of a banana republic would be writ large. This scenario is not far-fetched either. I cannot, in this short column, begin to outline the various incidents and scenarios that the current initiative model. But I would recommend Nigerians, and members of the Nigerian armed forces and its intelligence community to an interesting book by William Blum called Killing Hope: US Military and CIA interventions since World War (1995). William Blum worked for the US state department and left in 1967 in protest, and has since worked as a journalist, documenting various aspects of the impact of the US foreign policy on nations with which it makes unequal contact. It is very clear to me that the MPRI is just such a program, and must be approached with absolute caution, and with the kind of perspicacity that is associated with that figure in the Igbo tales called Nwa Ebule ako.

Any review of Nigeria's national defence policy must take only one principle into overwhelming consideration: the principle of the sovereign integrity of its space. Any other consideration would be remiss. The clear question before Nigerians also should be, in whose interest must the National Defence forces be constituted? In the interests of Nigeria, or in the interest of some obtuse partnership, now variously known as the partnership of stakeholders? Any national policy that fails to recognize Nigerians as the ultimate stakeholders of its national interest will be colonial, oppressive, and treasonable, for indeed, the meaning of treason is the deliberate subversion of the interests sublime and quotidian of a nation and its people. It is also important to note that any national defence strategy or policy that fails to recognize the importance of a Research and production base for a national armed forces, independent of the procurement labyrinth  of foreign suppliers will equally be remiss. I think therefore, that the review of Nigerian national defence policy must take its initiative from a policy framework designed and executed by Nigerian expertise, its economists, its engineers, its scientists and designers, its political theorists, and its various strategic thinkers who must reconstitute its military science. National defence has a civil and professional military component. It should not be left alone for the Generals in the MoD to define.

The prospects of external and internal subversion, especially given the character of the new global order, and the new push towards control of global energy resource occasioning the new scramble for the Gulf of Guinea must provide the immediate plank on which Nigeria must design its national defence policy. An important question therefore is: what is Nigeria's given capability? In the event of, say biological warfare against Nigeria, a prospect which is not too far fetched, can Nigeria muster an indigenous rapid response? This is a country that depends on external bodies for the vaccination of its young population, which does not have indigenous vaccine production capacity; in spite of its wide array of biochemists, lab technologists, pharmacologists, and so on. The infrastructure of national research and production of those labs in Nigerian Universities, and those research scientists, are neither mobilized, nor are they linked to a national defence strategy. In the event of, say a missile attack on Nigeria, does Nigeria have a quick response mechanism, an emergency national alert system? No. Nigeria does not have a national defence production infrastructure: it depends on procurement both the equipment and spare parts- on its external suppliers. This is dangerous.

No National Missile production system. No ship-building infrastructure. It cannot even make a kite or a drone, nor does it control its own telecommunication and space infrastructure. Nigeria is basically, a vulnerable and mastered nation, because its national defence policy has remained colonial, and dependent. The MPRI proposal would only deepen this colonial dependency. What we need is a total overhaul of our national defence initiative, that would unite and mobilize our national energy. First, the Nigerian defence forces must establish a military reserve system. Every Nigerian from the age of 18 to 35, must volunteer for military service, and be attached to a reserve unit.

National service must include militia service, national patrol, work gangs: for instance, the Engineering Corp can engage in repairs of national infrastructure - bridges, roads, power stations, ship building, design of ordnances, a missile program, aircraft production, and so on, through mobilizing the national technological and artisan skills available through military service, and civilian partnership. We must decentralize the command of the armed forces, and build Regional commands. A centralized armed forces has the potential to subvert the nation. But a military council, chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff at the Defence Headquarters diffuses the potential for internal subversion. 

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