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Insecurity: Service Chiefs not our main problem – Stan Labo

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A retired military top brass and security consultant, Colonel Hassan Stan-Labo (Rtd) has said there is no statutory tenure for service chiefs. Stan-Labo, who is also the Managing Director of Hakes and Partners, said the President may have been persuaded to retain the Service Chiefs because he finds them competent, contrary to alternate views. Stan-Labo told ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, that the continued stay in office of the current Service Chiefs would affect the career progression of the numerous officers looking up to attaining such heights before leaving the service.

The debate over the continued stay in office of the current crop of Service Chiefs is still raging. What is your take on President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to retain them?

As we discuss the prolonged stay of the Service Chiefs in office and the implications for the Armed Forces, it is important to note that Service Chiefs are appointees of the President and Commander-in-Chief. They are appointed and relieved at his discretion. Mind you, there is no statutory tenure-ship assigned to the office, so the President is at liberty to retain such appointees for as long as he deems necessary. They report directly to the President and if  finds them to be competent hands delivering on their job descriptions and meeting all Key Performance Index, definitely he would be persuaded to retain them as long as he wishes despite alternate views. After all, the buck stops on his table.

But many military and security experts are saying their prolonged stay in office comes with implications for security and the military formations. You don’t agree with this argument?

The only implication for the Armed Forces is that it would affect the career progression of the numerous officers looking up to attaining such heights before leaving the Service. But given the fact that the office of Service Chief is not an all-comers game with representation from every Course of the Defence Academy, it would be too ambitious for anyone to see his attainment to such positions as a right or sacrosanct. Besides, being a strategic level appointment, considerations for such offices go beyond military credentials. Such elements as the national interest, loyalty, trust, geo-political balancing, ideological leanings etc, are likely factors for consideration given the time, political temperature and the national interest.

And you don’t think the prolonged stay is affecting the ongoing war in the northeast?

The current Service Chiefs have performed creditably well in executing the war so far. Looking back to when they assumed office, well over 16 Local Government Areas in four States were fully occupied by the insurgents with flags hoisted and tax collection structures on ground. The insurgent were so comfortably in charge there that they had their own mini administrative arrangement in place in all those places across the country as at then. Today the story is different. They have paid their dues and I see them as heroes.

However, given the emergence of fresh strategies by the insurgents, coupled with the menace of kidnapping, hostage taking, cattle rustling and other forms of banditry, it would not be out of place to seek a change of baton for a crop of fresh hands, seasoned professionals with out-of-the-box perspectives to take on the mantle of leadership. This decision nonetheless rest completely with the Commander-In-Chief. They are his appointees. If he feels satisfied with them, then he will insist there is no need changing a winning team.

There’s also the argument that the service rule is being broken by their prolonged stay.

Exigencies on ground and the national interest, override any Civil Service rule. This is not the first time public servants would be made to stay on in the national interest of the country and I doubt if it would be the last. It is a global practice world-wide. You don’t just let go some loyal or extremely good hands. If this is the President’s perception of his Service Chiefs, then all we can do as loyal citizens is to avail them every support and adequate cooperation needed to succeed.

The war in the northeast is dragging while insecurity is on the rise in most parts of the country. What are we not doing right?

In my honest opinion, the service chiefs are not the only issue here. We need to do some things differently if we want to achieve better results. We must examine funding, manpower, equipment and logistics, training as well as welfare. Funding for the Defense/Security sector can’t be achieved within budgetary allocations alone as other sectors with similar high demands would put up a good fight for lion share. The solution to this is that we must establish a national Security Trust Fund.

Not just that. We must also cultivate the participation of the people, corporate bodies and general public to contribute at least 1% of their gross earnings into the fund. It would surprise you how much would be mobilized. If properly done, funds will be mobilized from international Oil Companies, the banking sector, other corporate bodies and even civil servants among many other sources you may not be thinking about as we speak. We have an example to look at as it is. The Lagos State Security Trust Fund is a success story that could be replicated at the federal level. It also enables the citizen to buy into the security situation on ground and take ownership of it.

Beyond funding, you don’t think something is wrong with our approach to the insurgence and other security issues?

Another thing we must look into and re-energise is manpower. The Nigerian nation is at war. Therefore, our force generation effort must reflect the required sense of urgency in meeting all manpower requirements in the field. The manpower deficit presently suffered by both the military and police remains a major impediment to any infestation plan required by own force in countering the freedom and dominance exercised by the belligerent insurgents, bandits and kidnappers.

I want to propose a short term solution first. This will involve recalling all retirees that left the military within the last 0-5yrs, attaching good incentives to the recall directive if the aim must be achieved and selecting the physically fit.

After selection, get them to sign a 3-5years re-engagement contract. Then, avail them 3-4weeks intensive re-training and engage them. The first batch of 10,000 US troops inserted into Afghanistan were from the Reservist from the Reserve pool. And as a long term solution, I will suggest the establishment of additional three military training depots in the North, East and West with a capacity for 2,000 recruits each. The same thing should be done for the Police Force.

Our fighting men on the fronts have severally complained about equipment and logistics as you rightly mentioned.

This is a financially intensive area. The major problem here is either shopping for the wrong items or short supply of items in the field. It should be completely forbidden to suffer shortfall in requirements as Troops ration, Ammunition and POL – (Petroleum, Oil & Lubricant). In procuring these items, the end user must be fully carried along. There is need to ensure the patronage of well-informed vendors and well established manufacturers. The issue of getting the right configurations and user friendly equipment is also important. Factors like weather, ground and operation specifications, training, spares, servicing, upgrading and others must be looked into for the best results.

You talk about training. What is the importance of this to a fighting force?

Adequate training is a prerequisite for success in the field. Joint training in facilitation of the Higher Commander’s intent must be put in place. As at date, we are yet to attain our desired End-state in Joint Force Integration in the field. Training focus must address this deficit. Moving forward, training facilities must be expanded to accommodate more trainees. They must be quipped to meet with needs. The facilities must be adequately manned by knowledgeable instructors. While doctrine and curriculum must be needs specific.

Very importantly, troop welfare must be adequately addressed to enable the soldier in the forward lines concentrate on his task. Soldiers on operation to be placed on double salary – One salary is paid directly to the wife while he retains the second. The practice of double salary was in place in Moroccan Army all through their war with The Saharawi Democratic Republic which lasted well over 40 years. There is no way a policy like this will not help the morale of the fighters if properly implemented.

Some people have hinted n the need for the creation of one or two new forces to help with the current situation. You share this view?

I also want to propose the establishment of an elite Border Protection Force with special force capability. The force should combine air surveillance capability with ground mobile capability. Other areas it of capability should include sound communication, metal detection, intrusion detection and sound detection.

The force should be saddled with the aggressive patrol of our land borders and air surveillance watch over our borders among other things. It should also liaise with the border security / intelligence community in the area of information sharing, prevention of illegal immigrants into Nigerian territory and counter insurgency activities. sources the nation Newspapers.

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