Strengthening bilateral military cooperation: The Irabor Style
Strengthening bilateral military cooperation: The Irabor Style
What is now known as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), was first organized, solely, as a Nigerian force in 1994, during the regime of late Head-of-State, General Sani Abacha. It was formed to help checkmate banditry and to facilitate free movement” along the country’s northern borders.
Then in 1998, it was expanded to include units from neighboring Chad and the Niger Republic, with the purpose of dealing with common cross-border security issues in the Lake Chad region. Baga town, in Borno State, was made its headquarters.
After the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, and security forces across the North East region were increasingly and directly been challenged by the terrorists’ group, the MNJTF’s mandate, in April 2012, was expanded to encompass counter-terrorism operations.
It would however be fair to assert that the joint force has brought some dividends. It has carried out periodic operations, often involving troops from one country fighting in the country next door. Combat offensives have won victories against insurgents and helped instill an esprit de corps among participating troops.
‘’In all theatres of military engagement, I shall consult with relevant stakeholders to set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound military objectives’’
Working together has enabled forces from different countries to learn from each other, promoted the idea of cross-border cooperation, and improved tactical coordination. Joint operations, mainly involving Chadian troops deploying into the other countries, helped stem Boko Haram’s spread in 2015 and 2016 and squeezed the group, resulting in its split into at least three factions.
In short, MNJTF offensives in 2017 and 2018, along with a more sustained operation in 2019, also reversed militant gains, freed civilians captured by them or trapped in areas Boko Haram controlled, and facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid.
But aside from the efforts of the MNJTF troops, the support foreign nations like the United States, Britain, and their international allies have been providing to Nigeria is energizing the counter-insurgency war. It has helped to restore sanity in many local governments and towns, hitherto under the stranglehold of terrorists, in the North East.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari and Barack Obama, ex-US President in July 2015, met at the White House to discuss the state of security in Nigeria. Following the United Kingdom (UK’s) contribution of £5 million, the Obama administration then pledged $5 million to aid Nigeria as it leads the MNJTF.
While it may appear as if the undying gallantry showcased by MNJTF troops, over the years, and the invaluable supports offered by foreign nations, are the only best global strategies of fighting insurgency, General Leo Irabor seems to be enamored with the Nigerian Armed Forces forging military cooperation with its foreign counterparts.
While unveiling his leadership philosophy after assuming office as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the Delta State-born Army General, made this known: “In view of the transnational nature, scope and implications of many contemporary national security challenges, I shall promote international military cooperation and collaboration as well as combined responses and action through proactive and virile defense diplomacy.
“In all theatres of military engagement, I shall consult with relevant stakeholders to set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound military objectives. I shall promote collectivism as a fundamental principle in all our interactions and actions. This shall be the fulcrum of our foreign engagements as well as our inter-Services and intra-agency interactions.”
At a time President Buhari had already given the CDS and other Service Chiefs a marching order to end insecurity in the country, bilateral military cooperation between Nigeria and other nations, for Irabor, is primus inter pares.
Small wonder (but thanks to Gen. Irabor’s visionary leadership), Nigeria and Tanzania recently pledged to sustain Defence collaboration.
The Armed Forces of both countries, at a forum in Abuja, expressed commitment to deepen their Defence collaboration in order to address contemporary security challenges bedeviling the two nations. Irabor expressed Nigeria’s firm commitment while hosting participants of the 9th intake of the Tanzanian National Defence College (TNDC) course 2020/2021, at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ).
Represented by the Director of Policy, DHQ, Maj. Gen. Mainasara Masanawa, the CDS, said there was a need for the Nigerian and Tanzanian Armed Forces to strengthen existing Defence collaboration, that dates back to when both countries gained independence. According to Gen. Irabor, “As Africans, both militaries have to cooperate to enable them to share knowledge and modalities for addressing diverse security challenges in order to promote peace and security on the African continent.”
In his remark, the leader of the TNDC delegation, Brig. Gen. Marianus Mhagama expressed appreciation to the AFN leadership for facilitating their trip to Nigeria in this critical period of the global pandemic, as well as the cordial and warm reception accorded him and his team.
Mhagama, who is also the Senior Directing Staff of the TNDC, disclosed that Tanzania has over the years maintained a harmonious relationship with Nigeria.
He eulogized the Nigerian Military for participating in several peace support operations and the stabilization of democracy in some African nations.
Gen. Mhagama, however advocated for more training slots for personnel of the Tanzania Armed Forces in the Nigerian National Defence College.
‘’The purchase of the A-29 Super Tucano air-crafts is another example of Nigeria’s commitment to interoperability and security in the region’’.
In February, the Commander, United States Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, with other US officials also paid a courtesy visit to General Irabor, to further the long-standing partnership and security cooperation between the two nations.
The visit, among other things, was aimed at building a stronger relationship between the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the United States of America.
Gen. Townsend also discussed regional security issues with Irabor, expressing the US Command’s gratitude for the assistance Nigeria provided during a hostage rescue operation of an American citizen, last year.
“When we asked for their help, the Nigerian government answered the call. Our hostage recovery mission in October would have been impossible without their support,” Townsend began.
He then continued: “They quickly provided assistance that helped the U.S. military to save an American life. That is a strong example of our partnership with Nigeria. The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. is built on several pillars including security cooperation. At the United States Africa Command we will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.
“Our economic relationship with Nigeria is already strong, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of security relationships. Our security cooperation partnership with Nigeria’s military will strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders, enhance overall security, and combat terrorism in the North East.
“Recalled that Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year. Purchasing the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is another example of Nigeria’s commitment to interoperability and security in the region.”
‘’With the robust partnership, our military and security operations will be strengthened and enhanced, the capabilities to secure land and sea borders as well as the overall security, and combat terrorism in the North East”.
Other foreign militaries, just like the Tanzanian and American, will be interested in collaborating with our Armed Forces. Hence, it behooves the Gen. Irabor-led DHQ to be proactive in forging military cooperations for the Nigerian military. With Irabor’s mind solely fixed on ending the Boko Haram’s menace and arresting the tidal wave of insecurity across the country, many will hope to see him signing a Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with other world nations for military hardware production, supply, and personnel capacity building, among others.
The immediate-past CDS, Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, no doubt must have signed MoUs and partnership agreements for Nigeria with some countries. As such, Gen. Irabor must find ways to ensure the pacts are faithfully implemented, while also soliciting the firepower of advanced foreign militaries to crush Boko Haram, ISWAP terrorists, bandits, and violent secessionist groups, decisively.
Meanwhile, it will be heartwarming if the US and other international allies of Nigeria provide the MNJTF with cutting-edge military technology and training, such as surveillance drones and planning operations. This will help the task force to identify, track Boko Haram fighters’ positions, and then plan formidable strategies against the group.