Apr. 21, 2014
By Abiodun Ladepo
If President Goodluck Jonathan is not afraid of his national security team, he should summon his Minister of Defense, Chief of Defense Staff and all Service Chiefs, head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Inspector-General of the Police and National Security Adviser to his office and demand answers to the following questions:
Where were those soldiers stationed on Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, on March 14, 2014 when the terrorists’ attack began? How many of the soldiers were on that installation that day? For those who were not on the installation, where were they and what were they doing before and during the attack? Who was the most senior officer on that installation on the day of the attack? What actions did he take to ensure the terrorists were defeated, captured or killed? Why was there only one tank on a military installation located in the heart of an insurgency area? Why did the tank malfunction during the attack as claimed by soldiers? Was it due to improper maintenance or was it lack of proper training for the operators? Why were there so many privately-owned vehicles on the barracks located in an insurgency hotbed? Why were there so many family members – women and children – in a place that is essentially a battlefront? How did the terrorists make their way, in broad daylight, to the perimeter of the installation undetected?
Were there elevated guard posts covering the installations’ 360 degrees perimeter? If so, how come no one saw the terrorists as they approached the installation? If there were no elevated guard posts, why not have some on a post that is more or less a camp in the middle of a battlefront? Were there Observation Posts/Listening Posts (OP/LP)? If not, why not have some in such a volatile area? And if there were, how come they did not see or hear anything? How in the hell could anybody successfully hide 12 Hilux pickup trucks painted in green from security forces? How on earth did the terrorists move nearly 200 fighters in an area under emergency rule? Why is the country awash in so many sophisticated weapons in the hands of unauthorized people? After the December 2nd, 2013 attack on Composite Group Air Force base, was there a vulnerability assessment? What were the lessons learned from the assessment? What reforms did the national security team put in place to forestall a recurrence? Finally, is it true that senior military officers are embezzling funds appropriated for combat?
I know Nigerian generals reading this piece will feel slighted. It does sound condescending, doesn’t it, for anyone who graduated from the Nigeria Defense Academy to be reminded about basic security measures required to safeguard troops in combat? These are routine questions that the CDS himself should have asked without being prompted by the president. But since it appears our generals are either too big to be bothered or too afraid to do their job, I am recommending these questions to Jonathan directly. This is because I know he is not a military man and some of the issues therein may not be immediately clear to him. I will repeat here as I have said in previous commentaries on this Boko Haram subject: Jonathan is not a military man and should not be expected to know military tactics. He should also not be blamed for failed military tactics. But he is the Commander-In-Chief to whom the military leaders report. He is the one asking all sorts of questions on issues about which he is not familiar. If he doesn’t get the answers he likes, he should immediately and publicly fire anybody who has been found to be derelict in his duties.
Jonathan does not owe allegiance to these military leaders. His allegiance is to all Nigerians. It should be clear to him that were the Nigerian military a limited liability company, it would have folded up by now due of its string of senior leadership failures. Inviting governors to a security meeting like Jonathan did recently sends the signal to the enemy that the federal government is at a quandary and is flailing. It will also not yield any fruit as most of the governors know next to nothing about military operations. And even if they did, those of them in the opposition may not readily offer solutions they know would benefit Jonathan politically. So, Jonathan should stop this government-by-committees or government-by-consensus practice. This is the time for executive action. He should find someone who can engage Boko Haram in discussions about political solutions to their demands (the carrot). But he should also find that truly professional military officer (no matter his ethnicity) who will embark on a sustained, full-spectrum, intelligence-driven, overwhelming fight designed to break the back of the insurgency.
Jonathan should have led the country in a public expression of outrage, especially after watching some of the videos released by the terrorists who embarrassed our military on December 2nd 2013 and March 14th 2014. These were the days Boko Haram fighters took the Maiduguri-based Composite Group Air Force base and Giwa Barracks respectively.
After the terrorists attacked the Composite Group Air Force Base, they posted the video of their successful operation on this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgP6aYbtwto. The footage shows their men walking freely around the burning aircraft on the base. It appears they did not encounter any opposition as they assaulted the base. Before the video was released, Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, had told us the military stood its ground and repelled the attacks. We now know differently. Olukolade will go down in history and in infamy as the most unscrupulous mouthpiece of the most ineffectual arm of government. One day after he boasted that the military had “rescued” scores of young women and girls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists, his office had to retract their false story of heroism as the truth filtered out that the girls who returned from capture actually escaped on their own!
We now know that in its quest to counter the apparent successes of the terrorists’ propaganda, the Nigerian military may have been lying to the Nigerian public all this while. And if it lied to the public, could it have been lying to the National Assembly which has oversight authority on the Defense ministry? Could it also have been lying to President Goodluck Jonathan? So far, the terrorists have not been caught in a lie. In fact, they have boldly warned us of their dastardly acts and have followed through on their threats. For example, after the DSS Abuja “jailbreak” attempt (nobody knows the exact story about that incident), they told us they would hit Abuja in revenge for the members they lost. A few weeks later, they set off a bomb at Nyanya bus terminal, killing over 70 innocent people and maiming scores of innocent others. The terrorists have also been magnanimous enough to provide us with video clips of their very successful operations.
The main reason for this piece, however, is the Boko Haram attack on Giwa Barracks, also located in Maiduguri. The entire attack is captured in the video found on this link: http://saharareporters.com/video/video-boko-haram-attack-giwa-barracks-m…. The first thing you notice about the video is the quality. This is a professionally put together video with background music and voice-over commentary. As the video starts, you can count at least 13 vehicles in a convoy on a dirt road headed towards their target. In the convoy, you will see the Boko Haram’s famed relatively new Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks with fighters loaded on their beds. Each of the vehicles carries no fewer than 15 fighters. Do the math: 13 x 15 = 195. (For those who do not know much about the military, that is almost the size of two army company elements; about half of an army battalion!) The vehicles are painted in green. You will also see a bigger truck painted in camouflage colors. This bigger truck appears to be the main supply vehicle.
As the convoy approaches the target, the fighters dismount and move towards the target’s perimeter fence, using nearby buildings for cover and concealment. Every single fighter bears a weapon – an AK-47 assault rifle or a Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) launcher. You will count about 20 of those. (By the way, RPGs are capable of taking down airplanes. And we have at least 20 of them in the hands of terrorists inside Nigeria!) On the bed of a couple of the Hilux trucks are mounted machine guns. (Machine guns, unlike the AK-47s are fully automatic. All you have to do is hold down the trigger and the weapon will continue to fire until it runs out of ammunition or malfunctions.) The terrorists’ machine guns in this video are belt-fed.
You will also see some weapons with attached bipods (not quite sure of their types). Bipods are good for firing in prone positions because they help steady the weapon while exposing only a small profile of the shooter.
As the terrorists make their final approach, the fighters fan out on foot, taking strategic positions. Two of the vehicles with mounted machine guns take positions adjacent to the fence of the target. And on command, the assault begins. You know this is well-rehearsed. The two machine-gunners on the Hilux trucks lay down heavy suppressive fire (fire used to suppress any potential in-coming fire) in the area that appears to be wooded. To the uninitiated, this looks like aimless shooting and a waste of ammunition. But while it is indeed “aimless”, it is not a wasteful use of ammunition at all.
The machine gun is typically a clearing weapon. Because it is virtually impossible to aim as you do with a rifle, it is used to clear an area in which you believe the enemy could be hiding. Surely, if the target in the video is being watched and guarded by alert Nigerian soldiers, the wooded areas within the perimeter would be their potential hideouts. Therefore, it is a superior offensive tactical decision by the terrorists to clear the wooded areas.
In about 10 minutes of unrelenting overwhelming firepower, the terrorists breach the perimeter and enter Giwa barracks from different directions. For the next 10 minutes or so, they set fire to many private vehicles on the base. To your utter chagrin, you will see them as they set fire to a lone tank within the premises. You will see some of the terrorists moving in a crouching manner. You will see others low-crawling or high-crawling (as the situation demanded) and cradling their weapons in textbook manners only trained soldiers know. You will see some fighters jump down a heap of dirt and perform combat rolls…tactics that only trained soldiers know to do in order to cushion their fall. Though not wearing any discernible rank insignia, you will see those in command or other leadership roles performing their duties. Everybody appears to be shooting and communicating.
After about 20 minutes of waltzing through Giwa barracks, the terrorists withdraw in an orderly manner, leaving behind a few of them, including the cameraman (or woman) to blend in with the crowd of fleeing and traumatized residents. The video is 24 minutes long. You will be amazed that with all the flagging (pointing weapons in the direction of your own forces), not a single fratricide occurs. In short, all you have to do is throw some uniform on these fighters; replace their bathroom slippers with boots; replace their pick-up trucks with tanks and you will have a respectable military force. These are well-motivated and well-trained fearsome fighters. Anybody who watches this video and still thinks these are ragtag, hungry, “almajiri” conscripts better have his head examined by a good shrink.
The Giwa barracks attack is the single most humiliating incident for the previously dreaded Nigerian army. I will forever be befuddled by the fact that for 24 whole minutes, the terrorists did not receive in-coming, defensive fire from the army. In this video, you will not see the terrorists scampering for cover in order to avoid in-coming grenades or heavy machine gun fire. It is as if they are attacking a compound occupied by enfeebled Octogenarians. It is a monumental embarrassment for our army.
Even if Jonathan doesn’t win a second term, he should not bequeath onto his successor such a vibrant insurgency as we currently have in Boko Haram. It should be the goal of any patriotic president to save Nigeria from such horrendous carnage. And it is a goal that is attainable.
By Abiodun Ladepo
Los Angeles, California, USA,
First posted on Saharareporters, captioned “Boko Haram: Questions President Jonathan Should Ask His National Security Team”