30 May 2013

Nigeria: Fifth Columnist in Security Establishments


The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika recently decried the existence of fifth columnists in the rank of the Armed Forces, and who, he said, had been passing sensitive details on military plans in the ongoing operation against the insurgent Boko Haram sect. According to him, some soldiers helped members of the group with intelligence and allegedly conspired with them to frustrate military operations against their insurgency in parts of the country. General Iherijika made the disclosure at the opening of the Nigeria Army's transformation and innovation centre on Personnel Management and Development at the Command Officer's Mess in Abuja. The army chief noted that last month, one of the alleged Boko Haram sympathiser passed information about the itinerary of Mali-bound Nigerian military contingent. An explosive device thrown into one of the vehicle conveying the soldiers went off near Okene, in Kwara State, killing two soldiers.

Ihejirika's statement sheds some light on how the group could organise and carry out some of the audacious and deadly attacks on government security agencies and important landmarks in the country. The horrendous attacks on the United Nations building and the Force Headquarters of the Nigeria Police, both in Abuja, were in indicative of a level of intelligence that could have been provided by sources within these establishments t. Another case to underscore this point was the recent ambush and gruesome murder of several policemen and secret service agents in Nasarawa state by a cult group; it has since emerged that the assailants, members of the Ombatse cult, were tipped off by informers from inside the Nasarawa State police command. These incidents also appear to corroborate President Goodluck Jonathan's assertion that sympathisers of the insurgent group could very well be found in high echelons of the government itself. Ihejirika, in his statement, said that some soldiers had been caught during a communication with the alleged terrorists through the internet, probably unaware that they were being tracked. They have been arrested and would soon face military justice, he said.

It is reassuring, however, that the Armed Forces have the technical know-how to detect such unauthorised use of their facilities. Providing information to the enemy usually attracts summary punishment. Helping to advance the cause of a group that has shown no inclination to stop the mindless and indiscriminate killing and maiming of people, and destroying public and private properties is equally a serious crime that deserves to be treated as such. No human organisation is perfect, but to find blacklegs in the Armed Forces at a time like this, when they are tackling a group sworn to the destruction of the state, is a reminder of the complexity of the problem. It is expected that military tenets of the command structure and the primacy embodied in its training programme of the defence of the fatherland superseding every other considerations, including sectarian and ethnic affiliations, should have been enough to dissuade those inclined to passing information to the insurgents. It means that more still needs to be done in instilling the virtues of patriotism and the idea of "good or bad, Nigeria first," in the rank and file of the military.

Additionally, military personnel should recognise that theirs is a special and unique calling to safeguard the sanctity and the inviolability of the fatherland. It is the reason that, while in that uniform, they must act in ways that would put them above political fray and other partisan positions, solely because their individual and group allegiances are to the wellbeing of the Nigerian state. The Armed Forces and indeed other government security organs would be shirking their scheduled duty if they ignored the imperative to emphasise these values to their rank and file, as well as severely punish those found in breach of them.

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