Nigeria: The Challenge of Military Reform

Nigeria’s military, once among Africa’s strongest and a mainstay of regional peacekeeping, it has become a flawed force. The initially heavy-handed, slow response to the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency raised serious concerns, and its human rights record underscores a grave disconnect with civilians. President Muhammadu Buhari has taken some steps to reverse the decline and has recorded significant gains against Boko Haram. However, ongoing prosecution of former chiefs for graft have further deepened the military’s reputation as poorly governed and corrupt. The government and military chiefs, working with the National Assembly, civil society and international partners, need to do much more: implement comprehensive defence sector reform, including clear identification of security challenges; a new defence and security policy and structure to address them; and drastic improvement in leadership, oversight, administration and accountability across the sector. The decline began during 33 years of military dictatorship that took a serious toll on professionalism, operational effectiveness and accountability. In this report, the military’s ailments are identified and analyzed, which are spread across the entire system of defence management. It is based on interviews with serving officers in Abuja, retired officers at various locations in the country, personnel involved in operations in the north east and the Niger Delta, defence scholars in research institutions and diplomats in Abuja.