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Nigerians urge support for military as criminals kill 183 soldiers in 6 months

many cases of death or injury involving soldiers have not been reported by the media

Many citizens and security experts have expressed concern over the killing of security operatives by criminals and called for action to stem the tide.

They specifically made case for military operatives who were killed in the line of duty while carrying out internal security.

No fewer than 183 personnel of the Nigerian military have paid the supreme price within six months – January to June, 2021 – in the line of their duties, findings by Daily Trust have shown.

Thousands of military operatives drawn from the army, navy and air force have been deployed to more than 30 states in the country.

According to reported cases in the media, the officers were killed by bandits, hoodlums, gunmen, Boko Haram terrorists, cultists, armed robbers, among others.

Available information showed that they were killed in different parts of the country, but a large percentage of the cases were recorded in the northern part, with North-East topping the chat.

States where soldiers have been killed include Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Enugu, Delta, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa.

Daily Trust reports that while soldiers were expected to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria against external aggression, many of them have been deployed to tame internal threats.

The troops support sister agencies like the police, civil defence, Customs and Immigrations in some instances even as they take over the whole operation in some places.

Some Nigerians who spoke to our correspondents said all security operatives in Nigeria deserve empathy and support.

Our findings showed that Boko Haram terrorists and members of the Islamic State West, Africa Province (ISWAP) killed 114 gallant troops while 69 were killed in other circumstances.

For instance, 36 officers were killed on April 24 in Mainok, Borno State during an ambush on a military super camp.

In another case, at least seven soldiers of the Nigerian Army died instantly after an ambush in northern part of Borno while four others sustained injuries.

Among the injured was Colonel Husseini Samaila Sankara, who also died while receiving treatment.

He was the latest to be buried in Abuja on Thursday.

Sankara, who was laid to rest at the Guards Brigade cemetery amid tears and emotions, died on July 1, 2021, on May 30, 2021.

The late officer was on his way from Marte, a town in Borno State, to the state capital, Maiduguri, when their gun truck ran into the explosive.

Another army major was killed in Jigawa State by armed robbers few days ago while on his way to Kano from Maiduguri.

On Thursday, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State said seven soldiers lost their lives while repelling a bandits’ attack in his state on Tuesday.

The governor said this when he visited five soldiers injured in the attack around Marke village.

They are receiving treatment at Sir Yahaya Memorial Hospital, Birnin Kebbi.

In the South East and South South, members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the armed wing of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have also killed some soldiers.

Daily Trust reports that many cases of death or injury involving soldiers have not been reported by the media.

“I always cry whenever I read the news of the killing of our soldiers and other sister agencies,” said Maimuna Musa, who lives in Kubwa, Abuja.

“Our troops deserve every support to be alive because they sacrifice their lives to protect us,” she said.

Janet Yusuf, a teacher in Maiduguri  said families of soldiers killed in the line of duty should be taken care of. “They deserve empathy. The soldiers that are alive also deserve to be celebrated,” she said.

 Why soldiers are being killed – Security experts

Speaking to Daily Trust in a telephone interview, a security and intelligence expert, Kabiru Adamu, linked the killings to lack of physical protective equipment, as well as intelligence and tactical manoeuvres.

Adamu said communication among military officers were too open, adding that the vehicles they use in a ‘hot’ place like the North-East were not suitable because they are soft-skin.

He said, “In simple terms, it is the absence of both the physical protective equipment that every military personnel should have at his disposal, as well as the failure of both intelligence and tactical manoeuvres. Let me explain these few points.

“From the physical equipment, starting from their personal headgear, every military personnel on the field, on the forefront of a theatre of conflict, should have, in the minimum, personal protective equipment such as the bulletproof vest, helmet and several others that would limit the ability of the enemy to kill him.

“Even if the enemy shoots him, that personal protective equipment can reduce the possibility of the bullet piercing through and getting into his body. In our circumstances, all of these are missing. I can go on and on regarding physical security equipment.

“Another factor is on the vehicles our military is using to move. Most of these vehicles are soft-skin. You can’t have military personnel in a high intensity environment like the North-East when you are using soft-skin vehicles to travel.

“Also, they are using open communication like you and I. That also exposes them to vulnerability. So all these physical security equipment are unfortunately defective. Sometimes, it is as a result of procurement defects where corrupt people buy faulty equipment or sometimes because there is no funding,” he said.

He further noted that weak weapons used by soldiers were not helping the situation, and called on government and military authorities to provide personal protective equipment to the troops on the frontline.

“We can even talk about their weapons. You heard not too long ago when the chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume, talked about the nature and circumstances of equipment within the military cycle. That’s a huge blow. All of these are under physical security equipment.

“Let’s move to both intelligence and tactical manoeuvre. The relationship between the army and the air force should be like a synergy to ensure both effectiveness and efficiency.

“Unfortunately, in our circumstances, we are not doing enough on that. What do I mean? Most times, you want the air force to go out and bomb the enemies, reduce the capacity of the enemies to fight back, and then, the army will now go in and do the remaining jobs; in our own instance, we rarely hear of that.

“Most times, it is ambush; it surprises. I know perhaps because it is an asymmetric warfare, where the enemies live together with the people but I will counter that by saying that even at my level, on a daily basis we hear of the convergence of the enemies in a particular location,” he added.

On his part, the national expert, governance, peace and security unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Nigeria, Chukwuma Ume, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said fighting war required more than using AK-47.

According to him, weak intelligence gathering has been contributing to how Nigerian soldiers are being ambushed by enemies.

He said, “Everything boils down to what the Chief of Defence Staff said that troops could not fight war with old weapons. They need to be properly equipped. Equipping now goes beyond AK-47. There are aspects that require intelligence gathering.

“In today’s warfare, particularly the asymmetrical type, we need to start thinking about unmanned vehicles. For example, we need to use drones to collect intelligence.”

Ume flayed a situation where Nigeria was unable to procure ammunition from foreign powers because of defective international relations.

Idowu Isamotu, Haruna Ibrahim & Akila Jibrin

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