It is indisputable that the Nigerian army has until recently failed crush the Boko Haram insurgency, a decade long insurgency that has snuffed the life out of an estimated 30,000 Nigerians, displaced two million people and lay to waste the already decrepit infrastructure of the northeast, the poorest least developed part of Nigeria.
Despite the stride recorded by the army, (reclaiming all hitherto lost territory), sporadic and cowardly suicide attacks are an inevitability, especially when the terrorist group is desperately trying to remain relevant.
In a nutshell, once terrorism starts it never really ends. There will always be cowardly attacks against soft targets, and the media will always be there to sensationalize these events. It can be argued though that Nigeria has done a better job in its campaign against Boko Haram than the United States, Turkey, Russia and Iran has done against ISIS.
The barometer for assessing the conventional military capability of a country is its ability to effectively perform tasks under wartime conditions. Nevertheless, the ability to use the defense budget as efficiently as possible has bedevilled the Nigerian military, nevertheless, a certain volume of investment can compensate for wastage due to corruption to achieve the greatest possible positive net effect.
This underscores the changes that have taken place in the Nigerian armed forces since 2014.
Since 2013 when Boko Haram insurgency took on a new dimension and started occupying territory, Nigeria’s defense spending has increased several times. In 2013, Nigeria’s defense budget stood at $2.1 billion. By 2016, this figure was $5.4 billion .
In 2018, with the capture of Sambisa, Boko Haram last major stronghold, Nigeria is slashing defense buy a whooping %50, allocating just $1.5 billion to defence, of which just $400 million is alloted to capital expenditure and $1.16billion for salaries and overheads. This is bewildering to say the least.
However, compared to early 2013/2014, Nigeria’s armed forces have improved considerably. First of all, the Nigerian armed forces have grown from 157,000 (of which 120,000 were servicemen) in 2014 to 200,000 (of whom 204,000 are servicemen) today. At the same time, in the beginning of the Boko Haram insurgency, only seven thousand people one brigade were trained for Counter Insurgency operations and in complete readiness.
In 2013, the Nigerian military had no credible Special Forces combat unit. By 2016 each arm of the Nigerian armed forces had its own Special Forces combat unit, able to executive complex COIN operations. The Nigerian army sent troops to Pakistan for Special Forces training. The Nigerian Air Force sent men to Russia to be trained by Russia’s elite Spetnatz. The Nigerian Navy, not to be undone received training from the Israelites.
By 2016 the Nigerian armed forces received a total of 80 T-72M tanks and thousands of armored vehicles, Today, the Nigerian army has satisfied its needs for tanks and armored vehicles with roughly 77 T-72M tanks, 150 Vickers MK III MBT’s and a handful of old T-55 and AMX-30 tanks.
The Nigerian army also boosted its already formidable artillery force with newer longer range Multiple Launch Rocket System. The RM-70 allows the Nigerian army to conduct long range artillery strikes as far away as 120 kilometers and serve as a replacement of the outdated BM-21 Grad.
The Nigerian Air Force has also improved considerably, though it still needs more to be desired. Today the NAF has 14 Chengdu F-7Ni interceptors, 22 Alpha jet light attack jets with three JF-17 Thunder multirole fighter and 12 A-29 Super Tucano’s pending delivery sometime in 2018. In 2016 up to 18 Aero L-39 trainers and 12 Aermacchi MB-339 were reconfigured by NAF engineers to carry weapons such as SNEB rockets, unguided rockets and freefall bombs.
It is prudent to say Nigeria’s air defense system is on the verge of extinction. There is no credible ar defense to protect strategic assets and infrastructure. Nigeria however does have a modest short-range tactical air defense missile system which is composed of :
16 Roland Surface to air missile system
48 Blowpipe Surface to air missile system.
150 Strela-2 man portable shoulder fired low altitude surface to air system (MANPADS)
Other air defense systems include :
30 ZSU-23-4 Self-propelled anti aircraft gun.
12 Bofors L/60 Towed anti-aircraft gun.
350 ZU-23-2 Towed anti-aircraft gun.