By Sumaila Ogbaje, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
When President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired General and reputable for non-nonsense approach to security issues, assumed duty on May 29, 2015 his major challenge was to end the menace of Boko Haram in the North East.
One of his major campaign promises was not only to vanquish Boko Haram but also restore peace and security nationwide.
At that time, Boko Haram insurgents were in firm control no fewer than 17 Local Government Areas in the country where they illegally exercised administrative powers and extorted residents.
It was a situation that resulted in a major humanitarian crisis for Nigeria as millions of residents of the affected areas fled southwards, while others sought refuge in neigbouring Niger, Cameroun and Chad.
The situation also forced schools to be closed, the climax of which was the infamous Chibok girls abduction, hundreds of thousands of children orphaned and families left in devastating poverty.
Eight after, the Buhari administration has done much to retrieve the areas controlled by the Boko Haram terrorists.
It has resettled many displaced persons, schools have reopened and economic activities restored in virtually the whole of the North East.
However, while government battled Boko Haram, another terrorist group, the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) established its presence in the region.
The Theatre Commander, Operation Hadin Kai, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Ali, recently disclosed that military operations had compelled the terrorists to surrender in droves, adding that the number of surrendered terrorists stood at 94,655 as at April 23.
Security analysts believed that the feat was achieved through enhanced collaboration and cooperation among security agencies.
Since the assumption of command by the current Service Chiefs, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, has sustained effort to ensure cooperation in operations planning and execution by the army, navy and air force.
Irabor has tasked the National Defence College (NDC) and the three services war colleges to organise periodic Joint Operations Planning Exercise (JOPEX) for their participants as part of effort to promote synergy in the armed forces.
While calm gradually returned to the North East, the North West witnessed accelerated banditry, kidnappings and skirmishes between farmers and herders.
The military has responded with Operation Hadarin Daji which has sustained the fight against banditry/terrorism with commendable result.
As the curtain falls on the Buhari administration, the debate has continued about the performance of an administration led by a war-hardened General in the security sub-sector.
Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief has been upbeat about the score card of his troops when compared against the situation it met on ground on May 29,2015.
According to him, this administration has achieved remarkable transformation of the military in the areas of fighting power, training, operations, manpower, remunerations and medical services.
“These are in addition to maintenance, efficiency, accommodation and expansion of forces.
“The improvements in these areas have collectively enhanced the army’s capacity to effectively carry out its constitutional mandate.
“The fighting power of our army was at low ebb as at May 2015,” Buhari said at the Nigerian Army Trooping and Presentation of Colours Parade recently in Abuja.
Buhari’s claim is backed by Global Terrorism Index 2022 report which showed that deaths caused by Boko Haram dropped by 92 per cent from 2,131 in 2015 to 178 in 2021.
The International Maritime Bureau report in a report said Nigeria in 2021 recorded the lowest number of piracy attacks on its waters in 27 years.
Under Buhari, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) received 38 brand new aircraft such as 10 Super Mushshak; five Mi-35M Helicopters; two Bell 412 Helicopters; four Agusta 109 Helicopters; two Mi-171E Helicopters; 12 A-29 Super Tucano; and three JF-17 Thunder since 2015.
Orders have been placed for 36 additional aircraft, comprising 12 AH-1Z Attack Helicopters and 24 M-346 Fighter Attack aircraft for the NAF.
These equipment and others have provided aerial support for ground troops in the fight against terrorism, banditry and related crimes.
The administration’s performance in this sector has also received approval from some stakeholders in the northeast, the area that was most ravaged by insurgency before the administration birthed.
“As a driver moving following roads in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and Bauchi, things have improved for the better.
“No more incidents of attacks and abduction on highway by insurgents and there is drastic reduction of securty checkpoints as things continue to improve,” Samaila Ibrahim, a commercial bus driver, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, the epicentre of the insurgency, who spoke on return of peace and normalcy in the state while presenting this year’s budget, said more people were gaining access to farms in affected areas of the state.
“As a result of improvement in security situation, our citizens gained more access to their farm lands this year and are now harvesting their crops without let or hindrance by the insurgents”, the media recently quoted Zulum saying.
Similarly, Prof.Isaac Albert, Director, Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies said Buhari’s appointment of new set Service Chiefs was the game changer.
“I think they are going to do their best and justify the confidence reposed on them by Nigerians.
“We expect more improve security situation in the country now,” he told NAN recently.
However, it is not every Nigerian that is impressed with the performance of the administration on security matters.
A security expert, Abdullahi Jabi, the Secretary-General, International Institute of Professional Security (IIPS), said though the Buhari administration inherited insurgency from the past administration, it escalated in its time.
Similarly, a group, Foundation for Environmental, Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), said the Buhari’s administration could have performed better than it did,
This contained in a statement issued by the group after the 2022 St Francis Catholic Church Owo, Ondo shooting.
The statement signed by the group’s Executive Director, Mr Nelson Nwafor and Head, Corporate Accountability and Human Rights Enforcement, Mr. Akande Femisi said the administration should up its game if it would succeed in banishing insecurity in the country.
Irrespective of the divide, it is clear that insurgency has been drastically minimized by the administration; bombs no longer go off at intervals while kidnapping for ransom and banditry have drastically reduced towards the twilight of the administration.
Security experts say it is the duty of the incoming administration to learn from any identified mistakes of the present administration and consolidate on the success it recorded.