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Chibok Girls In The "Bermuda Triangle": Weakness And Culpability Of The Nigerian Military

May 20, 2014

If the Nigerian military was strong enough, it would have acted on the advance warning before those girls were kidnapped.

Also known as the Devil’s Triangle, the Bermuda Triangle is a region in the western side of the North Atlantic Ocean where dozens of ships, planes and people have gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Exactly what caused the disappearance of the ships and aircraft is not known till today. Most vanished with no single trace. The triangle’s size depends on whoever happens to author the book or article you are reading about the Bermuda Triangle. Consequently the number of ships and aircraft lost also depends essentially on which article or book you read.

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In the same manner, I think the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of over 200 schoolgirls from Nigeria’s terra firma calls for some comparison with the Bermuda Triangle. It will be okay to liken the Sambisa Forest — where it is generally believed the Boko Haram insurgents are keeping the kidnapped girls — to the Bermuda Triangle. Indeed similar to the Bermuda Triangle account, the number of missing girls depends on whoever happens to author the article you read. Also like the Bermuda Triangle, the size of the forest also makes the search very difficult. The entire world did not know the size of that forest until the US experts told us it’s about 17 times the size of Lagos State and almost as big as the region of New England.

Now the US military experts have told us in clear terms that they do not have the capacity to find the abducted girls. Their body language also suggests the possibility of reducing their involvement in the search for those poor girls. This development with the US may naturally melt away the interests of other nations – UK, France, China, and Canada. While some Nigerian analysts have resorted to "mocking" the US military on this development, the sagacious ones among them are seeing things quite differently. Rather than joining the blame game, they are wisely considering the merits of seeking answers to the critical questions on the way forward. I believe it counts a lot where we go from here as a nation.
Any analysis that will not deviate from logical reasoning on this issue will first consider the circumstances that led to US military’s remarks about this situation. Of course only very few people, the myopic ones, agree with the senseless claim by the likes of Ansari Dokubo and Governor Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State discrediting the story of the kidnapped girls. So that is not something we want to consider here. The main reason the US military wants to reduce its involvement in the search for the kidnapped girls is the weakness of the Nigerian military.

If the Nigerian military was strong enough, it would have acted on the advance warning before those girls were kidnapped.  The kidnap was even carried out despite the enforcement of State of Emergency in Borno State. Our military’s weakness has also been implicated in the inability to trace the exact whereabouts of the girls. No attempt to utilize any satellite imaging if not for the intervention of the US military. The same weakness is responsible for President Jonathan’s reluctance to visit Chibok because his safety is not guaranteed. And lastly, the miserable ambush against our soldiers resulted from our military’s weakness, too. The list goes on and on — endless!

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In the last three years, Nigeria's military spending has averaged N1trillion per annum. The breakdown of this figure shows that more than 90% has been allocated to recurrent expenses while the paltry balance goes for capital outlay. In essence, our military has not budgeted for growth in the last three years yet it wants to win the fight against insurgents. That aside, anybody with basic knowledge of accounting knows that it is easier to commit a fraud through inflating overhead expenses than inflating capital expenses as you could easily arrange fake/non-existent overseas training for officers, over-invoicing of consumables, fictitious payment to service contractors, etc. unlike a capital expense where the assets purchased must be inspected at some point thereby exposing you if you didn't buy them, monies that should have been used to acquire military hardware were alleged to have been built into these phony overhead costs and siphoned from there. There are accounts of substandard tanks and armors purchased from China which all went up in flames upon contact with high caliber rounds, bulletproof vests that could not prevent bullets from piercing the body, machine guns that frequently jammed while being fired, repelling night attacks without night goggles, etc. Please read Sahara reporters and Premium Times for more details.

On the issue of human right abuses, Amnesty International and the Nigerian press have documented how the military and paramilitary complex in Nigeria over the years turned the civil class into 2nd class citizens through physical and emotional harassment, extra-judicial killings, and general disregard for civil rules and regulations. It is not necessary going into details of how these crimes are committed as there is hardly any adult Nigerian who has not directly or indirectly at one time been a victim of military high handedness (Military in this context includes all arms of military, police, Customs & Immigrations, Civil Defense, FRSC).

It is on record that the US military had to engage the civilian population in Iraq and Afghanistan in a positive way before they could earn their trust, this they did by building hospitals, recreation facilities, roads and bridges, civic centers, and significantly showing empathy and restraint where it is possible. Now, if it was possible for a foreign army of occupation to create this type of environment amidst so much hostility in Iraq and Afghanistan, then I think it is sad that Nigerian military has not been able to re-enact such feat while dealing with local insurrection generally and Boko haram insurgency in particular within its own country. How do you intend to win a war in an Islamic region where after the insurgents have escaped, you now descend on innocent locals-maiming and killing them? Definitely, the locals will turn against the military by either joining BH or not divulging necessary information or even give them misleading intel that will put their operations in danger.

Let me conclude here with an urgent and immediate call for the probe of the Nigerian military. All Nigerians should continue to put the blame on the desks of our lawmakers and President Goodluck Jonathan if the Nigerian military is not successfully probed and culpable officers tried in the court of law going forward. Meanwhile, whether the military is probed or not, we will not stop asking the Nigerian authorities to #BringBackOurGirls!

–Olusegun Iselaiye is an entrepreneur and a writer from Lagos State, Nigeria.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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