A research paper prepared for the European Peace Facility (EPF), a European Union project for peace support operations across the globe, has revealed that terrorist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP), launched 500 attacks on military bases and formations of the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) between 2015 and 2020.
The paper presented by a Researcher and Director, S4 Initiative (Safeguarding Security Sector Stockpiles) based in Borex, Switzerland, Mr Eric Berman, titled: “The Management of Lethal Materiel in Conflict Settings: Existing Challenges and Opportunities for the European Peace Facility”, said lethal weapons including small and light arms seized from the military bases during attacks by terrorists, sustained the 12-year insurgency in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
While the report cited corruption and diminished morale as being largely responsible for loss of equipment, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has however said the Armed Forces of Nigeria are winning the war against insurgency in all the theatres of operations, including the North East and the North West regions of the country.
Defence Spokesman, Maj. Gen. Olufemi Sawyerr, said the fact that thousands of insurgents were surrendering with their families and laying down their arms, was an indication that government was winning the war against insurgency, adding that the act of surrender was also a sign of victory for the nation.
But the research paper claimed that between 2015 and 2020, some 2,368 “uniformed personnel fatalities were recorded”, stressing also that the insurgents launched 500 attacks on MNJTF bases within a six-year period, where no fewer than 2,368 military personnel were killed.
A breakdown of the figure showed that Nigeria recorded 1,952 fatalities while Chad recorded 217; Niger, 132 and Cameroon 67.
Further, the figures showed that Nigeria lost 134 personnel in 2015, 157 in 2016, 171 in 2017, 425 in 2018, 642 in 2019 and 423 in 2020. The report said Chad recorded loss of one soldier in 2015, four in 2016, nine in 2017, zero in 2018, 34 in 2019 and 169 in 2020.
Niger, however, recorded 14, 2015; 57, 2016; zero, 2017; 19, 2019; 22, 2019 and 20, 2020.
Cameroon recorded the death of 36 personnel in 2015, nine in 2016, one in 2017, zero in 2018, 21 in 2019 and zero in 2020.
Yearly totals within the period under review showed that the four troop-contributing member nations – Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon – lost 185 personnel in 2015, 227 in 2016, 181, 2017; 444, 2018, 719, 2019 and 612 in 2020.
“Official data concerning attacks on security sector personnel is difficult to obtain, but reports suggest that more than 2,000 uniformed security sector personnel have died in the conflict.
“As alarming as these numbers are, they likely under-estimate the true scale and scope of the losses incurred concerning the security personnel of the four Lake Chad Basin countries.
“A memorial to fallen comrades since 2013 at the headquarters of the Nigerian military’s operations in Northeast Nigeria had in 2018 listed the names of more than 1,300 soldiers inscribed on it,” it said.
“An estimated 600 soldiers lost their lives in attacks by Boko Haram and died within a six month period in 2018 alone,” the report stated, citing research authorities.
The report also detailed reasons why weapons are lost to insurgents.
“The loss of materiel as a direct consequence of these attacks is substantial. A gun truck, fitted with a machine gun will frequently transport several tins of linked cartridges totalling hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Sometimes substantial quantities of weaponry kept at the base as reserves can be taken from military positions the insurgents had themselves attacked.
“When a base is overrun, crew-served weaponry such as machine guns, mortars and towed artillery” are carted away, “yet, a lot of that materiel is in good enough condition to be of use to the militants,” it said.
Contingent-owned equipment secured through seizure from regional security forces likely dwarfs materiel check points, forward operating bases, “Super Camps” and sector headquarters,” it said.
The research paper also cited as reasons for the loss of personnel and materiel, “insufficient quality and quantity of both lethal and non-lethal materiel for the security sector” and ammunition, as well as “tanks only firing twice, armoured personnel carriers running for 10 to 15 from boots to tanks”, and has compiled a number of soldiers’ grievances about insufficient body armour minutes before overheating, machine guns jamming, and mortar shells failing to detonate.
“These long-standing issue summarises the scope of the problem in Nigeria, “ranging concerns are not based on anecdotal accounts. They are systemic”, it said, citing research authorities, “A similar situation affected Cameroonian security forces’ early efforts against Boko Haram.”
Berman, also citing research works, said, “Corruption goes a long way to explaining why equipment is lacking. It is endemic within Nigerian society to implicitly accuse the military of purposely prolonging the conflict for their own ends and current President Muhammadu Buhari, acknowledged this, pledging to counter it as a central part against entrenched corruption within the military, ranging from extortion at checkpoints of his first presidential campaign in 2015.
“But the challenge facing the country is enormous and progress has been slow and uneven. Malfeasance within the defence sector is by no means limited to Nigeria. It is a problem throughout much of the world, including elsewhere in the sub-region,” it explained.
The report also found that the regional response to the “Boko Haram” conflict underscored both the need for EU support—for example through the provision of lethal materiel and training via European Peace Facility (EPF) and the assessment of risks inherent in any kind of engagement.
“The levels of loss of uniformed personnel and lethal materiel from state stockpiles in the Lake Chad region are astonishingly high. In six years (between 2015 and 2020) several times as many uniformed personnel serving in and alongside the Multinational Joint Task Force were killed due to ‘malicious acts’ than those, who have served in UN peacekeeping operations over a span of more than 70 years.
“Reporting suggests that Boko Haram factions have seized Contingent-owned Equipment (COE) that includes a wide-range of heavy weapon systems. Some of the armoured vehicles and towed artillery lost to Boko Haram originated from EU member states. The quantity of small arms and light weapons—many of which also were manufactured in the EU—is so great that it has sustained the insurgency for over a decade,” Berman said.
The report, therefore, recommended EU’s further engagement with the African Union (AU) and the ECOWAS in addressing issues raised by the report.