By Dr. Nowa Omoigui



The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) was promulgated as the framework for political activity during the current transition.  It states:

"1. -(1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void."

Like the 1979 constitution, it also provides for the existence of the Armed Forces of the Federation, and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.  Roles and missions as currently defined include defence from external aggression; maintenance of territorial integrity and border security,  the suppression of insurrection,  actions in aid of civil authorities to restore order, and other functions that may be prescribed by the National Assembly.  As has been so from the earliest days of the Republic, the composition of the officer corps and other ranks is expected to reflect the federal character of Nigeria.  The President determines the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation subject to laws passed by the legislature. He appoints the Service Chiefs and may delegate his powers relating to the operational use of the Armed Forces of the Federation to any member of the Armed Forces. The Legislature also has the power to make laws governing appointments, promotions and disciplinary control of members of the Armed Forces, compulsory military training or military service for citizens and military training in educational institutions that desire it.

During the military interregnum, the original Royal Nigerian Army Act of 1960 was reviewed and amended, then promulgated as the Armed Forces Decree 105 of 1993.  One of many improvements over the old Act was a new provision under S. 152 (a) which  prevents a convening officer from acting both as the convening officer and confirming authority.  It has since been rechristened the Armed Forces Act.

When civilian rule was in sight, the U.S. lifted visa sanctions on October 26, 1998 and went on to provide electoral assistance for elections.  From October 1998 to September 1999 financial assistance for "democratic institution-building, health care and the strengthening of civil society" totaled $27.5 million.   The US also lifted restrictions on military sales and training and made efforts to help prevent ethnic conflict and promote conflict resolution.   The Office of Transition Initiatives launched a program in April 1999 to help civilians assert control over the military and train newly elected leaders in good governance.  It conducted training for all newly elected officials throughout Nigeria.  At his inauguration in May 1999, President Obasanjo, himself a retired General and former military rule, who survived the machinations of General Abacha, announced the appointment of new service chiefs and purged an initial set of 91 military officers who had held "political positions" at any time in the previous 15 years.   He appointed former Army Chief Lt. General TY Danjuma (rtd) as the Minister for Defence while the civilian daughter of the leader of a major opposition party was made his Minister of state.  Another former Army Chief, (and ex-Director of Military Intelligence)  Lt. Gen Aliyu Gusau became the National Security Adviser, while yet another former Director of Military Intelligence, Major General Abdulai Mohammed was appointed Chief of Staff at the Presidency.  Nigeria's involvement in Sierra Leone, a legacy of the military, was reviewed and a more multilateral approach negotiated with the UN, considerably relieving Nigeria of the huge costs of near unilateral intervention.  In addition to death and disability, the participation of Nigerian units in West African peace keeping operations contributed to a dramatic rise in HIV sero-positivity rates adversely reducing the operational effectiveness of fighting units and at the same posing long term dangers to social and economic stability and consolidation of civil-military relations.  In July an Interagency Assessment Team along with the Inter-agency Working Group on Nigeria, USAID and Department of Defense civil-military delegations were in Nigeria to discuss regional peacekeeping efforts and plans for right-sizing and re-professionalizing the military.

As part of the post-military rule democratization process, US military instructors were sent to Nigeria in 2000 to train battalions in three locations for peace-keeping in West Africa under an agreement between the State Department, the Pentagon, the Nigerian Government and Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI).   Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) is a private organization of retired US military brass, which operates under contract with the State Department to assist in democracy building and military retraining efforts, skirting the bureaucratic hurdles of formal treaty making and potentially denying the US Congress and public its traditional ability to exercise oversight.   It has since conducted an audit, as well as phased management seminars and operational training programs for peacekeeping and peace enforcement called Operation Focus Relief (OFR).   After the first 18 months a review was conducted by the MOD.  In addition to the United States, the United Kingdom and Nigeria have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on military cooperation. It encompasses training and equipment.  British servicemen have been seconded to the MOD.    OTI on the other hand, continued to help build capacity among local civil groups working on issues of reform, including anticorruption and transparency in public contracting.  They helped draft a "Code of Ethics for Parliamentarians".  OTI finally completed its assignment in 2001 after assisting with a reform plan for the underpaid, ill-equipped and poorly trained Nigerian Police Force.

Officials of the Ministry of Defence were not involved in the initial negotiations between Nigeria and the U.S. for the "executive" military agreement and service chiefs reportedly had no input into the syllabus or doctrinal context of the otherwise well intentioned training program.

President Clinton's Millenium Action Plan seemed to have been concluded with the President alone.  Then Chief of Army Staff , Lt. Gen Samuel Victor Malu was reportedly upset by Army Base visits by 'Americans' without clearance from his office as well as alleged inquiries from American consultants about Nigeria's 'defence contingency plan'.   He went public, reminding the Press that a friend today could be an enemy tomorrow.  This highly unusual public outcry from the Army Chief unleashed a firestorm of angst against the program by commentators, some citing violation of sovereignty while others invoked ethnic power control conspiracy theories.  A few armchair strategists said that Nigeria had nothing to learn from the U.S. in the area of peace keeping, while the Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Ogohi, told a visiting delegation from the US Air War College that what Nigeria needed was logistic support, not training.   Alleged exchange of gunfire between a group of foreign instructors and the Nigerian Police during one unfortunate incident reportedly did not help matters.  A series of public explanations and clarifications from US Embassy and MPRI officials followed, but the Nigerian government itself said little, except stress that the cooperation between the Nigerian and American militaries was not a defence pact.  This did not, however, assuage critics.  Some people in Birnin-Kebbi, for example, took to the streets when American soldiers came to conduct training.   The tensions between the vocal Chief of Army Staff and the President on the one hand, and the Americans on the other, subsequently accelerated the wholesale replacement of Lt. Gen. Samuel Victor Leo Malu (Chief of Army Staff), Vice Admiral Victor Ombu (Chief of Naval Staff) and Air Marshal Isaac Alfa (Chief of the Air Staff) on April 24, 2001.  They were replaced by then Maj.-Gen. Alexander Ogomudia, Rear Admiral Samuel Afolayan, and Air Vice Marshal Jonah Wuyep, respectively who were then promoted six months later.

Before then, in a move reminiscent of the first republic MOD, the President had decided to appoint additional Ministers of State to provide oversight for the Army, Navy and Air Force respectively.  This new 4-minister configuration, recommended by the MPRI, replicates institutional arrangements in the United States where there are Secretaries over each service, in addition to the Defence Secretary.  However it came in handy as a mechanism for defusing certain ethnic complaints in the Press from spokespersons for Igbo and Hausa-Fulani interests, concerned that service chiefs were predominantly Christian ethnic minorities from the Middle Belt, just like the Defence Minister, and that they were "marginalized".  Thus the President allocated each of the junior ministerial positions to a Hausa, Mallam Lawal Batagarawa (Army); Igbo, Mr. Dan Chuke (Air Force) and Yoruba, Mrs Modupe Adelaja (Navy); civilians respectively.  Like shifting cultivation, however, following a brief lull, complaints have again surfaced in the Press about the ethnic and zonal distribution of Army GOCs, Naval Flag Officers Commanding, and Air Force Air Officers Commanding.

Concurrently, efforts to enhance civilian authority in the Ministry of Defence were beefed up.  But the new arrangements generated some civil-military tension as some senior commanders felt some of their financial freedoms and administrative prerogatives had shrunk.  For example, just recently, in the wake of finger pointing after the Ikeja Cantonment Ammo dump disaster, military officers claimed that the fact that civilians were occupying top positions at the MOD was the reason why monies allocated for maintenance work were not promptly released.   But the military has not historically been transparent in handling of funds, a situation that made a few individuals rich, and enabled the development of client networks and cliques.  However, although published statutory allocations to the defence sector do not make much sense to the public and have given the military a very wrong image, the reality on the ground for most servicemen is a horror story.    But given the history of neglect of military facilities in general, even under military rule, long before the new dispensation, it is not entirely clear whether the call to replace civilians is not just a cynical power play over the control and award of contracts.

There have been a number of other developments since the return of civil rule.  Defence diplomatic dialogue has been undertaken with a large number of countries, including South Africa, Iran, Australia, France and Germany among others.  A Defence agreement was initialed with South Africa, while it was announced that Nigerian soldiers were headed for Burundi for peace-keeping. Faced with serious public security problems, a national security retreat, first of its kind was held in Jos under the auspices of the National Security Adviser.  The Senate Committee for National Security and Intelligence has also organized a similar program.  Retreats have also been held for military officers all over the country, the stated purpose of which is to allow "reflection" on the past, the present and the future.

Intensive seminars have also been held on a variety of subjects including democracy support.  Civilians at the MOD have also held their own retreats.

A Conflict center was established in Abuja.  The Navy has been very active in anti-smuggling operations and has helped with security issues and rescue in the offshore area and creeks.  The Chief of Army Staff - who is himself from the "core Niger-Delta" - heads a commission which has been charged with holding dialogue with stake-holders in the Niger-Delta.

But there have been controversies about military retiree pension funds, as well as retirement rights and gratuities for former Biafran soldiers and policemen.  Some of these controversies spilled over onto the streets necessitating mobilization of the Police.  The Chief of Naval Staff was even locked out of the MOD on one occasion by angry pensioners.   An alleged contract for the upgrading and overhauling of 23 Nigerian Airforce MIG 21 fighter jets valued at $138,200,000, was reportedly the context of a nasty disagreement between the MOD and the Presidency on one hand, and the Air Force on the other.   Two retired Generals, Admiral Aikhomu and Lt. General Useni were prevented from leaving the country for "security reasons" by the State Security Service (SSS) prompting a firestorm of protests from the legislature, suspicious of political motives.  The SSS cited the constitution to justify its actions and challenged the men to go to court after the fact.  What it did not do, however, was obtain a court order before restricting the movements of the two gentlemen. The practice of getting an apriori court order from a senior Judge needs to be mandated by legislation as a safeguard against arbitrary actions by security outfits, no matter how well intentioned.  Last December a serious crisis developed when the executive was accused of fiddling with the proposed new electoral Bill, in order to foreclose viable opposition in the forthcoming elections.  No sooner had that been resolved when the Attorney General of the federation was assassinated, shot at blank range with a shot gun in his own bedroom.

The perpetrators still have not been brought to book.

Shortly thereafter, a transit ammunition dump at Ikeja Cantonment exploded, resulting in over 1000 casualties, mostly children.  The Vice President of the country was stoned by angry soldiers when he paid a visit to the base.

The President boxed himself into a corner when he was quoted as telling grieving women at the cantonment to "shut up" - a slip for which he later apologized, claiming he thought they were "area boys".  The problem of secondary detonations from unstable munitions was, however, said to be beyond the capabilities of the Nigerian military reflecting serious professional decay after all the years of military rule and institutional neglect.  Thus British and American ordnance experts were flown in to help.

This time there was no public outcry against "foreign troops".   The author has found it interesting to watch some of the expatriate ordnance experts thoroughly savor the spotlight, calling one "press conference" after another each time there is a controlled detonation, sort of like children being summoned to witness "Knock-out" at christmas.

Interestingly, however, pending a Board of Inquiry, the results of which the President promised to make public, a bitter blame game ensued between the National Assembly and the Executive over who was responsible for the disaster. Military sources claim that members of the National Assembly were fully briefed about the poor condition of the dump.  Legislators cited the alleged tendency of the Executive to ignore the House in budget decisions and implementation.  The Minister said he had given orders for money to be released by the MOD for the appropriate preventive steps.  Civil servants were in turn blamed by the military for not following through. Whether the blast was accidental or deliberate remains an open question.

The country had barely settled down from the Ammo disaster when another ethnic crisis erupted in Lagos, requiring intervention by what was already an army on the verge of mutiny, with troubling reports of other ranks lobbying that disaster relief funds should not be handled by their own officers.  As if this was not enough, it was followed by the nation's first National Police strike which, once again, necessitated the mobilization of the military to perform VIP protection and other Police duties.  The situation was very delicate but the strike was eventually called off after promises of welfare benefits to non-striking men and discipline for strikers.  However, a more serious strike involving both junior Policemen and soldiers was then threatened, which was even associated with anonymous letters being sent to foreign diplomatic missions asking them to leave the country.  (This was later shown to be a hoax)  Following an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees of the ruling party, the Inspector General and the topmost layer of the Police High Command was belatedly replaced.

Plans were also reported by newspapers for a "massive military shake up".

But as of the time of writing of this paper no such "massive military shake-up", the purposes of which are unstated, has occurred.


* This is an excerpt of a much larger publication by the author.  References will be listed at the end of the last installment