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124,000 Active Military Personnel, 291,685 Policemen – Are Nigerian Security Agencies Weighed Down By Conflicts?

Repeatedly, the Federal Government claimed it has defeated the Boko Haram terrorists group, and more than five times, government claimed the military has either killed or wounded Abubakar Shekau, leader of the group.


SINCE 2009, Nigerian security agencies− Nigerian Army, State Security Services and the Police have been fighting insurgencies in the country.  Yet the war against insurgency in Nigeria seems unending. The security agencies are still garnering experiences in fighting insurgencies, because nothing had prepared them for unconventional war such as insurgency.

Repeatedly, the Federal Government claimed it has defeated the Boko Haram terrorists group, and more than five times, government claimed the military has either killed or wounded Abubakar Shekau, leader of the group.

But each time such claim is made, Boko Haram launched a  more deadly attack. In 2007 alone,  it killed more than 900 people  while more than 20,000 have since been killed and over two million displaced since 2009 when the conflict started.

In December 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari said Boko Haram was technically defeated, declaring that the group could no longer stage  “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centres.

Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff re-echoed President Buhari’s claim in August 2017, insisting that Boko Haram remained technically defeated.

“They will continue to remain technically defeated and they will never be as strong as they were previously,” he said.

But between December 2015 and December 2017 when those claims were made, more than 1000 people were killed by Boko Haram, a group that has been described as one of the world’s deadliest terrorist organisations.

Beyond Boko Haram insurgents, Nigerian security agencies have still had to contend with Niger Delta militants that once held the nation by the throat – attacking oil installation, kidnapping oil workers (local and expatriates) as well as engaging in oil bunkering− crippling the nation’s oil dependent economy.

And also, lately, security agencies are having their hands full with the activities of herdsmen and armed bandits who, for no particular reason, have turned Benue and Zamfara states to killing fields.

It was however the Amnesty Programme introduced by late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua in 2009 that proved effective to ending the economic sabotage that the Niger Delta militants have caused the country.

In six months, precisely from December 31, 2017 to May 2018, herdsmen have murdered more than 100 people in Benue while armed bandits hacked over 100 people to death in Zamfara and Kaduna states within the same period.

This is despite the deployment, in November 2017, of police personnel, comprising 20 units of Police Mobile Force, 10 cells of Counter Terrorism Unit, and Special Police Forces, as well as 2,000 conventional police personnel to Zamfara State.

After gruesome killing of 45 people in Birnin Gwari in early May 2018 by the faceless armed bandits, Kaduna State, the State Police Command announced the deployment of three additional police mobile units to reinforce security in the troubled town.

These with the firepower of the Nigerian Army have yielded little or no results as internal security challenges keep mounting across the country raising questions as to whether the security agencies have been overwhelmed by the level and volume of conflicts they are confronted with.



Evidently, Nigerian security agencies are stressed out− perhaps overstretched  and the number of internal security challenges – Niger Delta militants, Boko Haram insurgency, MASSOB/IPOB agitation, kidnappers, armed Bandits and herdsmen, they are managing explains that.

With 181,000 total military personnel − 124,000 active personnel and 57,000 reserve personnel, Nigeria ranks the fourth most powerful country in Africa and 43rd in the world  according to Global Firepower 2018.

In addition, Nigeria boasts of 124 aircraft strength comprising nine fighter aircraft, 21 attack aircraft, 52 transport aircraft, 47 trainer aircraft, 42 helicopters and 11 attack helicopters.  Nigeria also has 148 armoured tanks, 1420 fighting vehicles, 25 self-propelled artillery, 339 towed artillery and 30 rocket projectors.

For its Navy strength− its total naval assets is 75 which is made up of four frigates and 93 patrol crafts. It has no submarine and aircraft carrier.

And with Defence budget of $2.3billion and the enunciated military strength to protect a total population of 190,632,261Nigerians, does Nigeria have enough to confront its growing internal challenges?

It is very tempting to assume that Nigeria has all it takes to take any internal security challenges headlong including asymmetrical ones from bandits, herdsmen and Boko Haram splinter groups, especially if the Global Firepower ranking that placed the country fourth in Africa is anything to go by.

But a more critical and dispassionate assessment may show where the lapses are particularly if Nigeria’s military strength is placed side-by-side country like Pakistan with similar internal security challenges and a population that is slightly above Nigeria.



Pakistan, like Nigeria, has for years now been fighting insurgency by Taliban. Though its army also faced many difficulties in conducting effective counter-insurgency operations, despite deploying more than 150,000 soldiers in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and FATA, and has suffered over 15,700 casualties, including over 5,000 dead since 2008, Pakistan is still seeing largely to have fared better than Nigeria in its counter insurgency operations.

Secrets behind this remains that Pakistan, ranked 17th most powerful country in the world with 204,924,861population has 919,000 total military personnel, 738000 than that of Nigeria. Its active personnel are 637,000 while Nigeria has just 124000 active personnel with only 57000 reserved components compared to Pakistan’s 282,000 reserved components.

In terms of defence budget, Nigeria’s $2,330,000,000 is a far cry to Pakistan’s $7,000,000,000, given the fact that Nigeria’s external reserve − $31,080,000,000 is higher than $20,020,000,000 of Pakistan. Same goes for the differences in their external debts and purchasing power respectively which favour Nigeria − $35,230,000,000 and $1,118,000,000,000 for Nigeria and $75,660,000,000 and $1,056,000,000,000 respectively.  Nigeria has more oil reserves- 37,060,000,000 (bbl) than Pakistan’s 350,600,000 (bbl)

While Nigeria has just 124 aircraft, Pakistan has 1,281 aircraft− 320 fighters, 410 attack aircraft, 296 transport, 486 trainers, helicopter 328 and attack helicopters 49. Nigeria’s helicopters are 42 and 11 attack helicopters. While Nigeria has 54 serviceable airports, Pakistan has 151, and whereas, Nigeria’s daily oil production is superior to that of Pakistan (1,871,000((bbl/dy)) for Nigeria and 85,500 ((bbl/dy)) for Pakistan.

Pakistan’s tank strength− 2182 compared to Nigeria’s meager 148 speaks volume of what can be accomplished with high number of tanks that include 2604 armored fighting vehicles and 307 self-propelled artillery , towed artillery 1,240 and 144 projectors.



Nigerian security outfits− the military, police, state security services, like those in Pakistan have come under attacks from the insurgents. The army’s convoys have been repeatedly ambushed; it has faced numerous terrorist strikes in the shape of suicide attacks and bombings; many of its personnel (especially those in the North East) have deserted particularly under the last administration because the army was ‘worn out’ with no weapons like the ones paraded by the terrorists.

Many soldiers have been captured by the Jihadists in humiliating circumstances. While some of these soldiers were never seen again, some others were killed. Soldiers are routinely overstaying leave or going AWOL (absent without leave) and even regular army battalions have seen their morale dip to worryingly low levels. There have been some reports of soldiers disobeying the orders issued by their superior officers.

What complicated the issue was the famous $2.1billion Dasuki gate –it is still refreshing how service chiefs and other top military brass and politicians indicted in the scam were exposed and refunded what was meant to be used to procure arms for the military fighting terrorism.

The only conclusion that was drawn then was that a once proud professional army had headed inexorably downhill.

When in 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari, whose one of his cardinal campaign promise was to tackle insecurity took power, it was a huge sigh of relief for many Nigerians. He changed the Service Chiefs and gave them matching order to smoke out not only the Boko Haram terrorists, but all forms of groups that are security threats to the unity of the country.

The military, truly hurt by a series of Boko Haram successes employed massive firepower to stem the rot. Helicopter gunships and heavy artillery were freely used to destroy suspected terrorist hideouts. It reclaimed territories once controlled by the terrorists; freed many held captives by them and also foiled many attacks. This is what gave the government the hope that it has defeated or has restricted the terrorists to the Sambisa forest.

But there have been major reverses of the successes recorded by the military against the terrorists. The recent waves of attacks, this time around, not only by Boko Haram, but killer herdsmen, armed bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers almost everywhere in Nigeria has given rise to panic and concerns among citizens as to whether the security operatives still possess that capacity to deliver on their mandate.

The Armed Forces of Nigeria was tasked to come to the aid of the civil authority in line with constitutional provisions encapsulated in Section 217(c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended which states that “the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic shall be employed in suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly” and by extension the promotion of economic development.”



What is obvious is that the firepower or better put, Nigerian military strength is nowhere adequate to confront the myriads of security challenges it is currently tackling in the country.

From its defence budget to military arsenal and personnel, the government needs to borrow a leave from Pakistan which despite its huge defence budget, personnel and weapon is still sweating against Taliban and other internal security challenges.

Though procurement of military weapons is largely done in secrecy making it one of the nation’s cesspools of corruption, the President needs to sanitise that process to ensure that defence budget is spent what is meant for.  Between 2010 and 2017, Nigeria’s military expenditure stands at N504.9billion according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the independent resource on global security. The expenditure looks huge, but not so the nation’s fire power.

Granted that President Buhari has recently ordered for new war helicopters from the US out of the $1billion taken from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), it must go beyond that as a matter of national interest to ensure that all aspect of the security is fortified, because, security is a cursor to development in any country and this explains why countries like the US, China, France, Japan, Germany, Russia among other top world power budget exponentially for security.