Inter-service Relations: Imperatives for Jointness (Part 4)

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER – THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE WITH INTER-SERVICE AND MILITARY-POLICE RIVALRYWe have previously discussed Nigerian examples of intra-service rivalry.  We have also touched on the influence of inter-service rivalry on recent Defence Policy formulation and outlined some prevailing theories on reasons for Military-Police tensions.   H aving taking stock of the experience in some selected countries, let us look deeper into our experience with inter-service rivalry and bring it all together with insights gained from a recent survey I conducted among active and retired service personnel.According to former Air Chief, AVM Yisa Doko (rtd) who retired in October 1979,“Shortly before I left the service I presented a paper during an Army Training week with proposals as to how to set up the off ice of the Chief of Defence Staff and I made suggestions to the effect that the office of the Chief of Defence Staff should be responsible for all capital budget of the Armed Forces in peacetime and in war so that, especially, weapons and equipment purchases should be centralized so that you don’t have the Army buying MACK trucks, the Air Force buying STEYR, the Navy buying MERCEDES.   What kind of Armed Forces are we?  We bought FN rifles the Army said, “No”. They wanted SLR. The Navy said they wanted British FN rifles. We had a Defence Industries Corporation here and yet we didn’t coordinate ourselves. So something is wrong that was why I thought the office of the Chief of Defence Staff should be centrally responsible for the logistics of the three Services.”The above quote confirms that inter-service rivalry has existed for some time in the Nigerian Armed Forces. But it was unheard of in colonial times.  During the first republic, as then General DY Bali (rtd) put it,“The absence of an Air Force and the lack of logistics support for a professional Navy showed clearly that Nigeria lacked necessary air and naval power and could, therefore, not undertake tri-service based Military operations.”Hence, the Air Force and Navy Acts of 1964 were the beginning of a new chapter.  Nevertheless, during the coup of January 1966, efforts by Major General Ironsi to crush the “Majors” mutiny were based out of the Police HQ, then at Moloney Street in Lagos.  The Police nationwide communications network at that time was actually better than that of the Army.  The Police, who lost a number of its personnel to trigger-happy army mutineers in Kaduna during the coup, played a key role in the restoration of order.  Following the emergence of Ironsi as Supreme Commander, the position of Military Liaison Officer with the Nigeria Police was created. Its first (and last) appointee was then Captain (later Brigadier-General (rtd)) Baba Usman.  According to him, “that office helped to smooth the liaison between the Nigerian Army and the Police.”  During the era of Military rule the Police Inspector General was always a member of the Supreme Military (or Armed Forces R uling) Council but this masked the “junior brother” status that was to characterize the relationship from then on out.  Rivalry and lack of cooperation between the Military and Police began to become prominent with the rapid wartime expansion of the armed services and Police coupled with the inadequacy of appropriate command and control acculturation.  Sometimes, however, crisis situations led to outright exploitation of Military-Police rivalry, such as was the case when, following the July 29, 1966 “counter-coup” the Military Governor of the Eastern region, then Lt. Col. CO Ojukwu, surrounded himself with hand-picked mobile Policemen of eastern origin to protect himself from what he perceived as a northern dominated army battalion in Enugu. Clearly, the savage manner in which individual Nigerian Military officers of different ethnic and regional origins pounced on one another during the Military rebellions of January and July 1966 was an extreme example of intra-service rivalry which eventually led to civil war, leaving a lasting dent on corporate esprit de Corps.  We have previously noted the internal rivalry between Federal Army divisions as another example of intra-service rivalry during the civil war (1967 – 70).  However, this was also compounded by lack of Joint operational planning. According to AVM Yisa Doko (rtd), On communications, “I don’t think 1 Division, 2 Division or 3 Division could communicate with the other Divisions.  That was one thing I found very strange and there was nothing like Command Headquarters during the war.” On joint tasking, “Because I knew what service the Air Force could render, I simply attended the [Army] meetings looking for opportunities or areas in which we could be of use…we didn’t have any specific orders from the Air Force and we didn’t have specific roles determined by the Army…we were not included in the Army operational orders. So whenever I came back, I issued my own Flight Operational Orders.”  On ground to air communications, “I tried it, but the Army was scared – there were so many things I tried to get the Army to do but they didn’t quite like it.  First of all, at Nsukka we didn’t know where the Nigerian Army was – we didn’t know where the Biafrans were; the Army couldn’t tell us exactly what the problem was….” According to another former Air Chief, the late Air Marshall Ibrahim Alfa, these experiences, “….often resulted in crises of confidence which disrupted the smooth operation of the war.” Nevertheless, there were some good examples of successful joint Military operations particularly in the Federal 3rd Division area of responsibility (see “Joint Operations” history table).  On the Biafran sid e, operations in the Oguta area were good examples of Army-Navy joint operations.  That said, however, the Biafran High Command was racked by intense rivalries, many of which were manipulated by Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.  According to former Biafran Intelligence Chief, Bernard Odogwu, such rivalries played a key role in the collapse of the rebellion.    By and large, during the period between 1970 and 1975 Military-Police relations were good, other than minor issues here and there.  The very close relationship forged between the Police and army leadership duri ng the civil war years may have accounted for this.  Circa 1976, however, there was a major clash in Port-Harcourt when then Lt. Col. Sani Abacha was in command of the infantry brigade based in that city.  By this time the Nigerian Air Force had come to its own and sought to more clearly delineate its identity from the Army. So it replaced Army ranks with traditional Air Force ranks and insignia. From the standpoint of joint operations, however, its newly acquired C-130 Hercules aircraft came in handy for tactical air transport, particularly for peace-keeping operations in Lebanon and Chad.  The Navy also helped with maritime transport.  Behind the scenes, however, fierce inter-service rivalry erupted over a variety of issues, including the decision of the Army to acquire surface-to-air missiles.  Another important footnote in service rivalry in Nigeria is encapsulated in the bitter reaction of serving and retired Military personnel to the release in 1980 by Heinemann, of General Obasanjo’s civil war memoirs, titled, “My command: an account of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967 – 1970.”   Obasanjo was openly accused of taking credit for the achievements of others, and arrogating to himself, the achievement of defeating the Biafran rebellion while blaming others for the mistakes of the war.  Many veterans felt it was a betrayal of jointness.  Regarding the Police, whatever anxieties existed over its relationship with the Military was played close to the chest.  However, when the 1979 constitution was written and promulgated into law, an intriguing clause was introduced under the section dealing with Police leadership. A specific constitutional injunction was inserted declaring that the Inspector-General of Police can only be appointed “from among serving members of the Nigeria Police Force.”  The adven t of civil rule in 1979, under President Shagari, led to an active effort to de-emphasize the role of the Military in internal security and beef up the Police to meet its responsibilities.  Under then Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Adewusi, the Police ordered armoured vehicles for riot control.  Unfortunately, the Army interpreted this as an effort by the civilian regime to prepare the Police for battle with the Army!  Immediately following the coup of December 1983, all the Police armoured vehicles were impounded and a high powered probe panel set up to investigate the matter.  Thi ngs cooled off for a while, but Army-Police relations were not helped, when, during the Military coup of August 1985, several Policemen at Ikeja were killed, some say unnecessarily, by some soldiers out of Ikeja cantonment who were never disciplined for the incident. Relations between the Military services took a downturn, when, following the so called “Vatsa” coup conspiracy trial and executions of March 1986, the Air Force was practically grounded by the Army led government.  To this day, that experience remains a sore point among some senior Air Force officers – although, it must be emphasized, they blame the regime of that era, not the Army as an institution.  A similar, albeit intra-service dynamic occurred after the coup attempt of April 1990, when units of the Military Police were disbanded and the profile of the corps severely downgraded within the Army.  However, all of this pales in significance to the proposal in 1993, by then President Ibrahim Babangida that the armed forces be decentralized, placing the Army Headquarters in Minna, Air Force Headquarters in Kano and the Naval HQ in Lagos. The proposal was fiercely opposed by former General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) and others.  In an interview with Tell magazine in April 1993, Obasanjo asked, rhetorically, “How do you now have a situation where a commander-in-chief is sitting in Abuja and his army commander is in Minna, his air force commander is in Kano and his navy commander is in Lagos? Even with the best intentions, how does that help in our own type of communication set up? How does it help command and control? How does it help esprit-de-corp that should be there?” In further comments on the issue, Obasanjo offered a barely disguised accusation that the government was deliberately manipulating service rivalry for political purposes.  The proposal was eventually dropped. In recent years, under civil rule, the Army, Navy and Air Force have generally maintained good relations, the only potential chink in the armor being the unhappiness of some Naval and Air Force officers over the apparent unfairness in the way furniture allowances have been distributed among the services.  The Army, they allege, was favored in the exercise.   However, truth is that the Army used money from its own savings account to fulfill terms of service for its personnel, which had not been fulfilled by the Ministry of Defence. That said, in spite of major organizational and logistic problems here and there, the armed forces eventually credited itself during joint peace operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone.  Accounts of the experiences in both theaters emphasize the critical importance of jointness in Military operations.  The challenges faced by the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Restore Hope, is another ongoing example of the need for jointness.  SERVICE RIVALRY – AS SEEN BY NIGERIAN SERVICE PERSONNEL To provide a mechanism for capturing perceptions among current and retired Military and Police personnel, I distributed a survey two months ago which posed a series of questions designed to gauge sentiments and identify factors which have contributed to service rivalry.  This is a summary of the views expressed.  Nigeria has three distinct Military services (Army, Navy and Air Force), and one Police service all of which are centrally controlled by the Federal government.  Nigeria does not, at present, have a Constabulary Force (a hybrid of Military and Police Forces for operations other than war) but briefly experimented with a National Guard in the early eighties.   The Police (1861), Army (1863) and Navy (1956) were established before independence in 1960 by British mercantile and colonial authorities, while the Air Force was formally established in 1964.  However, the Police and Army share overlapping origins while the Air Force was part of the Army from 1962 to 1964, and used Army ranks until 1976.  In its early years German officers led the Air Force.  It appears widely recognized, particularly within the Military , that there is a notion of Service or Regimental Seniority based on year of establishment, i.e. the Army is “senior” to the Navy and the Navy is “senior” to the Air Force, in that order.  Although the Police are not part of the Military, some Police officers privately contend that the Police are “senior” to the Army.  Nevertheless, at national parades, the order of precedence of Service chiefs is as follows: Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff followed by the Inspector General of Police.  Service rivalry is viewed as an either neutral or negative phenomenon which has increased in intensity, gradually after independence, and then more so after the end of the Cold war era, but particular so since the advent of civil rule in 1999, engendered by a sense that in a democratic system, the Police are the dominant agent for Internal Security, Law and Order.  Rival services, used to the dominant role of the Military in Internal security during Nigeria’s long experience under Military rule, feel the Police now subjectively disregard their importance and existence.  One Army respondent wrote, “The Police now believe she is the only officially recognized force during democracy.”   Some contend, with barely disguised concern, that the Police even have a bigger budget than the Ministry of Defence. Such rivalry has been manifested by incidents of outright violence between services in peacetime (particularly the Army and Police).  Inter-service rivalry is not held accountable for any incidents of fratricide (i.e. “friendly fire”) between services in war-time or during foreign peace-keeping operations since independence. Where such incidents have occurred, particularly during the civil war (between the Air Force and Army), officers contend that they were purely accidental.  However, on close scrutiny, incompatibility of equipment (such as radio communications sets) between services could only have be en the result of pre-war service parochialism and lack of joint planning.  Most officers feel that the subject of Inter-Service rivalry, its benefits and drawbacks, is not deliberately taught to enlisted men and officers at various stages of their career.  While the Military and Police serve clearly distinct purposes, there are overlapping roles in internal security situations which rely on political directives, rules of engagements, standard procedures, joint training and coordination for clarification.  Military officers “go through the motions” to implement such directives, but some admit that the underlying relationship is not always cordial. There are clear (although not always comprehensive) guidelines for unity of command, span of control and delegation of authority during “war” as well as “operations other than war”, which are mostly  (but not always) followed in practice.  The authority, responsibility and power to resolve operational inter-service disputes lies with the Joint Force Commander, Chief of Defence Staff and/or the Commander-in-Chief.  From the standpoint of recruitment, when positions in the Services are advertised, there is some disagreement over whether the various services (Military and Police) emphasize different things to potential recruits. There is a single entry institution for Military (Army, Navy, Air Force) officers; several separate regional entry co lleges for Police officers, and several separate regional entry depots for servicemen (other ranks) in the various services (Military and Police).  In general, if an applicant is turned down for admission to one service (Military or Police) they can be admitted to another service, as long as the reason for rejection was not of a disciplinary or medical nature.  However, once accepted, if an applicant is dismissed during post-enlistment attrition, they cannot be re-admitted to another service – unless records of prior enlistment are not available.    There is a majority consensus that during induction, enlistees are formally oriented to believe that service in the Military or Police is superior to any other kind of service to the country.  They are also formally oriented on what their uniforms mean and why they need to be proud to wear it, rather than the uniform of any other service. Each service (Military and Police) maintains different mottos, service badges of rank and medals, service etiquettes and uniforms.  Educational, physical fitness and moral standards are identical at entry across the Military services, but different for the Police.  Most officers do not now perceive an “Arms Race” between Military services although it appears to have been a big issue in the late seventies and early eighties.  Nevertheless each servi ce does try to acquire weapon systems unique to its own perception of Military effectiveness.  The services (Military and Police) do not have free reign for weapon and equipment acquisition because of political direction at the top.  However, there does not seem to be a central clearing and coordinating mechanism for coordinating Service (Military and Police) requests for weapons and non-combat equipment.  No one service (Military or Police) can now directly influence the weapon and non-combat equipment of others as was the case in the late seventies when the Air Force felt the Army was impinging on its missile priorities or in the early eighties when the Police found itself under the microscope of the Army for ordering armored vehicles.   However, it is acknowledged that inter-operability needs to be fac tored in when making choices.  Whether this happens in practice is another matter.  Although the public has the perception that the Police (particularly the Police Mobile Force) uses “hand me down weapons” from the Military, most Military officers do not seem to think so.   Military and Police servicemen get to train together at lower, middle and senior levels.  At lower levels, they do so via joint Military-Police patrols; at middle levels they do so via courses at the Command and Staf f College; at senior levels they do so via courses at the War College and National Institute for Policy and Strategic studies (NIPSS).  Nevertheless, there is agreement that joint training is nearly non-existent prior to deployment for the lowest ranks, while opportunities at higher ranks are spotty.  Military and Police officers and servicemen get to train at each others’ institutions (e.g. the Army School of Intelligence) although it is much more likely that the Police attend a Military institution than the other way around.  Although the Army and Air Force maintained opportunities for service cross-over in the first decade after independence, there are not now any opportunities for servicemen to cross from one service to another at lower, middle and senior levels in their career. Each service (including the Police) is under command of an officer from within its own ranks.  Among the Military, service-specific loyalty, esprit de corps and morale is not deliberately nurtured in each service (and sub-service) from recruitment to exit to the exclusion of other Military services.  In other words, esprit de corps cuts across services.  However, this does not extend to the Police.  There is disagreement over whether corporate esprit de corps is deliberately nurtured at the supra-service level of “Nati onal Defence and Security” or resolved hierarchically by default.    Opportunities for Military and Police personnel to socialize outside work exist.  They include sports, training interactions, rest and recuperation in messes, “mammy-market” and social activities.  What is not clear, however, is the extent to which these opportunities are actually exploited.  Enlisted men and officers can theoretically visit each others messes but Military and Police barracks have never been shared.  Nevertheless some Police and Military barracks are physically near one another by coincidence.  The notion of a “Unified” Command Structure has apparently been discussed and rejected in favor of ad-hoc “joint task forces.”  If under command in a “joint” situation, Army, Naval and Air Force Officers can give direct commands to subordinate officers from other services in war.  A similar principle applies to the Police if designated the lead agency in operations other th an war, including natural disasters and major accidents.  Whether or not this always occurs in practice is unclear.  The position of Chief of Defence Staff has existed in Nigeria in one form or the other since 1979.  All military services are now equally likely, by rotation, to produce a CDS from time to time, although the Army dominated it for some time.  The fact that the CDS comes from one or the other Service is not thought to negatively affect inter-service rivalry, as perceived by the various Services.   However, some feel that the fact that the CDS comes from one or the other Service may negatively affect his relationship with his home Service Chief by limiting the scope of decisional freedom of the affected Service Chief.  This may be more so when the CDS is himself the previous Chief of the service concerned.  In practice, the CDS is not in command of all combat forces (although regulations suggest intent that that be the case). He is rather, in practice, a coordinating Staff Officer and Military adviser with no direct command of individual Services, which, reportedly, assert themselves from time to time.  He does, however, exercise command over the Joint Task Forces.   Part of the problem appears to be the fact that in dividual Service Chiefs maintain unrestrained access to the Commander-in-Chief, and that financial arrangements for operations are not streamlined.  There was no unanimity in the ranking, in order of priority, of various approaches to Force development (as classified by Professor Henry Bartlett of the US Naval War College), in terms of which best characterizes Defence Policy Formulation in Nigeria, i.e. ·                    Top-Down – driven primarily by interests, objectives & strategies?·                    Bottom-Up – driven primarily by current Military capability?·                    Scenario – driven primarily by situation and circumstances?·                    Threat – driven primarily by perceived opponents?·                    Capability – Mission – driven primarily by function?·                    Hedging – driven primarily by need to minimize risk?·                    Technology – driven primarily by wants and needs for superior technical systems?·                    Fiscal – driven primarily by budgetary considerations? There were generational differences in response among officers.  It was noted, however, that a transformation agenda is in progress to address the threat of contemporary asymmetric, space, and cyber-space warfare with a view to establishing new non-traditional Force Structures. It is felt that the quality of uniforms, salaries and benefits, food quality and supply, and quality of accommodation (Barracks) are identical (or at least similar) at low er, intermediate and senior levels across the Military and Police – but need a lot of improvement. There is a perception among most that salaries and benefits, food quality and supply, and quality of accommodation for the Security sector is worse than that of the rest of the Civil Service and that the standard of living of Military and Police Officers is lower than that of society in general.  However, this perception is at variance with the perception among civilians in society in general.  They seem to think the opposite is true.  Most respondents say that there are no overtly deliberate significant ethnic differences between Military and Police recruitment or posting between specialized units (Combat, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Combat Support and Support units) within services.   I did find it troubling, though, that a significant minority of officers do think that there are ethnic differences between the Military and Police – an observation that may more likely reflect coincidental regional differences in deployment rather than systematic differences in recruitment at service entry.  That said, recruitment is largely based on the constitutionally enshrined principle of federal character (quota system), albeit modified by individual career choices.  Individual Corps (e.g. Engineers, Intelligence, and Medical etc) within Services (e.g. Army, Navy, Police etc) do not now directly recruit their members outside the main Service entry mechanisms of recruitment, although the possibility cannot be ruled out in the future.  Similarly, Special Forces (Military and Police) do not directly recruit their members outside the main Service entry mechanisms of recruitment.  Educational and remuneration differences between specialized units within services are largely limited to medical personnel and confidential secretaries. Military and Police services present their proposals for annual budgets individually.  The power, authority and responsibility to resolve inter-service competition for funds is vested in the Minister of Defence (for the Military) and the President and National Assembly for competition between the Military and Police.   Duri ng Nigeria’s long experience with Military rule and prolonged State of Emergency during and after the Civil War, the dominant actor in maintaining internal security was the Army.  Manifestations in service rivalry (Military) were best appreciated in the area of command and control. With regards to the Police, it has manifested itself differently during Military and non-Military rule as noted previously.   Most Military personnel feel that Military personnel are generally law abiding – except for isolated incidents.  Others disagree.  Officers pay requisite societal taxes deducted at source, although other ranks (who are very poorly paid) are generally exempt. Servicemen say they generally keep their driving licenses current.  If not, they acknowledge that t he Police and Road Safety Corps have the authority, responsibility and power to enforce compliance.  Similarly, Servicemen say they mostly obey Traffic regulations, and acknowledge that the Police and Road Safety Corps have the authority, responsibility and power to enforce compliance.   Most Servicemen claim that they pay for civilian public transportation by road, rail, ferry or air – although, particularly for road transport, there is a perception among civilians that some do not pay when in uniform (particularly in Lagos).   There are established guidelines for dealing with felonies and crimes committed by Servicemen outside their Barracks which involve the Military Police in deference to civil and Military laws.  They acknowledge that both civil and Military Police (and indeed any se nior service person on the scene) have the power of arrest of an erring Soldier, Sailor or Airman outside the Barracks.  There are obvious differences in public (civilian) perception of the Military and Police in Nigeria.  Practically all personnel interviewed said the public had a low opinion of the Police, and often prefer for the Military to undertake many Police roles.  There is a presumption that individual Military services, do, within limits imposed by poor funding, try to maintain the highest possible standard s of intra-service professionalism.  However, although, senior Military officers claim they do not look down on the Police, they acknowledge that junior officers and other ranks do.  Interestingly, most current servicemen and women do not recall that either society or the government has tried to deliberately (or inadvertently) manipulate service rivalry for any reason (even though there are obvious examples to an outsider of this phenomenon).  When inter-service misunderstandings arising from rivalry have occurred the feelin g is that the Press and Public generally tended to be easily swayed by the first account it gets no matter who that account favors.   Nevertheless, many feel the Military tends to have the ear of the public because of the poor image of the Police.  However, there is a perception that the Police tends to provide lots of false information to the press in such situations and that the Press has a responsibility to conduct proper investigations before propagating falsehood.   When such misunderstandings are between the security service and the civilian public the public and Press tend to be harsher on the Military, irrespective of the facts of the case.  Lastly, when violent inter-service misunderstandings arising from rivalry have occurred there have been no established guidelines for investigating and dealing with such incidents. Ad hoc arrangements have tended to be made along as time passes. According to some respondents, recommendations following government investigative reports have not been consistently implemented over the years.   Continued……….  

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