Sunday 24 February 2013

Costs of Nigeria’s Military Campaign in Mali

Counting the cost of Nigeria’s participation in the ongoing African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) now may appear premature or untimely but, periodic reviewing of the costs of any project or program guides the operators to work within limits, points out odd areas and allows for appropriate adjustments to accommodate deviations. Nigeria’s foreign policy must be Africa centered and driven by eco-military strategy for her to assume her rightful place in the committee of nations. This strategy may not be appreciated by all and sundry now but soon all will applaud it.

It could be recalled that recently President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan revealed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has already committed a total of US$34 million, about N7 million to the immediate deployment of troops and logistics in crisis ridden Mali.

President Jonathan disclosed this at the end of the Donors’ Conference organized during the 20th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia recently. He also announced another donation of US$5 million, about N800 million, as further assistance to halt the advance of Islamic terrorists in Mali, restore law and order and return the country to normalcy, bringing the total amount spent on Mali crisis to N7.8 billion.

According to President Jonathan, Nigeria has already deployed 900 combat soldiers and 300 Airforce personnel to Mali as part of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).

He unveiled that Nigeria had before now used about US$2 million of the amount spent so far for humanitarian relief and supplies. He told the august-gathering that the additional US$5 million pledge which was in response to the call for more donations was a further expression of Nigeria’s commitment to the international effort to restore normality in Mali.

“Nigeria has also undertaken the reconstruction and refurbishment of a number of medical clinics in the military barracks of some of the Malian Defence and Security Forces as part of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) intervention to the tune of US$5.5 million”, he revealed.

Outside the financial cost of Mali operation, Nigeria has continued to pay in irreparable human currency; reputation and security rating as the Islamic terrorists – Boko Haram disclaimed ceasefire and intensify destruction of lives and properties across northern Nigeria.      

On January 19, at 6 am, in Kogi State, the Mujahideen of Jama'atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (JAMBS) attacked Mali-bound Nigerian troops, killing 2 army officers and wounding 8 others. Military vehicles were blown up.

The decisions of the leadership to commit Nigerian troops and resources to Mali did not go down well with all Nigerians. Many have questioned the rationale while others have bluntly condemned both the decision and the actions that followed it. And one Nigerian nationalist who will never hide his feelings is the first civilian governor of the old Kaduna State and leader of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa. He did not only condemn the war against the Malian Islamic terrorists group but described it as imperialist war. To the elder statesman, “We already have enough problems here….We have already over 20 million graduates who are unemployed, it is a very large number and it can pose a serious problem for the country. The money that should be used in creating jobs for the youths is now channeled to an adventure overseas.” He told Dominic Uzu of the National Daily that, “Nigeria government…spent more than one quarter of the annual budget on security and with our involvement in Mali war, the vote for security may be larger. If that happens, it means we will have very little left for social welfare and development. That again can create larger problems more than the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency”.

The real cost of Nigeria’s military intervention will be emerging in the coming months and this includes the cost of manning our porous borders in terms of additional manpower, training, technology, and welfare or motivation; the cost of keeping off the retreating Malian Islamist insurgents who may want to join their Nigerian counterparts – Boko Haram in northern Nigeria; the cost of protecting Nigerians and Nigeria interests abroad, etc.

The disclosure by State Security Service (SSS), recently in Abuja that it has uncovered a terror cell operated by Iranian-trained Nigerian terrorists in Lagos State is a pointer to more items of increment in the cost of emerging security threats.  Don’t ask me why because parading the suspects, the SSS said that the three men; 50-year-old Berende, Sulaiman Saka and Saheed Adewunmi were working for Iranian terrorists planning to attack Americans and Israelis in the country. The report also said that on the hit list of the terrorists are prominent Nigerian citizens including former military President – General Ibrahim Babangida, the deposed Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki and others.
The revelation that there are presence of Sudan, Yemen, and Somali terrorists cells in Nigeria will also add to the cost of not only containing these cells but eliminating them.
Not long ago, the Chief of Army Staff Azubike Ihejirika revealed, that our security agencies are aware that Nigerian insurgents are already working with their Malian counterparts and the threats emerging from Mali as a result of the possible final dislodgement of the Malian insurgents (Tuareg separatist) comprising the three Islamist groups now active in northern Mali – Ansar Dine, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad that were beefed up by an influx of mercenary fighters from Libya following the fall of Gaddafi but failed to tell us how this threats are to be managed, perhaps, for security reasons. And if I may ask, how prepared are our security forces to contain the likely upsurge in insecurity in the next few months? How will the country foot this bill? How will the rising cost of security be managed visa-vise social welfare and developmental pursue?

The answers to these questions are necessary as we prepare for the days ahead!

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