The Army of the Federal Republic of Nigeria plays a crucial role in ensuring peace and stability across Nigeria, investing in local content and local workforce and contributing to provide citizens, investors and entrepreneurs with a dynamic, safe and enabling business environment.
The Nigerian army is working tirelessly to increase the local production of the quality equipment needed to guarantee the security of the country.
Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army since 16 July 2015, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai is a world-class infantry officer who has devoted his life to the protection of Nigeria, its people and all the businesses operating in the country. He was born on 24 November 1960, in Buratai, Borno State in North-eastern Nigeria. After graduating with flying colours from the Government Teachers College in Potiskum, Yobe State, Buratai decided to follow his call and serve his nation by dedicating his life to a career in the Nigerian Army. He therefore applied and gained admission to the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna as a member of the 29th Regular Combatant Course, on 3 January 1981. Upon his appointment as Chief of Army Staff, Buratai unveiled his vision for the army, which is guided by the aspiration “To Have a Professionally Responsive Nigerian Army in the Discharge of its Constitutional Role.” This bold vision aims at engendering a professional rebirth of the Nigerian Army, driven by Buratai’s unyielding spirit and unparalleled determination. This zeal led him to perform his role as COAS in the field, frequently visiting commanders and troopers to obtain first-hand information and impressions, with the ultimate aim of devising better solutions to support the continued improvement of the Nigerian Army. Penresa sat with him to hear his thoughts about his first four years in office, and ask about his goals for the future.
- Before concentrating more specifically on Nigeria and its army, would you like to sum up the path that led you to the position of Chief of the Army Staff of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
I started my career training, like any other officer cadet and later officer. I graduated from the Nigerian Defence Academy as a regular combatant officer in 1981. After three years of rigorous training, I was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as a Second Lieutenant on 17th December 1983. Since then I have had the opportunity to serve in various battalions, brigades and formations in various capacities, and to command at various levels culminating in my appointment as the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force based in Ndjamena, Chad, from where I was appointed the Chief of Army Staff. I am pleased to be in this position, and I thank God Almighty and our President and Commander in Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari for having granted me the opportunity to command the largest and strongest army in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Nigeria is one of the powerhouses of the continent. What, in your opinion, makes this country so unique?
The Nigerian people, in terms of population and diversity are our strongest assets; then of course the army, first of all, in terms of strength and manpower disposition. Our army has eight divisions. Our equipment holding is good, though we continuously need more, due to the landmass and the population of the country. In terms of training, our technical, cyber and ICT capabilities are among the best, and we have the best training institutions, right from the tactical to strategic levels. We are proud of our participation in various peacekeeping operations for the stabilisation of some countries in West Africa and other parts of the world. We have performed very well, restoring democracy in several neighbouring countries. We were able to prevent the collapse of some countries through the interventions of the government. The role of the Nigerian army in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia stabilised the whole West African region. We take our role very seriously, respecting our constitutional responsibilities.
- Nigerian defence company PROFORCE has proved to be a reliable indigenous partner, proud to serve the nation’s armed forces. How are you going to leverage this fruitful partnership?
We have the capacity to produce our equipment locally, which translates into combat capability and a distinct capacity to deploy our forces elsewhere. It is a very strong force multiplier, and helps conserve foreign exchange for the country. About 70-80% of the components we use are locally produced. It also means lower costs for us, since we do not have to import from elsewhere. Our equipment maintenance capacity is also very important: to import you need at least six months. So, once we are able to expand this relationship with Proforce, we will be equally able to have protective equipment and an effective and reliable supply line in terms of defence needs. Thereafter we can expand to communication and logistics vehicles. We can modify them to suit our requirements in terms of terrain and weather. It is a good partnership that is helping the country’s economy. We would also eventually aim to export some of the equipment to neighbouring countries; it would be a good source for forex as well. MRAPs are particularly important: protection is one of the functions in combat. Protection of forces is crucial in war, and so is safety and security. With this Proforce MRAP, we will be able to protect our troops when they fight. This will improve our capabilities in all terrains. The advantages we derive from this modified equipment are indeed force multipliers. We are happy about them. The ability to fire on the move and the clearance in terms of movement on difficult terrains are both good and advantageous attributes which enhance the overall combat efficiency of the vehicles.
- FDI remains a crucial requirement to achieve the goals set in Next Level agenda launched by President Buhari on the dawn of his second term in office. The government is working to increase the ease of doing business, and the perception of safety plays a capital role in this respect. Can you give us a last message of confidence about Nigeria and its army?
I know several countries, individuals and corporate organisations would be happy to come and invest in Nigeria. For that, you need a peaceful, secure environment where your investments are well protected. Stability is key. Rest assured that Nigeria has all the requirements for high FDI inflow. The Nigerian army is working along with other security agencies to ensure security across the country. We have worked hard in the last four years. We take special interest in protecting investors: it is a specific government policy, necessary for individuals, countries and corporations to come and invest. We have a duty to defend the country and provide an enabling environment. Let me add one thing: In order to locally develop capacity, the Nigerian army is open to investors. We have the Nigerian army Command Engineering Depot (CED) in Kaduna, which has a vehicle-manufacturing unit. The CED is already producing our own wholly indigenous and tropicalised MRAP – the EZUGWU MRAP. We are also partnering with other R&D agencies such as the Nigerian Defence Industries Corporation (DICON) to produce other equipment and weapons we require such as ballistic helmets, mine-clearing equipment and much more. We have already produced our own set of light armoured vehicles which are already out there in field. These are the first to ever be produced in Nigeria. No doubt, we would like investors to come and fund our projects wholly or in partnership. So we welcome development, investors are very welcome.