How Gwoza fell
On the 14th of July, 2014, an excellent and proficient Armoured Corp Officer, took over the command of 26 Task Force Brigade Headquarters under the oversight of the 7th Division in Borno state. His predecessor had taken a leave of absence to attend to his health.
Less than a month after taking over command, Boko Harams dressed in Nigerian Army camouflage uniforms, and using Armoured Personnel Carriers and Toyota Land Cruisers and Hilux vehicle-mounted triple Anti-Aircraft Artillery guns simultaneously attacked the brigade and the troops that were strategically located at Brigade/Battalion HQ, INEC Junction and Emir’s Palace in Gwoza. As the attack progressed, the commanding officer contacted the HQ of the 7th Division and 79 Combat Group for air support. He quickly moved to his APC, and ordered the gunner to open fire in the direction of the attack. But the gunner complained that the gun was jammed, and could not respond to the attack.
The commanding officer then moved to Shilka, another infantry fighting vehicle and ordered the gunner there to proceed in the direction of the Boko Haram attack. After firing a few rounds with some damage to the terrorists, the Shilka stopped and did not move again. All the while, the soldiers were under severe enemy fire. Even the efforts of another Steyr APC, to come to the rescue of the troops failed as the gunner also reported faulty equipment. All efforts to hold position proved abortive. The late arrival of reinforcements and air support (12 hours late), could only provide cover for a retreat. That is how the town of Gwoza was lost to Boko Haram.
The fall of Gwoza was not an oddity in the front of Nigeria’s North East in the years leading to the pre-election offensive of 2015. Boko Haram rode on the wave of superior fire power, and out-gunned and outclassed the Nigerian military, displacing them from territories and eventually going ahead to control more than 15 local governments across the North East.
One recurring decimal was the inadequacy of arms and ammunition to defend towns, and that resulted in heavy casualties both civilian and military. It made a mockery of the Nigerian military and the federal government for their inability to secure the territorial integrity of the country.
- Who was responsible for the provision of arms and equipment for the troops at this time?
- As Nigeria turned to other sources for equipment. How much was voted for procurement of arms and ammunition during the time of Col Sambo Dasuki?
- We urge the Federal Government to abide by the rule of law in dealing with those accused of compromising procurement processes and thereby short-changing the soldiers at the war front. The government owes this to the soldiers who have lost their lives due to these treasonable actions to carry out investigation with all due diligence and ensure a fair, open trial so that whoever is responsible is brought to book without making martyrs of them.
- We also urge the investigating committee, and the prosecutors, not to be hasty in arriving at conclusions but to undertake a thorough audit of all inflows and outflows relating to the arms purchases, and to ascertain whether what is found correspond with the platforms that were said to have been purchased, or whether they do not. Mistakes such as pointed out in Dasuki’s response where the government alleged he approved procurements months before he resumed office are elementary and will undermine the credibility of the report and its findings. The prosecutors need to be more thorough in order to ensure a watertight case that can stand the scrutiny of a fair legal process, without giving anyone that is guilty a loophole to exploit.
- The Central Bank of Nigeria needs to clarify its position on $132,050,486.97 and £9,905,473,55, that were allegedly transferred on the instruction of the Office of the National Security Adviser, to accounts of Societe D’equipmente Internationaux in West Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America. The FG says that the transfers were done without any documentary contract evidence and with no proof of platforms supplied.
- We advice that the Federal Government not limit this investigation to President Jonathan’s government, but to also interrogate all the service chiefs (one of them is serving the present government as Minister of the Interior) from 2007 till date. This should include the National Security Advisers. This is necessary so as to avoid accusations of embarking on a witch hunt, or settling old scores.
- The FG should use this opportunity to clean up the opaque arms procurement system within the Ministry of Defence, armed services and the ONSA. There is also a need to look for ways and means to properly equip the military and other security services. Transparency in procurement is key. The military also have to come out with a long strategic procurement plan based on threat analysis to Nigeria. The only arm which has this is the Navy. They have done very well with very little resources.
- We must establish a system where we do not have concentration risk in our arms procurement from any single country as a matter of strategic security importance.
- We recommend the FG embark on country-country arms transactions, and strive to resolve all political differences with the West in our quest to buy weapons from them or they should be encouraged to face the East and Asia. We need to resort to our institutional memory when it comes to procurement. Some western countries have always been reluctant to sell powerful and strategic weapons to Nigeria. When they sell us such weapons, they are usually done under stringent conditions, tied to external political considerations.
- Procurements should also be done keeping maintenance in view. In this regards, Nigeria should include options to build local capacity when it comes to procurement. The recent partnership with between the Nigerian Navy and Chinese government whereby the ship building capacity of the Navy is increased with the help of the Chinese Navy stands as a great example.
- We demand an accelerated implementation of policies that would encourage indigenous arms manufacturing. This can, as a first step, be achieved by engaging the private sector, and the revitalization of DICON.
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