The Nigerian army successfully destroyed 10 camps run by terrorist organization Boko Haram (aka Islamic State West Africa) on Sunday in the Sambisa Forest region of Nigeria. The operation was part of a long-term offensive led by Nigerian forces to fight Islamist militants. This offensive, with assistance from Chad, Niger and Cameroon, was launched earlier this year in order to disrupt Boko Haram operations that has left over 10,000 Nigerians dead since the insurgency began almost a decade ago. This successful operation comes at a critical time for the Nigerian military, which is in the midst of corruption accusations.
In a recent case, 54 soldiers of Nigeria’s 111th Special Forces Battalion were sentenced to death for mutiny when they refused to fight Boko Haram insurgents. Despite being the highest profile case, this isn’t the first instance of Nigerian soldiers refusing to go up against the Boko Haram insurgents. Reportedly, numerous soldiers have made refusals to fight in fears that they were being ordered into suicide missions. While having one of the highest defense budgets in sub-Saharan Africa, it also notoriously has one of the highest levels of corruption. Reportedly, numerous Nigerian units have fewer troops than implied on payrolls, allowing commanders to absorb the unclaimed salaries. The Nigerian military, which numbers in about 60,000 soldiers, has been dubbed ill-motivated and under-equipped by military analysts. The under-equipment is a main argument used by Nigerian soldiers refusing to fight, making claims they stand no chance against insurgents.
Nigerian National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki recently highlighted the fact that the Nigerian government hadn’t acquired new military weaponry in over two decades and emphasized the need for asymmetric warfare tactics to be adopted. However, other efforts have reportedly been made to prepare Nigerian soldiers to defeat Boko Haram. Preparations include training from private military contractors, headed by a former Lieutenant-Colonel from South Africa. Guerrilla warfare tactic training by such private military contractors leads the list of reasons of why, according to Nigerian security sources, the Nigerian military has recently seen success against Boko Haram militants.
According to the Nigerian government, the military is in its “final stages” of the offensive against Boko Haram. The military’s recent moves in the Sambisa Forest, known as the headquarters for Boko Haram’s Nigerian operations, have restored a once dwindling support and belief in the Nigerian military’s capabilities. Nevertheless, the military is still in a fragile stage fueled by controversies and corruption. Bringing the military back to its once prestigious reputation of one of Africa’s best is a challenge presidential-elect Muhammadu Buhari, who takes office next week, must face head on. Buhari has already vowed to defeat Boko Haram before he leaves office. In order to do so, he first will have to get to the bottom of corruption allegations amongst military personnel that has plagued the Nigerian army leaving senior officers untrustworthy in the eyes of lower-level soldiers. If Buhari successfully overcomes the challenge, Boko Haram’s military-grade insurgencies against the Nigerian military and the Nigerian people will be coming to an end soon. With that said however, new challenges will arise out of this apparent “victory.” As Boko Haram will be forced to alter or transform their tactics, the Nigerian military will once again be faced attempting to develop methods of defeating Boko Haram’s ever-changing tactics.