The prime duty of the military traditionally is to defend a nation’s territorial integrity against external aggressors.
However, certain exigencies could warrant the deployment of the military to internal security operations, to complement the efforts of the police. Soldiers could also assist civil authorities in efforts to curtail humanitarian disasters.
Security challenges in Nigeria in recent times have ranged from sectarian violence in some northern parts of the country to militancy in the Niger Delta area.
The imperatives of addressing such challenges had been daunting.
It was not surprising, therefore that at this year’s annual Chief of Army Staff Conference, the choice of the theme, “Nigerian Army in Emerging Global Security Challenges”, became very apt.
President Goodluck Jonathan then urged the Nigerian Army to partner other security agencies to address the nation’s security challenges.
Jonathan, represented by the Minister of State for Defence, Alhaji Murtala Yar’Adua, said that “emerging dimensions of threats to national security are a challenge that must be confronted headlong and defeated”.
He stressed that the spate of violent crimes in parts of the country, including kidnapping, armed robbery and assassinations, were some of contemporary security challenges facing the nation.
“The unfortunate act of terrorism that was unleashed on the nation during the Independence Day bomb blast is another emerging threat by some unpatriotic and undemocratic elements in the country,” he said.
Jonathan, however, expressed optimism that the armed forces would apply their customary vigour and dedication, for which they were known, to achieve its objectives.
He assured the military of the Federal Government’s support in efforts to improve its capability to effectively and efficiently perform its constitutional duties.
The Minister of Defence, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, also outlined the ministry’s performance in 2010, saying that some achievements had been recorded in the defence sector.
Kayode reiterated that the vision of the country’s miltary was to build and maintain flexible, combat-ready and highly trained armed forces that were proactive and mobile.
“Our goal is to have the armed forces, capable of defending the territorial integrity of the country when called upon, while bracing to the challenges of complex security issues,’’ he said.
Kayode said that his ministry had provided an impetus to such vision by transforming the country’s armed forces through training and provision of modern military equipment.
He, however, noted that the defence forces had performed well in its security role by protecting key national assets in the Niger-Delta and in other parts of the federation.
He cited the Joint Task Force (JTF) operation in the Niger Delta as an illustration of the quality service delivery of the military.
“Our efforts included curbing the activities of the militants and illegal bunkering in the Niger-Delta, provision of security for the companies that handled dredging of lower River Niger at Lots 1 and 2,’’ he said.
Kayode also mentioned the establishment of Special Task Force (STF) in Plateau State, which launched and executed an operation codenamed “Safe Haven”. He added that the team comprised personnel of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police.
“Our men also curbed Boko Haram activities, while restoring peace in some north-eastern states. We produced and circulated a Code of Conduct manual for internal security operations,” he said.
On his part, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, reiterated the commitment of the armed forces to rout the militants in the Niger Delta, as he launched a joint military exercise codenamed “Operation NEM’’.
Advising the soldiers on the challenges ahead, Petirin said: “It is only when we fight together that we are sure of success and if we are going to fight together, we must train together.’’
He reiterated the readiness of the military to collaborate with other security agencies to ensure security during and after next year’s general elections.
“We are always standing by. If we are needed to support the police in anyway during the forthcoming elections, we are ready to do so.
“We will just be standing by and ready to assist if called upon,’’ Petirin added.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubike Ihejirika, said that concerted efforts were made by the government and security agencies to effectively respond to the challenges of increasing threats to internal security.
He said that all the efforts were geared toward ensuring adequate strategies to transform the army into a better force that was able to meet contemporary challenges.
“And as part of the strategic response to these contemporary challenges, the Nigerian Army has commenced the implementation of the new ORBAT,’’ he said.
Ihejirika stressed that the army had taken up President Jonathan’s challenge to eliminate kidnapping, militancy and sectarian violence, adding that a brigade had been formed within the 82 Division for the purpose of achieving the objective.
Mindful of the emerging challenges of providing internal security, Ihejirike said that the military had readjusted its training programmes to incorporate maintenance of internal security.
“We have also designed and adopted new strategies to check extremists in Bauchi, Jos and Borno, so that they can be checked before they cause havoc,’’ he said.
The army chief, nonetheless, stressed that the citizens had complementary roles to play in ensuring internal security, saying that the people should assist security services by divulging useful information that would promote peace, law and order in the country.