Plane Crashes, Corruption and the National Security of Nigeria

by Priye Torulagha

Frustrated by the social cancer that has wrecked tremendous havoc on the Nigeria Police Force, the Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, courageously told the National Assembly that:

“the situation was so bad that the police had to make do with a caterpillar’s tyre for its armoured vehicle because there were no spare tyres…Other problems of the police he listed were: logistics problem, recruitment of criminals into the organisation, refusal of his men to carry out orders which he called part of logistics problems and the proliferation of arms in the country especially by politicians” (Jamiu, September 19, 2006).

The Inspector General’s concern about the police was corroborated by a junior police officer who bemoaned:

“what prompted me to join the police? I am tired of this job, everyday, the public will abuse you, the police will abuse you and at the end of the month your salary is nothing to write home about…I have gone to the station to lodge a complaint about how I was robbed of my two phones in my car in a holed-up at 9:30p.m. by some teenagers. After writing my statement, the Investigating Police Officer told me if I see the boys who robbed me again, I should bring them to the station. I quietly left the station because I knew I was in the wrong place” (Ibid).

As can be seen, after more than forty years of independence, Nigeria still does not have an effective national meteorological service that can provide reliable weather information to both military and civilian aviation in the country. Likewise, it appears that neither the Airforce nor the Army has a functioning meteorological service that can guide military operations. Otherwise, the Dornier 228 military plane would have been diverted to another flight path.

Due to lack of technological wherewithal in the society at large and in the armed and police forces, in particular, as repeatedly revealed by ineffective search and rescue operations during crashes and boat accidents in the waterways, one wonders why Nigeria’s decision makers named their military units with names that signify technological sophistication when the forces are barely technologized? For instance, the use of the term “mechanized” is deceitful since there is not much one can point to as a technological feat in the Nigerian armed forces. A military force that is indeed mechanized would have essential technological equipments or devices, including planes, helicopters, gun boats, cruisers, destroyers, mobile medical clinics, trucks, armed personnel carriers, tanks, communication tools, radar systems etc. in sufficient quantity and readily available spare parts to refurbish damaged equipments that would enable it to perform effectively. Similarly, its personnel would be sufficiently trained to operate various equipments without much problem. It is obvious that Nigeria’s armed forces are not mechanized in the true sense of the term since the forces are highly under-equipped in every level imaginable.The mere possession of some tanks and armoured personnel carriers is not enough to characterize a military force as “mechanized.” It creates a false sense of technological advancement. Moreover, most military equipments in Nigeria today are still imported, unlike in Israel or India or Brazil or China or even Iran. How can an army be mechanized when most equipment in its possession are imported from other countries?

If the army and airforce were mechanized, they would have in their possessions all kinds of technological gadgets to pinpoint location of plane crashes, rush in troops and secure the locations to conduct immediate search and rescue operations. If the Army and the Navy were mechanized, they would have been equipped to operate smoothly in the Niger Delta. It is obvious, they do not have the tools to do so, hence, are, increasingly relying on the assistance of United States and Britain to supply them boats to facilitate operations in the region. If the Police forces were well equipped, they would have been able to return fire for fire with armed robbers.

It is reasonable to say that the armed forces and the police are severely under-equipped due to massive corruption in the budget allocation system. Quite often, funds allocated for equipment purchase are insufficient to meet the technological needs of the forces. In addition, substantial parts of the budget allocations are privatized, thereby, ending in the pockets of those who are strategically placed to make purchasing decisions. During the trial of former Inspector General of the Police, Tafa Balogun, it was revealed that he used police funds for his personal investments. It could also be recalled that in the 1980s and 1990s, the Navy was ravaged by massive looting of its funds by those who were supposed to make purchasing decisions.

These facts indicate that while Nigerian leaders speak passionately about the security of the nation, their actions regarding the management of public funds and the equipping of the forces show that either they are hypocrites or have no understanding of what national security means. Otherwise, they would have been seriously committed to wiping out corruption, especially the embezzlement of public funds. It is obvious, as the “if you Obasanjo meI go Abubakar you” affair shows, Nigeria’s political leaders are mired incircumstances that bordered on corruption, hence, cannot fight corruption.The armed and police forces are victimized by corruption.

The only luck going for Nigeria, in terms of national security, is that Nigerian soldiers are some of the best fighting men and women in the world, despite the hardship placed on them by lack of attention, maintenance and equipment. Nigeria’s armed and police personnel work in very difficult, almost hostile environment.They are expected to give 100 percent of themselves without the money and the tools to do so effectively.

4. Due to conflicting political interests emanating from the effects of corruption, it appears that President Olusegun Obasanjo is increasingly unsure about the war on corruption.

First, President Olusegun Obasanjo deserves to be congratulated by every Nigerian for raising consciousness about corruption in the country. Second, he also deserves congratulations for setting the machinery through which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission were set up to probe, indict, and prosecute Nigerians who are suspected to have embezzled public funds. Third, he deserves the appreciation of the Nigerian people for reducing the nation’s foreign debt. However, it seems that the president is not sure of what direction to follow in prosecuting the war against corruption. The following presidential posturing and actions create doubt as to his sincerity:

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Anonymous October 12, 2006 - 3:09 am



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