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COAS Opening Address for the 2018 Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference


1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the COAS Annual Conference 2018. I want to express my profound appreciation to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring us with his presence in spite of his very busy schedule. I am also delighted to see in our midst national leaders, revered royal fathers intellectuals, academics, technocrats, military strategists and media moguls, who have proved themselves in various spheres both in Nigeria and abroad. I would also want to especially welcome representatives of human rights groups and non-governmental organizations, who have partnered with the NA to improve civil-military relations and security in Nigeria. To His Excellency the Governor and the great people of Borno State. I say thank you for agreeing to host us in spite of the very short notice. Borno State became the obvious choice of this Annual Conference because of the recent event that happened and the desire of the C-in-C to personally identify with the troops and reassure them that their challenges is a thing of concern to him personally and to the government.

2. The COAS Annual Conference is usually an occasion that gives the NA leadership an opportunity to appraise our activities within the year, assess our performance and identify our shortcomings towards making informed decisions for the coming year. However, this year, we shall not only conduct a retrospective assessment of our performance but also consider how the NA can better optimize its operations in support of democratic consolidation. This dual contemplation was the principal consideration that led to the selection of the theme for this year’s annual conference which is, ‘Optimizing the Operational Efficiency of the Nigerian Army Towards Safeguarding Democracy and National Security in Nigeria’. This theme was also crafted in a bid to assure all Nigerians and indeed the international community that the NA will work optimally, in conjunction with other security agencies to provide a secure environment for peace and unity in Nigeria.

3. Our role in support of democracy is the focus of the special lecture for this Conference. The lecture will be delivered later today and is titled ‘Nigerian Army Management of Security Challenges in Support of Democracy in Nigeria: Issues and Prospects’. The lecture is to be delivered by one of us, a retired senior officer par excellence, a former Military Adviser in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and a seasoned military professional, in person of Lt Gen Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor (rtd). I want to implore all our distinguished invited guests to please attend this lecture.

4. Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to inform you that over the 4 quarters of the Year 2018 the NA remained steadfast in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities as well as providing aid to civil authority. The nations territorial integrity particularly along our land borders has not been breached as we continually maintain a posture to defend Nigeria’s territorial rights and interests. Security relations with our neighbors, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic has remained relatively calm, except for increased trafficking of small arms and light weapons across the borders among other cross border criminality. Internally, there has been recurring violence in some sections of the country which constitute security threats to Nigeria’s democracy. The causes for various crises in the country are often ideological, economic, political, religious as well as ethnic, among many other reasons. These socio-political and socio-economic issues have direct bearing on the security climate of the country. I am pleased to report that internal security in Nigeria has improved drastically from where we were in 2015 when I took over command of the NA. However, we recognize that there are potent threats that require us to continually review our operations. Hence, this conference will deliberate on ways through which the NA can continue to enhance national security.

5. The fight against the Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) in the North East under Operation LAFIYA DOLE has continued unabatedly and the NA in conjunction with other Services and security agencies has dominated the area and continues to carry out sustained operations against the Boko Haram Terrorist. The NA is also collaborating with the Chadian military and the Cameroonian Defence Forces (CDF) in the NE. We are currently conducting combined operations alongside the CDF codenamed Operation DEEP PUNCH II in order to maintain permanent presence in Sambisa Forest and adjoining areas along the common border with Cameroon. Troops of the NA remain part of the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and we are a major contributor to the success of Operation AMNI FAKAT in the Lake Chad Basin (LCB).

6. Troops of the NA deployed on other ongoing operations such as Operations SAFE HAVEN, DELTA SAFE, SHARAN DAJI, AWATSE and Operation WHIRL STROKE have continued to perform their tasks professionally. Over the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the year we also identified the need to support Federal Government’s efforts at encouraging Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to their ancestral homes. To this end we conducted Operation LAST HOLD which was designed to further degrade the BHTs, facilitate the relocation of IDPs to their communities and to promote civil-military relations. The operation culminated in the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2018, during which we were privileged to have Mr President in attendance. By the end of Operation LAST HOLD, over 5,000 IDPs returned back to their communities in Northern Borno.

7. As the nation moves towards the 2019 General Elections, the NA is conducting Operation SAFE CONDUCT to support other security agencies during the period of elections in the country. The NA activated the operation on 14 July 2018 during the elections in Ekiti and Osun states and it was a huge success. We intend to replicate the successes achieved, during the 2019 General Elections because we believe that a secure electoral process will play a critical role in safeguarding our democracy into the future. As the NA plays its role to safeguard democracy, all NA personnel are enjoined to ensure that necessary steps are taken in all circumstances to prevent any act that is inimical to the unity and stability of the country. Thus, as political activities unfold towards the 2019 General Elections, GOCs and field commanders at all levels are enjoined to continue to remind officers and soldiers under their command to remain non-partisan and be guided by the stipulated code of conduct in the discharge of their duties.

8. In 2018, the NA witnessed a lot of reorganization and redeployment in a bid to improve our overall operational responsiveness and professionalism. Just 2 weeks ago, I approved the redeployment of some field and operational commanders in order to inject new ideas in the command and control structure in various NA operations across the country. We are also reorganizing to align with some of our current realities. It is my belief that the NA must start to plan and strategize on how to end the operations in the NE. To this end, I have directed for a change from a wholly defensive posture to one where we defend in numbers and conduct offensive operations in smaller packets but simultaneously in different fronts. I must also add that no army can ever have enough equipment to conduct its operations. Hence, it is incumbent on all commanders and senior leaders of the NA to recognize that we are involved in asymmetric warfare which calls for dynamism and flexibility if we are to succeed with minimal casualties. Therefore, commanders are to ensure that they show leadership at all times and continuously adapt with changing situations in order to surmount adversity in the conduct of operations.

9. In the area of training we have expanded our in-theater training for troops in the frontlines to afford them the required capabilities to operate and conduct effective operations. Special attention was also given to providing local and foreign training opportunities for all cadre of officers and soldiers. In Year 2018 alone, a total of 156 personnel have attended foreign courses while 2,390 have attended local courses and training programmes, ranging from masters degree programmes to workshops and conferences. The provision of adequate healthcare to NA personnel and their families has continued to remain one of my priorities. From Jan 18 to date, 36 officers, 144 soldiers and 7 family members of personnel have benefited in the NA Medical Evacuation both within and outside the Country. Currently, there are 12 patients and 12 escorts in India receiving treatment. The NA has also hosted over 300 local and international conferences, seminars or summits either solely or in-conjunction with other bodies. One of this was the successful co-hosting of the African Land Forces Summit (ALFS), in conjunction with the United States Army Africa (USARAF). The ALFS had in attendance over 43 Army Service Chiefs within Africa, as well as Army/Defence Staff from the USA, Brazil, Canada, France, UK and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The ALFS provided an arena for African Army Chiefs and Defence experts to discuss operations and strategies that would strengthen African defence and security. The deliberations during the ALFS gave us a new approach towards tackling some of the security challenges in Nigeria. We are grateful to Mr President for granting approval for the NA to host the
ALFS 2018.

10. In the course of 2018, the NA has consolidated on its drive in the area of research and development in order to improve on our home-grown capacity to innovate, produce and maintain some of our core requirements. In this regard, we have encouraged and supported all NA officers and soldiers who have innovative ideas and competencies. We have also resumed full collaboration with the Defence Industries Coorporation (DICON) for needed parts and small arms and ammunition. Similarly, the NA is partnering with several companies in Nigeria including Innoson Motors, Proforce Limited and Nigeria Machine Tools, among others, towards the production of light and heavy armoured vehicles, critical equipment as well as protective clothing for NA troops. These collaborations have led to the development of the TYB Rover, Infantry Patrol Vehicle (IPV) and the Bionbion Helicopter, among several other equipment. We are also engaging some foreign technical companies and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to help us repair and refurbish some of our heavier and more delicate platforms. These in-house efforts are being done to complement the support that we have received from the Federal Government in the area of equipment procurement. So far, the NA has taken delivery of several quantities of platforms, ammunition and other needed equipment for the NA. I want to seize this opportunity to thank Mr President for approving the purchase of these equipment.

11. The Year 2018, has been eventful and my address will not be complete without mentioning some of the new developments that have taken place within the year. The NA established the Nigerian Army Women Corps (NAWC) to develop female officers and soldiers that can be employed in all operational engagements of the NA. The Nigerian Army University Biu (NAUB) has been approved, established and has commenced its academic programmes. The Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company (NAVMC) was also established to support our strides in vehicle manufacturing. The NA has also commenced direct training for personnel to acquire sufficient knowledge and communication skills in
the 3 major Nigerian languages to better fit in anywhere they may be deployed. The NA has also established the first ever Cyber Command. The Command will effectively tackle the fake news against the NA, the country and also secure our cyber domain from hostile elements.

12. In spite of our very many successes, the NA is not without its challenges and setbacks. Despite the recent setback in Metele, our successes still manifest from our operations in the Central parts of the country up to the Northern fridges of Borno State. The presentation that will be made in a few minutes time will bring out graphically our successes. Some of the NA challenges are related to insinuations of human rights abuses which have tended to dent our image in the eyes of the general public and the international community. It is necessary to reiterate the NA’s stance as professionals, that we are guided by the extant rules of safeguarding human rights, human security and human dignity under the concept of the “Responsibility to Protect”. To this end we have established human rights desk offices in all NA formations for speedy attention to human rights allegations. Furthermore, just last week the NA law Seminar was held by the DLS(A) with the Theme ‘The Place of the Law in Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency Operation in Nigerian’. The major objective of the Law Seminar was to improve on the existing synergy between the NA Legal Services and the Nigerian Judiciary bringing to fore a better understating and appreciation of the specialist and technical nature of military operations vis-à-vis the Law to our civilian legal professionals in the judiciary. At this point permit me to implore all of us to spare a thought for the brave men and women of the NA who paid the supreme price for the security of Nigeria. We must also continue to support the families of these brave officers and soldiers and pray that their souls rest in perfect peace. Amin.

13. The NA is looking ahead into the year 2019. We envisage in our projections, the planning and conduct of exercises and operations in various parts of the country similar to the ones conducted throughout this year. Training shall be vigorously pursued at all levels as our professional calling of duty demands. The exercises and operations embarked upon this Year 2018 were geared towards creating a peaceful and stable environment for the upcoming 2019 General Elections. I wish to state that my projections for the Nigerian Army in the coming year are expected to surpass the achievements of this year 2018. The areas observed with lapses will be improved upon and I charge all participants of this esteemed conference to please make meaningful contributions that will be added to our overall projections for the year 2019.

14. The NA could not have attained this feat without the support of our political leaders, cooperation from sister Services and other organizations. Accordingly, I wish to recognize and express my sincere gratitude to Mr President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), the Honourable Minister of Defence and other ministers, the Chief of Defence Staff and my colleagues Service Chiefs, serving and retired as well as heads of other security agencies and the media. I sincerely wish to thank law abiding and concerned Nigerian public for their support to the NA.

15. My sincere and esteemed appreciation goes to His Excellency the Executive Governor, government and the good people of Borno State for hosting the NA to this Conference as well as supporting the NA in its endeavours. I want to enjoin you, Your Excellency, to continue to partner with the NA and encourage law abiding citizens to have confidence in the Nation’s security agencies. May I also thank the governors here present for finding time to honour our invitation. For our esteemed Royal Fathers, we sincerely appreciate you all for your fatherly guidance and for being highly responsible custodians of the peoples’ cultures and traditions. The NA will continue to respect the traditional institutions towards effective civil military relations.

16. Finally, it is with a high sense of responsibility and respect that I humbly express the NA’s profound gratitude to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, for his invaluable support to the Nigerian Armed Forces in general and to the NA in particular. On behalf of the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army, I once more pledge our total commitment to the defense of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I wish to respectfully reassure Mr President of the unflinching loyalty and commitment of the NA to the defence of democratic governance in Nigeria. The NA will continue to remain apolitical, professional and responsive in the discharge of its constitutional roles. On the final note I want to once again welcome you all to the COAS Conference 2018. Thank you all and God bless.