Dapchi and Chibok: Time to reorient our military intelligence, by Kamal Ololade AHMED

Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Gen Gabriel Olonishakin

Several comments have been emerging on different media following the abduction of more than 100 school girls from Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi in Yobe State. It is really a sad occurrence and we hope they are re-united safely with their families soon. The common submission in different quarters is that the government has not learnt the necessary lesson from the Chibok girls’ abduction which attracted international outcry. This sordid development came at the background of increased displacement and sharp decline in school attendance in the northeast region more from the fear of abduction than the actual violence of the Boko Haram insurgents. Most certainly, the successful abduction of the girls by the assailants in one of the worst hit states by the insurgency is a great setback to the huge achievement this administration has recorded in making the region more secure, open to developmental projects and accessible to humanitarian workers.

Incidents like this pose direct questions to our intelligence capacity as a nation. The ability of government to foil a large scale abduction has a lot to do with not only the physical presence of military men but also effective use of information technology through satellite telecommunication. Remote sensing has been used for centuries to maintain advantage over the enemy by having the knowledge of deployment of strategic targets. For military operation, remote sensing data is essential for strategic planning, deployment, monitoring, targeting and threat assessment. The Defence Space Administration in Nigeria has to be properly funded for research into cost effective technology for proper coverage of the cyberspace. The reality of this time, rather in times past is that preventing security lapse is more important than redeeming it. The role of the National Intelligence Agency and Defence Space Administration has been too lateral to give a picture of a holistic approach to the multifarious security challenges facing the nation.

The Zimmermann espionage and how British was able to turn the world war 1 around always resonates in the advocacy for strong intelligence base and ability to intercept information. When the world war 1 began, the British cut few under sea cable lines that connected Germany with the outside world. Germany faced with only two options of either use of radio which the British could intercept or Swedish diplomatic channels which travelled on lines that passed through Great Britain believed that their messages were still safe because they were coded. The British naval intelligence broke the code and intercepted the message from German foreign minister Arthur Zimmerman to his representative in Mexico promising Mexico assistance to reconquer lost territories in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona if they supported them in the war. This was how British was able to bring the which was hitherto reluctant into the war and the US troops eventually tipped the balance in favour of the allies.

            No doubt, we have a different case scenario but one can imagine the power of information and intelligence in such instance over a hundred years ago. Many countries have advanced from hot air balloon for aerial sensing before the first world war to high resolution satellite. The Nigerian military cannot boast of effective remote sensing data to view  theatre fronts from war room. Many gallant soldiers have been lost to ambush by the insurgent groups because of the poor fore knowledge of routes as a result of lack of invaluable facilities like this. That is how more than 200 girls in the first instance and more than 100 in the second were abducted without any footage on how they were transported. The 1976 Israeli rescue mission in Kampala to release some of her citizens taken as prisoners is a good example of extraordinary use of intelligence. As the Yoruba will say, a strong man who applies no intelligence is the weakest of all. Fighting terrorism and ensuring a more secured territory is beyond physical display of military strength since the enemies are non state actors with no definite location as such. These faceless individuals apart from raising funds through abduction to continue their dastardly acts, they capitalise on the weakness of the security apparatus to overwhelm our national psyche with such operation.


•The National Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency, Defence Space Administration and other crucial security outfits need to be re-oriented towards playing effective roles in preventing security lapses.

•A proper and efficient military satellite technology for data sensing imagery is long over due.

•Government needs to fund research into technology for area surveying without refuelling which is cheaper than launching satellite

•The military should train youths in the regions where security threats are high as surrogates in their fight against insurgency, violent conflict and other threat to national security.

As this government focuses on development in contrast with the huge on defence in the last administration that went into the pocket of security personnels without having any impact in the life of the people they purported to secure, there must be certain measures of defence to forestall similar disaster in the future. We must always put these priceless words of Robert S. McNamara before our eyes when he asserted that:

“Security is not military hardware, though it may include it.  Security is not military force, though it may involve it. Security is not traditional military activity, though it may encompass it. Security is development. Without development, there can be no security.  A developing nation that does not in fact develop simply cannot remain “secure.” It cannot remain secure for the intractable reason that its own citizenry cannot shed its

human nature. If security implies anything, it implies a minimal measure of order and stability. Without internal development of at least a minimal degree, order and stability are simply not possible.  They are not possible because human nature cannot be frustrated beyond intrinsic limits.  It reacts because it must.”

*Kamal Ololade AHMED is a graduate of Political Science Education from the of Benin and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Defence and Strategic Studies at the Nigerian Defence Academy,{NDA} Kaduna where he is researching on Internal Displacement and Human Security in the  Northeast.

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