Once the most effective military force in West Africa, the Nigerian military played a highly positive role in peacekeeping missions. However, Nigeria was unable to subdue the Niger delta insurgency; in 2012, it could not deploy for front line operations in Mali; and, it suffered a series of reverses in the fight against Boko Haram until it was stiffened by troops from its neighbors and South African-led mercenaries in 2015. What happened?
A June 8, 2016 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) provides some answers. Titled “Nigeria: The Challenge of Military Reform,” the report analyzes the malfunctions and challenges of Nigeria’s defense management. The survey is comprehensive and written in a style that makes it accessible to policy makers. Especially strong is the discussion of the legacy of military rule. There is the reminder that between 1966 and 1999 there were six successful coups, two failed coups, and three additional alleged coup plots. These were all followed by military trials and executions. In the new era of democratic rule, diminishing the military became a part of a strategy to inoculate the country against coups no matter who was president.
The ICG provides specific recommendations for the involvement of all aspects of the government, including the National Assembly, as well as civil society in the whole-sale reform of the military.
The report is a must-read for those concerned with security issues in West Africa.