Alex Badeh, chief of defence staff, until just two weeks ago, courted public criticism on Thursday when he declared at his pulling out parade that he presided over an under-equipped military. It was a pronouncement that angered the public, based on his previous objection to claims that the military was under-equipped.
Re-presented below is our story, first published on January 21, 2015, on Badeh’s take on the state of equipment in the military, sophistication of the military, on mutiny in the Nigerian army, and the war against Boko Haram:
Alex Badeh, chief of defence staff, says it is impossible for any Nigerian soldier to claim that he is inadequately equipped as all of them have riffles.
Badeh, who was speaking in an interview with the Nigerian Defence magazine, published on its website, also said the country and its military were unprepared for the current war against Boko Haram.
“This is not the type of war that we have ever been prepared for. We are learning on the job and let me tell you, by the time we finish, maybe people will come and ask us: ‘How did you end counter-insurgency?'” he said.
Responding to a question on the spate of mutiny in the army, he said: “You see, first of all, I said it earlier that the war we are fighting now is not the kind of war we have been preparing for. We will have to adapt. Now we have taken the role of the civil police. Remember in our training, we were told that when the thing goes beyond what the police can cope with, then the military will be called to take over. Now we are virtually doing what the police is supposed to do, including manning the check points.
“There has been allegation of people taking bribe and all manner of things; most time, these allegations are not true because I have seen people out of concern, they see people at road blocks, and you know Nigerians are very caring people, you see them stop and even go to the extent of giving food and water to soldiers on road-block duties; and peoples see it and most time interpret it to be bribe taking.
“Now in respect of the mutiny you made reference to, it was done by people who do not love Nigeria. When we joined this job, what did our oath say? It says we will go where ever the president orders us to go, whether by land, air or by sea. Now your commander tells you, let us advance and you say no! We have our law books, you see that oath that we took, it is the same thing as saying if need be, execute us. If a soldier says he is not going to move, what do you expect people to do for him? Clap for him?
“The Nigerian military is very well taken care off. We live in houses we don’t pay accommodation for. We have buses that bring troops to work every day and take them back home. We don’t pay for light; we don’t pay for water. Our salaries are good compared with what is paid in the civil place. If someone with school certificate joins the army, by the time he is five years in the service, his salary has doubled that of a graduate. Why do you think Nigeria is doing that for us?
“Nigeria is doing that for us because we have vowed that we will defend our nation if need be with our blood. So for a soldier to come up and say ‘I’m not well equipped’ yet you have a riffle; what do you want? You want APC, you want tanks? The basic weapon of an infantry man is riffle, so why should there be mutiny? Why should you accuse your commander of leading you into an ambush? Come on! How can your commander lead you to an ambush? If they kill my soldiers, then of what use will I be? No commander will do that deliberately.
“This is the time for Caesar, all the time has been for God, all the time we have been taking salaries, we go and do exercise saying we I do this, I will do that; I will fly like this ad fly like that. All those ones you are preparing for, the day Caesar will come and demand for his pound of flesh, and Caesar has come now and he is saying, look come and do your work, and you are saying you are not going? No, it does not work like that.”
Badeh also spoke on oil theft in the Niger Delta, suggesting that it could not be entirely eliminated.
“We can stop the big ones; we can stop the serious theft if we are all sincere. But you see, you can use the military but what of the other oil workers there? I don’t believe that it is people breaking oil pipes to take small bottle of diesel that are causing all the massive loss we are having. It must be something else and the chief of naval staff has addressed that issue at a forum recently at the Naval Headquarters but I think if we are sincere, we will stamp out all that oil theft in our country,” he said.
“In Jos, yes, there are still killings here and there, but the major ones have been stopped. In fact, I was jokingly telling the STF commander that they are just busy settling quarrels and petty stealing. But we know that we can’t leave them to snowball into conflagration or allow them to go under the carpet. We keep assessing or reappraising the situation probably after the general election if everything goes okay, maybe we can start scaling down but for now we will not scale down.”
He also disclosed that the Nigerian military still contributes troops to global peace missions, despite the country’s huge internal security challenges.
“I don’t want to say we have been the leading contributor of troop globally, but in Africa, we have been the leader and despite the challenges we are facing within the country we are still contributing substantially,” he said.
“We have a lot [of people] in Darfur; we have a lot in Liberia and then we have some in Mali. In fact, in more than 10 countries, we have our men either on peace keeping or as peace enforcement. We are all over the place. You see, our aim is to have enough to contribute outside while also doing our own internally; and that is all that we are proving, that yes, Nigeria may have internal challenges but we are also able to give you assistance outside. That is what we are doing.”