Nigeria’s defense spending and capabilities needs a review in which the potential threat to Nigeria is multifaceted. Whether that means internal strife, or invading Nigerian territory or challenging its sphere of influence, the powers that be at becoming very active in th region, and justifying setting up multiple military assets in the region in the name of helping the fight against terror.
Nonetheless, given that France is the most serious aggressor Nigeria might have to face, it is strikingly how little discussion there has been about what kind of capabilities Nigeria needs to protect her EEZ.
The Boko Haram insurgency or other insurrections may be devastating enough, but there is little serious likelihood of it bringing the Nigerian economy to a grinding halt. On the other hand more than 90% of our import export trade volume is done via sea so a strong Navy not only stands against external aggression but its important for maintaining a peaceful trade route for merchants against pirates and enemy nations. It took a Nigerian Naval blockade of the Gambia to convince Yahya Jammeh ECOWAS meant business. If a hostile power blockade the sea routes to Nigeria, the nation will collapse in a week. It’s true for every nation and is a very known strategy adopted during a war.
A strong navy suits Nigeria’s geopolitics, they will allow Nigeria to achieve its aim of punching above its weight. Nigeria is the only country in the region with the resources, the will and manpower to mount serious out of area operations. If Nigeria is to be respected as a regional power, a strong Navy gives Nigeria credibility and leverage. Nigeria’s adversarial have a similar perspective on the naval component of the Nigerian armed forces. What bothers them is not Nigeria’s air force or number of artillery piece the army has. No matter how powerful the army is there are enough players in the region with relatively string armies that can potentially be used to put a check on Nigeria via proxies.
Rather the concern is about the Nigerian Navy. Countries like Chad and Niger are landlocked, hence they have no navy. The remaining countries with access to the sea basically don’t have a navy. There is no naval power in the region that can be used as a proxy to challenge Nigeria.
Small patrol boats that can police the creeks, Offshore Patrol Vessels that can contest Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Frigates able to protect Nigeria’s coastline and project power abroad. Simply having the number of ships to keep enough deployed at any one time.
But simply having lots of ships does not translate into hard power. If your navy is essentially one Patrol Battle Group, you can do one thing well, but nothing else.
Nigeria has ships but no weapons. Of course there are many other facets essential to Nigeria’s defense capabilities, but Nigeria must consider what constitute the greatest threat to the lifeblood of the nation, without which the nation will collapse of compromised, with long-term effects.
But if deterring the enemy against Nigeria’s lifeblood is a major concern, then it is worth paying attention to what might really deter them; a flexible, fast and versatile naval force. Not necessary with the biggest warship or a nuclear powered submarine, but well armed vessels able to get where they are needed where they are needed and delivery ordnance.
Nigeria’s leaders would do well to study the Japanese choice of target that led to Pearl Habour in December 1941. American complacency invited and led to a surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Habour.
Despite numerous military confrontation and the loss of the Bakassi Peninsula, Nigeria’s leaders comfortably assume that no nation would dare to attack Nigeria’s strategic oil infrastructure.
Now, a strong well armed navy will deter aggression against economic and strategic Offshore oil infrastructure. But such deterrence will not apply given the state of the Nigerian Navy. If foreign powers take their time to monitor access the capital assets of the Nigerian Navy and study Nigeria’s acquisition program, then a hostile power will do well to take a calculated risk by military escalation because there is just no deterrence factor at play on the Nigerian side.
This portend the greatest risk to Nigeria as a nation in ways the Boko Haram insurgency can only. The fire brigade approach to the Boko Haram insurgency exposed the gulf in Nigeria’s military capability, but the gulf could be, and was closed rather quickly considering the amount of money that Nigeria possesses. So on the long run Nigeria had all the time in the world to make ammends and turn the tide.
Unfortunately there will be no such luxury of time in this scenario. Heck the aggressor doesn’t even have to be a sovereign state. All we have to look at is ISIS. ISIS was making a million dollars a day and was estimated to be worth $1 billion at a time after it took control of just two oil wells in Iraq.
For Nigeria to survive, it would have to absorb a significant strategic and military defeat and face a new choice between escalation and a bigger defeat, only to face a new choice between escalation and a bigger defeat. Either way Nigeria is toast.