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ROLE OF THE NAVY IN COUNTER INSURGENCY OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA

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Nigerian Navy

By Abdulazeez Zubairu, mni

ABSTRACT

The study assessed the impact of the Nigerian Navy’s efforts on Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations in the north eastern region of Nigeria. The commitment of Naval Base Lake Chad troops in COIN Operations has demonstrated success in displacing Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgents from their strongholds in the northeast. However, challenges such as limited intelligence capacity, insufficient logistics, and a challenging operating environment have been identified as hindrances to Naval Base Lake Chad’s ability to fully achieve its objectives in COIN Operations in the northeast. The study employed a mixed research strategy, combining qualitative and quantitative approaches for data collection. Findings indicate that Naval Base Lake Chad’s COIN efforts serve as a force multiplier and a deterrent in the northeast. The conclusion highlights that while the Nigerian Navy’s contributions through Naval Base Lake Chad have positively impacted COIN Operations, there is a need for further strengthening to enhance effectiveness in the northeast. Recommendations include the call for the Federal Government of Nigeria to reinforce the operational frameworks of the Nigerian Navy in the north east and for the Ministry of Defence to enhance the intelligence management system of Operation HADIN KAI with early warning devices and a responsive system.

INTRODUCTION

Navies or maritime forces are universally acknowledged as a crucial element within the national security framework. Given that insurgency stands as a prominent threat to global security, nations formulate corresponding Counter-Insurgency (COIN) measures to address the repercussions of insurgent activities. Specifically, naval forces enhance COIN Operations through activities at sea, such as implementing blockades and patrols, gathering intelligence, and deterring external powers from escalating or becoming involved. Additionally, the strategic transportation of forces to and within COIN theatres, logistical support provision, and facilitation of amphibious landings and strike operations serve as avenues through which Naval Forces reinforce COIN Operations (Cass, 2016).

The emergence of Boko Haram insurgents initially as a religious sect in 2002, evolving into a violent group in 2009, led to the implementation of Counter-Insurgency (COIN) operations in Nigeria’s North East zone. Commencing in 2011 as a Joint Task Force under the moniker Operation RESTORE ORDER, the operation underwent restructuring and renaming as Operation ZAMAN LAFIYA in 2013. Subsequently, it was re-designated as Operation LAFIYA DOLE in 2015 and further named Operation HADIN KAI in April 2021. The persistent insurgency by the Boko Haram Sect and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) has resulted in the loss of lives and extensive destruction of homes and properties among the Nigerian populace. Effectively addressing this insurgency necessitates the implementation of robust COIN strategies. The COIN Framework of the Federal Government o Nigeria is grounded in the National Security Strategy (NSS) of 2014, NSS 2019, and the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) of 2016. These documents offer the Federal Government alternative approaches for addressing insurgency. In addition, the Nigerian Government, in collaboration with Chad and Niger, established the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in 2014. The MNJTF Operations notably include a crucial Naval component, serving as an essential COIN mechanism in the Lake Chad region (Willie, 2018).

Certainly, the fundamental constitutional mandate of the Nigerian Navy is to safeguard the nation’s maritime interests and protect offshore resources, thereby enhancing national security. The policing function of the Nigerian Navy primarily involves maintaining law and order within its territorial waters, operating within the framework of the Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy (TSMS) established in 2011. According to Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (Rtd), the TSMS, organized into five spectrums, serves as a guiding framework for all operational engagements of the Nigerian Navy. Spectrum-5 encompasses activities related to internal security, counterinsurgency (COIN), and counter-terrorism operations. The Nigerian Navy has demonstrated effectiveness in this spectrum through initiatives such as establishing a Naval Outpost (NOP) in the Lake Chad region and deploying a detachment of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Services (NNSBS) as part of the Armed Forces Special Forces Battalion (AFSFBn) in the north eastern zone of Nigeria.

In 2016, the Naval Headquarters established Naval Base Lake Chad, originally known as NOP Lake Chad, under the oversight of the Maritime Component Commander (MCC) of Operation HADIN KAI. Following this, Nigerian Navy (NN) personnel were promptly deployed to the Lake Chad Basin, constituting the counterinsurgency (COIN) maritime component of Operation LAFIYA DOLE, as highlighted by Adeniyi (2019). Naval Base Lake Chad has played a significant role in the COIN endeavors of Operation HADIN KAI, successfully repelling numerous insurgent attacks and forcing them out of their camps in North Eastern Nigeria. Despite these achievements, the insurgents persist in their activities, leading to the destruction of military assets in the Lake Chad region. Therefore, there is a pressing need to formulate effective strategies to address the challenges hindering the Nigerian Navy’s COIN efforts through the operations of Naval Base Lake Chad.

The objectives of this paper are to: (i) appraise the roles of the Nigerian Navy in COIN Operations; (ii) evaluate how the efforts of the Nigerian Navy has influenced COIN Operations in the north eastern zone of Nigeria; and (iii) identify the challenges and prospects associated with the efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad in COIN Operations in the north eastern zone of Nigeria.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The evolving nature of the current global maritime security landscape, characterized by the growing complexity of transnational crimes and their international nature, has prompted a united response from naval forces worldwide to counteract these challenges (Moseley, 2013). According to Addico’s (2013) research, naval operations involve the provision of surveillance, enforcement, and a visible presence in coastal waters and exclusive economic zones. These operations also serve as a deterrent against the rising incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships. The author emphasizes that naval operations are crucial for preventing the illegal exploitation of marine resources, encompassing activities such as extensive illegal and unreported fishing, oil theft, illegal immigration, and drug trafficking. Addico’s perspective outlines various illicit activities that pose threats to maritime security, including insurgency, underscoring the necessity for conducting naval operations.

In their exploration of naval operations within the context of COIN Operations, Feng and Tang (2014) asserted that the evolving trends in the early 21st century, particularly in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, contributed to the reinforcement of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) maritime security theory. This reinforcement involved expanding cooperation to encompass maritime counterterrorism and COIN. The authors outlined three key steps for integrating security into COIN Operations: (i) engaging in joint military exercises to enhance maritime security cooperation, (ii) establishing a substantive multilateral maritime security mechanism, and (iii) advocating for the creation of an “ASEAN Security Community” to realize integration of ASEAN maritime COIN efforts.

In discussing the involvement of the French Navy in France’s Counterinsurgency (COIN) operations against the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) in Algeria, Ucko (2015) suggests that France conducted COIN operations during the Algerian war of independence. He notes that over 400,000 French troops participated in the COIN efforts against the FLN. Additionally, Ucko highlights the deployment of French naval units to the Algerian theater, where French warships played a significant role in offensive operations. The French Navy actively prevented the FLN from utilizing sea routes for various purposes, underscoring the extensive use of French military capabilities in COIN. According to Ucko, the COIN initiatives of the French Navy were executed through a diverse array of naval vessels, including submarines, aircraft carriers, and ocean-going surface combatants.

In evaluating the COIN roles and efforts of the Sri Lankan Navy, Jalal (2017) postulates that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) conducted a 26-year insurgency against the central government in Sri Lanka. During the period from 1999 to 2008, the LTTE carried out a total of 315 suicide bombings and more than 60 naval attacks. The author highlights that Sri Lanka’s successful COIN efforts against the LTTE in May 2009 provide valuable insights and lessons for countries dealing with a persistent and formidable insurgency. To achieve this success, Sri Lanka underwent military transformation and adopted new tactics. Jalal also points out that while the primary responsibility for defeating the LTTE was assigned to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), the Sri Lanka Navy actively mobilized its resources for the largest military campaign in the country’s history.

In a related study, Ndoó (2015) observes that the lack of robust maritime security strategies has consequential impacts on COIN Operations. The author’s standpoint is based on the manner in which insurgents, pirates, and other criminal elements carry out their activities due to states’ failure to execute effective naval operations for the proper policing of their maritime domains. This failure provides opportunities for insurgents and other criminal groups to establish themselves. Ndoó

additionally highlights that the inability of African countries to address some of their maritime security challenges and insecurities indicates a potential “Somalia syndrome” in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and the Bakassi peninsula. This underscores that the majority of pirates operating extensively off the Cameroonian coast share similarities with the insurgent movement in the north eastern zone of Nigeria.

Bala (2017) sought to establish the foundation for the COIN role of the Nigerian Navy in the northeastern zone of Nigeria in his study. He contends that, recognizing shortcomings in the CONOPS, the Nigerian Navy adopted a novel strategy termed the Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy (TSMS). Bala (2017) describes the TSMS as relying on a proactive layered response to the conflict spectrum, organized into phases and distinguished by distance from the coast. The author asserts that the TSMS, designed for the effective policing of Nigeria’s maritime environment, is anchored in the Maritime Trinity of action. This Trinity comprises surveillance capabilities, response initiatives, and enforcement. Bala concludes that the TSMS operates as the operational framework guiding the Nigerian Navy’s strategic contributions to the COIN endeavors of Operation HADIN KAI in the northeastern zone of Nigeria.

METHODOLOGY

This research utilized a mixed research strategy that integrated both qualitative and quantitative methodologies for data collection. The adoption of this approach facilitated triangulation and, more significantly, enabled the achievement of the research objectives. The study’s population consisted of respondents selected from military personnel deployed to the Operation HADIN KAI theatre of operations. Additionally, community members residing in the Lake Chad Basin, where the COIN efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad were underway, were also included in the population. Basic statistical tools, such as percentages and frequency distribution, were employed to analyze the quantitative data. The results of the quantitative analysis were

presented in tables and figures to facilitate the interpretation of findings and effectively convey the key outcomes of the study.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS

Dissecting the Past Contributions of the Nigerian Navy in Counter Insurgency Operations

On December 27, 2006, the Nigerian Navy established a specialized and elite unit called the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Services. This unit was created in response to the prevailing internal security threats such as insurgency, hostage-taking, and piracy. The operatives of the Special Boat Services played a significant role in various operations, including Operation PULO- SHIELD in the Niger Delta, Operation SAFE HAVEN in Plateau State, Operation RESTORE ORDER in Kano State, Operation IRON FENCE II in Kogi State, and Operation ZAMAN LAFIYA in the north eastern zone of Nigeria (Bolarinwa, 2019).

The elements of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Services actively took part in Operation HADIN KAI in the North East and Operation SAFE HAVEN in Plateau State. Originally established as a Naval Outpost, it initially offered support to Operation LAFIYA DOLE. Additionally, it played a role in Operation GAMA AIKI, contributing from October 2016 until its successful conclusion in January 2017. Subsequently, it has functioned as a blocking force in the Lake Chad Basin, demonstrating its effectiveness during the RUWAN KADA mission, which spanned from March to July 2017 (Aliyu, 2019).

The Nigerian Navy Special Boat Services Unit continues to participate in collaborative clearance operations on the immediate islands of Lake Chad within its designated Area of Operations, working in conjunction with the Multinational Joint Task Force Sector Three Amphibious Company. Furthermore, the unit is actively engaged in joint patrols, both on land and water, in partnership with the Joint Task Force Sector Three. It plays a crucial role in the operations of the Multinational Joint Task Force, collaborating with the maritime forces of Sector One (Cameroon), Sector Two (Chad), and Sector Four (Niger). Consequently, the Naval Base Lake

Chad has significantly contributed to the efforts of previous counterinsurgency (COIN) operations and the ongoing Operation HADIN KAI, enhancing its counterinsurgency endeavors and overall activities.

Contemporary Contributions of the Nigerian Navy in Counter Insurgency Operations

Aligned with its COIN mandates, the Nigerian Navy strategically planned to establish Naval Base Lake Chad in the North East region of Nigeria. This base collaborates with the Joint Task Force of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, primarily engaged in land-based operations. Many of these operations are conducted jointly with personnel from other military and paramilitary services. Since 2016, the Nigerian Navy has been actively involved in comprehensive COIN operations on the Nigerian side of the Lake Chad area to ensure the complete liberation from Boko Haram insurgents. Marine troops were deployed in accordance with Presidential Directives to enhance the fight against insurgency in north eastern Nigeria. The formation of Naval Base Lake Chad serves as a pivotal hub for intensifying COIN operations under Operation HADIN KAI and preventing the infiltration of terrorists into the country. To achieve the COIN targets and objectives of Naval Base Lake Chad, the advance team of officers and ratings deployed in the Forward Operations Base formulated plans for the deployment of a larger force and the necessary equipment for operations in the area (Soriwei, 2020).

The Lake Chad region is situated in Baga, a border local government in the northern region of Borno State, known as a notorious stronghold for BH insurgents who conduct cross-border operations following the seizure of the fishing town of Baga. The Naval Base Lake Chad, under the operational directives of Operation HADIN KAI, is actively working towards liberating the area from insurgents. This collaborative effort involves coordination with the ground and aerial forces of Operation HADIN KAI.

Data Presentation and Analysis

Questionnaire were administered to purposively selected junior and senior military officers deployed to the Operation HADIN KAI in the north eastern zone of Nigeria, as well as some Nigerian Navy officers and ratings that have recently served in the north-eastern Nigeria Area of Responsibility (AOR) of Naval Base Lake Chad. Accordingly, the study sought to ascertain from respondents if the establishment of Naval Base Lake Chad and deployment of Nigerian Navy personnel into COIN Operations is essential for enhancing COIN strategies in Nigeria.

figure 1 chart
Figure 1: Relevance of the Establishment of NBLC towards Enhancing the Effectiveness of COIN Strategies in the Lake Chad Region

The Figure above depicts that a cumulative majority of respondents ranking 97.2 per cent were of the view that the establishment of Naval Base Lake Chad by NHQ in 2016 was relevant to strengthening the COIN efforts of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) in the north eastern zone of Nigeria. The establishment of Naval Base Lake Chad was aimed at strengthening the overall COIN Operations of the AFN and foster a more secured environment for economic and social activities to thrive in the tri-border area of the Lake Chad region. In consonance with the foregoing analysis, it is imperative for Naval Headquarters to sustain the COIN roles and efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad towards enhancing the effectiveness of the COIN Operations in the north eastern zone of Nigeria.

The study also sought the opinion of respondents on the assessment of the effectiveness of Nigerian Navy roles in COIN Operations in north eastern Nigeria.

Figure 2
Figure 4.2: Assessment of the Effectiveness of the Roles of the Nigerian Navy in COIN Operations in North Eastern Nigeria

Figure 2 above shows that the Nigerian Navy effectively conducts sea transportation of Forces to and within the Theatre. The analysis further depicts that the Nigerian Navy performs fairly in facilitating arms smuggling surveillance, conduct of amphibious landings and strikes, sea blockades/patrolling, as well as in the provision of COIN logistics support in the Lake Chad region. Specifically, the Nigerian Navy provides maritime policing operation support to the land and air forces against the insurgents, by limiting the capacity of the insurgent groups in the Lake Chad region. Additionally, the Nigerian Navy usually forms blocking forces along numerous maritime channels linking the Lake Chad. This would force Boko Haram insurgents to be canalized, thereby culminating into defeating the insurgents.

Another question was posed to respondents to assess the effectiveness of the COIN efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad in the north eastern zone of Nigeria.

Table 1: Assessing the Effectiveness of the COIN Efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad in the North East Zone of Nigeria

IndicesVery EffectiveEffectiveIneffectiveVery IneffectiveDon’t Know
Location/Tracking of Insurgents7.644.329.75.512.9
Capturing of Insurgents13.534.840.41.89.5
Interdicting the Movement of Critical Supplies of Insurgents11.645.925.76.410.4
Destruction of Insurgent Infrastructure8.644.627.57.611.7
Amphibious Landings and Strikes Against Insurgents4.056.312.813.113.8
Neutralising of Insurgent Advances11.952.79.814.511.1

In Table 1, a cumulative majority of respondents ranking 51.9 per cent opined that Naval Base Lake Chad has been effective in facilitating the locating/tracking of insurgents which is slightly positive. In addition, 48.3 per cent of respondents cumulatively indicated that efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad have been effective in capturing of insurgents, while 42.2 per cent opined that it has been ineffective in this regard. As regards the interdiction of movement of critical supplies of insurgencies, 57.5 per cent of respondents were of the view that Naval Base Lake Chad has been effective, while 32.1 per cent noted that the Naval Base has been ineffective. Furthermore, 53.2 per cent, 60.3 per cent and 64.6 per cent of respondents cumulatively indicated that efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad have been effective in terms of facilitating the destruction of insurgents’ infrastructure, amphibious landings/strikes against insurgents, and neutralising of insurgents’ advances, respectively. It could be surmised from the analysis that Naval Base Lake Chad has contributed substantially to the effective conduct of COIN Operations in the north eastern zone of Nigeria, but needs to reassess its strategies in terms of capturing of insurgents which got a negative rating from the respondents. There are several lines of operations to holistically tackle insurgency through the COIN maritime component.  The maritime component of Operation

HADIN KAI has adopted the military-centric lines of maritime security operation that is visibly functional and has really been effective in combating the insurgents.

Additionally, the study examined the prominent challenges confronting Naval Base Lake Chad in its contributions to the effective conduct of COIN Operations in the north eastern zone of Nigeria. Accordingly, respondents gave high ratings to some indices as the prominent challenges confronting Naval Base Lake Chad in the COIN Operations. These challenges include: lack of high-tech armoury, inadequate manpower, deficits in intelligence gathering, insufficient equipment/arms, as well as weak command and control centre. More so, the difficult operating environment characterised by harsh weather conditions and difficult navigating terrain; deficient pre-deployment training; as well as inadequate Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detecting equipment were prominent challenges confronting the naval component in the COIN Operations. Discussion of Results

The data collected were used to answer the study’s objectives. The study established that the COIN roles of Naval Base Lake Chad is essential for enhancing the effectiveness of the COIN Operations in the north eastern zone of Nigeria. This finding is in tandem with the standpoint of Ndoó (2015) who posited that naval operations are an essential component of COIN Operations of several nations. The findings made it evident that efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad have been fairly effective in terms of facilitating the destruction of insurgents’ infrastructure and amphibious landings/strikes against insurgents. It was noted that the COIN efforts of the Naval Base Lake Chad acts as a force multiplier and deterrence in the COIN Operations in the north eastern zone of Nigeria. Nonetheless, the COIN efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad need to be strengthened in order for its operational objectives to be actualised in the north eastern zone of Nigeria. Furthermore, the prospects for improved COIN efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad include: improved economy of the Lake Chad region, curtailing of human trafficking and smuggling of small arms and light weapons in the region, as well as improved maritime security in the Lake Chad region.

CONCLUSION

The establishment of Naval Base Lake Chad was aimed at strengthening the overall COIN Operations of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and foster a more secured environment for economic and social activities to thrive in the tri-border area of the Lake Chad region. The establishment of the Naval Base was therefore essential in the north east zone of Nigeria, as it significantly complements the efforts of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force as well as other security agencies with COIN roles. There are several lines of operations to holistically tackle insurgency through the COIN maritime component. Operation HADIN KAI has adopted the military-centric lines of maritime security operation that is visibly functional and has really been effective in combating the insurgents. The efforts of Naval Base Lake Chad have no doubt impacted on COIN Operations through the creation of awareness in the area of combating and reclaiming the Nigerian waters, reduced insurgent attacks in the Lake Chad, and contributing to both defensive and offensive measures in the COIN Operations. The maritime operations of Naval Base Lake Chad have assisted in the degradation of insurgents particularly within the waterways of the Lake Chad. Succinctly, the efforts of the Nigerian Navy through activities of Naval Base Lake Chad have no doubt contributed to the level of success achieved in the COIN Operations, but needs to be continually strengthened towards enhancing effective COIN Operations in the north east zone of Nigeria.

Consequently, the study proffers the following recommendations:

  1. The Federal Government should adequately fund the COIN operations in the north east zone of Nigeria.
  2. The Federal Government should strengthen the operational frameworks of Naval Base Lake Chad in the north east zone of Nigeria.
  3. The Ministry of Defence should strengthen the intelligence management system of Operation HADIN KAI with early warning devices and response system.
  4. The Nigerian Navy should strengthen the logistics base of Naval Base Lake Chad.
  1. The Nigerian Navy should provide adequate surveillance equipment and weapons required for Naval Base Lake Chad to conduct efficient sea blockades/patrols.
  2. The Nigerian Navy should install the Falcon Eye cameras along the coastline in the Lake Chad towards enhancing the Navy’s monitoring of insurgent advances in real time.

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Adeniyi, K.A. (2019). The Counterterrorism Framework in Nigeria: Strategic and Operational Pitfalls. https://www.eeradicalisation.com/.

Aliyu, U. (2019). Security Frameworks and Vigilantes in Counterinsurgencies: Nigerian Civilian Joint Task Force in Perspective. Seminar Paper Presented at the United States Army War College.

Bala, M. (2017). Nigerian Navy and Counter Insurgency Operations in Northern Nigeria.

Lecture Delivered at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna.

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Cass, F. (2016). Useful Accounts of the Characteristics of Maritime Forces can be Found: A Guide for the Twenty-First Century. London: Macmillan Publishers.

Feng, L. and Tang, G. (2014). The Maritime Security Theory and Practices of the ASEAN After the Cold War. http/www.candex.maritimesecurity .org/.

Jalal, M. (2017). Think like a Guerrilla: Counter Insurgency Lessons from Sri Lanka. http://www.harvardnsj.org/content/uploads/.

Ndo’o, R.G. (2015). H Piraterie Maritime: Versunesomalisation Des Côtes Camerounaises. http//www.campirat.net/mdomain/.

Soriwei, K.E. (2020). Nigerian Navy Begins Full Counter-insurgency Operations in Lake Chad. https://www.channelstv.com/.

Ucko, D.H. (2015). Reintegrating Armed Groups After Conflict: Politics, Violence and Transition. Abingdon: Routledge Publishers.

Wille, P.J. (2018). Operational Isolation of the Enemy in Offensive Urban Operations.

Newport: Naval War College Press.

Abdulazeez Zubairu, mni

Contact Address: Naval Headquarters, Abuja

Email: [email protected]

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