The Metele attack in Borno State which left 23 soldiers dead and 31 wounded, has demonstrated that the war against the insurgents is not yet over. This reality must be accepted by the government and the military authorities. Although unofficial reports put the casualty figures at 100 or more. Nigerians are particularly worried that the war is taking this ugly dimension and call for an overhaul of the anti-insurgency operations. The despair of the citizens over this sad development is quite understandable.
It is also good that the army authorities have come up with the official casualty figures after due verification and consultations. According to them, 23 soldiers were killed in the ill-fated attack and 31 wounded. The wounded are reportedly receiving medical attention in various hospitals.
We commend President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai, for visiting Maiduguri, the epicentre of the insurgency, to commiserate with the soldiers. The government’s earlier claims that the Boko Haram sect had been ‘technically defeated’, have been proved wrong by many daring attacks of the sect in recent times. What is not in doubt now is that the insurgents are resilient and have used every opportunity to carry out devastating attacks on the soldiers. This is the problem the government must address.
Since June, the Boko Haram insurgents and their collaborators had carried out some daring successful attacks on military formations which led to the death of some soldiers and carting away of vital arms and ammunition.
The government must admit now that the nation is fully at war. The frequency of our losses in terms of men and materials, especially in recent months, is unacceptable and something must be done to decisively stop the terrorists. President Buhari’s recent resolve to defeat the insurgents must be backed with the supply of the required military equipment.
Though this mission would not be so easy to achieve in view of the unconventional nature of the war and the many reverses recorded so far, all efforts must be concentrated to ensure that we give it our best shot. The Boko Haram insurgency has obviously grown in intensity and reach, and as such the military has to change its tactics and strategies to continue to be ahead of the insurgents.
The intelligence gathering mechanism of the military must be seriously interrogated with a view to detecting its weaknesses and addressing them. The military must seek collaborations with the locals, especially in intelligence gathering and sharing.
If there is ever a time for better and efficient inter-agency collaboration amongst our armed forces and indeed those of the neighbouring countries, it is now. So, all instances of inter-agency rivalry must be promptly resolved, especially in the area of intelligence sharing and operational collaborations.
The combat readiness and general welfare of our troops must be generally improved. The issue of underfunding of the military which dates back to decades ago, should be urgently addressed. The Federal Government, as President Buhari has promised, must muster the political will to procure the necessary modern military equipment to successfully prosecute the war against the insurgents. This is why all hands must be on deck to reverse the huge shortfalls in the procurement of arms and ammunition.
Let our federal legislators, as the approving authority for all the military procurement, be aware of their duties and discharge them with utmost patriotism. The recent attempts by some legislators to politicise the requests for approval and release of funds for military spending could not have been helpful.
Our political and military authorities should watch our borders, especially the Lake Chad Basin area with a view to strengthening collaborations and alliances with neighbouring countries. In this respect, therefore, the activities of fifth columnists and saboteurs must be closely watched and promptly handled.