Nigeria’s most legitimacy-challenged elected ruler, Bola Tinubu faced the first cracks on his tight grip on the parliament when he sought war authorisation against neighboring Niger’s military coupists.
The day before, I had been invited to the senate to provide evidence objecting to Tinubu’s cabinet nomination of a money launderer in a case the US Department of Justice called it’s biggest kleptocracy forfeiture.
Unfortunately, the senators told me that Mr Tinubu had summoned them the day prior directing them not to object to Atiku Bagudu’s nomination.
Still smarting from his violation of separation of powers, his subsequent request for war powers gave the perfect opportunity for near open rebellion to Tinubu. In a live broadcast, Tinubu’s stooge Senate President abruptly called a closed door session when he was warned of a humiliating impending defeat on the house floor.
Tinubu’s ill-advised US—backed war-mongering may have cost him political capital but it would be an unwinnable war even if he had forced it through the senate.
Firstly, Nigeria is already embroiled in multiple wars. While the US aims to maintain an army with the capacity to sustain two wars simultaneously, Nigeria lacks the capacity for the multiplicity of home wars it faces. Prior to General Buhari, President Jonathan was fighting terror groups Boko Haram, Ansaru & Fulani militia. Gen. Buhari increased the number of “terror” groups with his designation of “IPOB” the Igbo separatist movement as terrorists, deadly clashes with the Shiites, the explosion of “Bandits” or killer kidnap Fulani syndicates and the emergence of ISIS in west Africa amongst others. As such the Nigerian military is engaged in deadly hostilities in four of the nation’s six zones – North-West, North-East, North-Central and South-East.
In addition, the military is diffused and overstretched in 30 out of 36 states on security duty in place of the ineffectual police.
Although he picked a fellow Muslim as VP from the North, for the first time since the 1999 return to democracy, the domineering Fulani jihadi nomadic tribe are not in the presidency or vice. However they’re a regional group found also in Niger so they Nigerian Fulanis see an attack on Niger as an attack against them and their own!
Fourthly, Tinubu is a southern Muslim looked down upon by many northerners as not Islamist enough. His leading a charge against the “purer” Fulanis will likely be viewed as an ethnoreligious war with disastrous consequences. His predecessor, Gen Buhari had infamously called prior president Jonathan’s counter terrorism as a “war on the north.” He like Tinubu are from the despised south.
Then there is the tricky issue that Nigeria and Niger are members of the Multinational Joint Taskforce (MJTF) both combatting terrorists in Nigeria. The MJTF base in Baga northeast Nigeria experienced a horrific onslaught by Boko Haram that claimed thousands of lives in the deadliest terror attack of the year 2015, including troops of both countries’ armies. In addition to the obvious complication that both nations soldiers have fought side by side and shared combat tactics and battle strategies, they have also died together forging strong bonds in the crucible of war. How then can they be turned against each other?
Ironically, the very reasons given by the Niger army for their coup are replete in Nigeria. Nigerian troops have also complained that when they surrounded Boko Haram head Shekau’s camp, they were ordered to pull back rather than capture one of the world’s most wanted terrorists with a $7million bounty on his head. As such, the Nigerian army will be sympathetic and even envious of their Niger brothers-at-arms. Needless to say, the Nigerian currency is trading less than the Francophone CFA, and the economic situation in Nigeria, like the electricity situation, is much worse than Niger.
Perhaps a far more troubling reason is the case of a Nigerien arms dealer who duped the Nigerian army of billions in weapons contracts. Gen. Buhari’s regime declared him wanted for defrauding Nigeria of arms funds in the amounts of approximately $400 million, N400 million, and €10 million.
The whole defence intelligence of Nigeria cannot find the person they contracted to supply them arms.
Per media reports, “A Niger Republic citizen, Aboubakar Hima, is currently on the wanted list of the Nigeria’s security agencies for defrauding the Nigerian Army in a N166billion contract for arms supply.
SaharaReporters observed that Hima, said to b9e Niger Republic Fulani, is also being hunted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
“The public is hereby notified that the person whose photograph appears in this alert is wanted by the EFCC.
“Aboubakar Hima is wanted in a case of criminal conspiracy, contract scam, misappropriation of public funds, money laundering and fraud to the tune of over $394million, €9.9million and N369million.
“The suspect, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Societe D’Equipment Internationaux, SEI, is alleged to have received the sums for the purchase of equipment for the Nigerian Military. However, investigations have revealed discrepancies in the supply of the equipment.
“46-year-old Hima is a Nigerien citizen. The suspect speaks French and Hausa Languages fluently but has limited English proficiency.”
Earlier in the year, the National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Babagana Monguno (retd,), had raised an alarm that the funds meant for the purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram and other security challenges in the country were missing.
In an interview he granted to the BBC Hausa, Monguno had said,
“The funds are nowhere to be found and the weapons have not been seen and the newly appointed service chiefs have declared that they have not seen the weapons.” “
One person from Niger stole almost N200 Billion arms money and vanished.
No one has been fired or prosecuted for this mega fraud. The service chiefs under whom this mega looting occurred have been rewarded with ambassadorial appointments.
The bigger problem firstly is that this fellow has already significantly decapitated and incapacitated Nigeria’s military arsenal. Similarly, he has significant intelligence on what Nigeria’s military has and has not, which gives Niger a competitive advantage.
- Nigeria has thousands of refugees in Niger. Sadly, these citizens will be caught in the crossfire and could face hostilities following military action. Just as occurred in Liberia, where two Nigerian journalists amongst others disappeared till this day while covering ECOMOG’s peacekeeping mission, Nigerians in Niger will be vulnerable targets.
- Niger has all the strategic leverage over Nigeria including a $10Billion gas Pipeline passing through to Europe which the coupists have suspended, the River tributary into Nigeria which has been dammed, power supply for which they owe Nigeria N40Billion, oil supply to the refinery being built in Katsina and of course the $4Billion loan for rail line to Niger which the govt didn’t approve.
- Similarly, Boko Haram used to hire mercenaries from Niger for attacks in Nigeria. A Nigerian invasion will needlessly expose the army to multiple attack flanks from the Niger forces, Boko Haram and Niger terrorists and of course insurgent action from hostile communities.
- Minister of State appointment for Defense, Bello Mattawale, the ex-governor of Zamfara who infamously snapped pictures with armed bandits who slaughtered his people despite so called dialogue.The people of Niger have been mocking Nigeria that even Bandit Bello Turji, our army has not captured so how can we expect not to be defeated in Niger?
- Finally, the US for all its capacity, equipment, training and professionalism lost four green berets in Niger. How on earth does Nigeria expect to triumph in similar circumstances?
From this rudimentary assessment from publicly available information and not even arcane intelligence, it is obvious that a Niger invasion will be a suicide mission.
It is reported that once when Nigerian soldiers surrounded a terrorist camp in the northeast, the terrorists began to chant articles of faith causing disarray and division in the army unit.
Many of the soldiers refused to proceed with the attack because they claimed they would be fighting their own brothers.
Even in northern Nigeria, the army has been treated as infidels at war with Islam, thus subjecting them to attacks by collaborators in host communities.
Already, there is a disproportionate rate of southern and Christian soldiers KIA (killed in Action) in Nigeria and invading Niger which has six contiguous border states could set off an indirect religious war.
•Emmanuel Ogebe, Esq, is a US-based international human rights lawyer and Nigerian pro-democracy advocate with the US NIGERIA LAW GROUP in Washington.