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A Critical Analysis of Nigeria Defense Policy

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Department of History and International Studies

A Critical Analysis of Nigeria Defense Policy

Presented by

Alex Ogunsan


Generally, national defense policy determines how well a nation endures national and international challenges to her national interest. A strong and integrated national defense policy - one in which all elements of state power are coordinated and harmonized to support national objectives after an analysis of the threats and environment of the policy, defense policy is therefore pertinent to the security and development of any nation that desires progress and stability in the world.

Consequently, with this understanding it begins to emerge that the defense and security structure, which exist in Nigeria today, is not actually intended for national security or for promoting national interest. This situation reveals the profound defect inherent in the defence thinking in the country: Nigeria's conception of national security is profoundly different from the widely acknowledged and obviously better definition of the post-Cold War period.

The 2006 edition of the Nigerian National Defence Policy provides the theoretical basis of the national defence policy as "designed to guarantee national security and threats by deterring external threats and aggression. While the primary concern is to avoid war through diplomacy and deterrence, the nation will ensure that the Armed Forces posses the capability to successfully defend the Nigerian territory and her people.

It is important however to point that Nigeria's defence policy since independence is anchored on six interrelated principles of prevention, protection, deterrence, rapid force mobilization, force projection and co-operation with allies. From the above, it is possible to infer that Nigeria's defence policy is grounded in the conventional defence strategy.

According to Palmer & Howard, national security would continue to dominate the agenda of the state as long as it remains the prevailing form of political organization in the world. An analysis of national security is therefore, concerned with the way and manner nations plan, make and evaluate the decisions and policies designed to maximise their relative ability to ensure the survival and continuity of (its) vital interests.

In Nigeria, the choice of conventional defence strategy no doubt is informed by the nation's historical experience and less by any conscious effort from the policymakers to develop a strong defence strategy for national security. Nigeria's geo-strategic location and her own view of national interest are equally responsible. Located in a region of comparatively weaker countries, in terms of human and financial resources, Nigeria could not define her national interests beyond these considerations. According to Fage, "since independence, successive Nigerian leaders have emphasised two principles as the fundamental tenets of the country's ...policy. One is Afrocentricism. The other is good neighbourliness".

In line with this thinking, Nigeria, theoretically and practically, limits her defence policy to military preparedness as the tangible vital element of national security and defence. Nigeria's strategy for national defence is "to avoid war through diplomacy and deterrence; the nation will ensure that the Armed Forces possess the capability to successfully defend Nigerian territory and people". This forms the bulk of Nigeria's ultimate strategy of defence and security in general.

Obviously, Nigeria tailors her strategy on the employment of military firepower to discourage or deter potential enemies. It is important therefore to look at this idea of deterrence within the context of 21st century challenges before going into the analysis of Nigeria's general thinking on national defence and security.

According to the Nigeria's National Defence Policy The nation shall maintain a credible defence capability and communicate her intentions in consonance with the prevailing circumstances in order to ensure that potential aggressors are kept in no doubt of the willingness to use the Armed Forces and all weapons at their disposal. Force modernization and development for the next few years shall, therefore, give priority to acquisition of relevant deterrence capabilities.

Deterrence and force projection are the vital elements and principles upon which the national defence policy in Nigeria rests. Deterrence has today become a cache phrase to most states unmindful of its cost defined primarily in terms of technological, economic and industrial development. According to Synder (in Okwori) deterrence: Means discouraging the enemy from taking military action by posing for him a prospect of cost and risks which outweigh his prospective gains... Deterrence works on the enemy's intentions, the deterrent value of military forces is their effect in reducing the likelihood of enemy moves.

Hypothetically, Nigeria's sub-Saharan neighbours do not have the necessary human, economic and technological resources to compete with her. In fact, for sometimes, the belief is popular within the policymaking circles, that because of her policy of good neighbourliness, Nigeria would not face substantial threats to her national interests from sub-Saharan Africa.

This may be far fetched. Although by any standard, Cameroon is not to Nigeria what Pakistan is to India; still the existing relation between these two neighbours is anything but cordial. The same cannot be said of those who by any index of analysis are not neighbours. The idea of deterrence is an idea of economic development and integration, excellent infrastructure, industrialisation and superior technology in relation to the immediate source of threats. Nigeria of the 21st century possesses none of the above.

The challenge to Nigeria is to re-examine this principle of deterrence with a view to design and adopts less costly, yet effective approach to national defence. It is out of question for Nigeria, to develop the technological and economic capacity to sustain deterrence at a par with non-African states. It is pointless to waive with a hand, the probability of one of the world powers today, especially USA, invading Nigeria.

Terrorism's prospects... are improving as its destructive potential



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