Nigerian Army and General Buratai’s Drive on Infrastructure
By Thomas Uzah PhD
It will be twisted logic and misplaced sense of judgment of the exact reality to assert that the Nigerian Army (NA) is having good times in infrastructural provisions under the supervision of its current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai. It is more appropriate to say, the Nigerian Army has landed in its best of times on infrastructural provisions and exceptional welfare packages under the leadership of the COAS, Gen. Buratai.
Before the reality of the leadership of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari, discerning Nigerians knew several other salient reasons accounted for the persistent open anger expressed by soldiers in the warfront. The persistent mutinous actions by troops at the frontlines fighting Boko Haram was partly attributable to poor troops’ welfare occasioned by absolute neglect and dilapidated infrastructur and accommodation for officers and soldiers.
Soldiers experienced and endured dilapidated Barracks, acute shortage of office and residential accommodations, poor state of Army Guest Houses and camps throughout the country. Some Army Barracks had not tested any flavour of renovation or rehabilitation since Nigeria’s first post-independence era Defence Minister, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu built the structures in the early sixties. History has recorded him as a leader who massively built new Barracks and renovated old ones.
Like Ribadu; Gen. Buratai has carved an enviable niche for himself in the new Millennium as an Army Chief who has generously built new Barracks for the Army and massively renovated old ones in virtually all parts of the country. African proverb says, a chic which would grow into a cock is known the very it is hatched.
So, Gen. Buratai started exuding the signs of a genuine leader, reformer, a positive minded personality and charismatic goal-getter on all fronts the first day he assumed office as Nigeria’s COAS. He toured Army formations and units across the country; bemoaned the competitively dilapidated state of Army Barracks and facilities, whilst he silently took notes on the urgent interventions each of the Barracks required to transform into a habitable befitting dwelling place for soldiers.
The Army boss believes in the philosophy that a soldier deserves the best in peacetime because he faces death every minute in wartimes.Though, Gen. Buratai sauntered unto the leadership of the NA at the time Nigeria was plunged into economic crunch. But the reality of meagre budgetary votes and insufficient funding of the Army to date did not deter Gen. Buratai from putting smiles on the faces of officers and soldiers.
With a supportive Commander-In-Chief, President Buhari, Gen. Buratai has propelled the NA on an unprecedented and incredible structural expansion and physical development in the last five years. He corrected and normalized what appeared to have been a carelessly institutionalized structural decay and degeneration of almost three decades in barely five years of his leadership.
And the real good news is that the Army Chief has not felt he has done enough to assuage the depravities of his Comrades in the profession of arms’ yet. Therefore, he hungers to accomplish more in impactful legacies for the NA. And to properly uplift Army personnel’s welfare, Gen, Buratai has starched an extra mile to partner with private estate developers to berth his vision of normalizing the accommodation deficits, which hitherto plagued the NA for decades.
Reputed as a focused, dynamic and foresighted leader, with a functional mind, Gen. Buratai has conceptualized and delivered his development agenda for the NA under the broad divisions of policy frameworks of NA Property Limited and NA Welfare Limited by Guarantee, Army Post-Service Housing Scheme and NA Farms and Ranches among a motley of others.
Gen. Buratai is a man of taste and elegance. And one unique feature of Buratai’s touch on structural transformation of the Army is that he has phased out the Lord Lugard’s structures which dotted Army formations/Barracks across Nigeria and replaced them with modern, befitting and well furnished accommodation. And the new buildings are also an aesthetic consummation of the dynamism of architecture’s latest wonders of awful edifices. They are a sight to behold anywhere in the world. He replaced obsolete amenities, facilities and equipment in the Army Barracks and units with state-of-the art latest models.
The establishment of two new Divisions of the NA by Gen. Buratai in conformity with the Presidential directive on new NA Order of Battle (ORBAT) is not the most cheering news. But it is the pleasant shock that the new Divisions 6 and 8 in Port Harcourt, Rivers state and Sokoto are fully operationalized. And it is because the Army Chief worked assiduously to get all the needed structures, manpower and equipment ready within record time.
Gen. Buratia has replicated the same portrait in the new and novel Nigerian Army University Biu (NAUB); the first Nigerian Army War College, the Nigerian Army Aviation Command, Nigerian Army Women Corps, Command Engineering Depot Kaduna, Special Forces Command, Special Forces School at Buni Yadi as well as the renovation and construction of new buildings at the Nigerian Army School of Artillery in Kachia, Kaduna State. He renovated and modernized the Office of the Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters Abuja; built and equipped the first well organized and effectively manned think thank Centre per excellence – the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) located at strategic area of Asokoro Abuja, which is serving the dual purpose of an alternate office accommodation and modern resource venue for workshops and seminars for the army and qualified public organisations and individuals.
Still in Abuja, the fanciful modern structures at the recently built and commissioned Muhammadu Buhari Cantonment at Giri, consisting of new 150 flats of accommodation in the Barracks accommodating 150 families of officers and soldiers is legendary in the recent history of the Nigerian Army. Okene in Kogi State has also hosted a new Army Forward Operations Base and military barracks. So also the latest building, manning and equipping of Cyber warfare Command Office Complex, Cyber Operations Centre and Nigerian Army Intelligence and Cyber Warfare School at Giri-Abuja.
The testimony also reflected at the newly built various Nigerian Army Super Camps across the volatile locations in Nigeria to facilitate the defeat of terrorism, Armed banditry and other insecurities across the nation.The structural development inclination of Gen. Buratai started quite early in his leadership. By 2016, the renovation of 10 blocks of 30 flats each at the Maxwell Khobe Cantonment, Jos was completed. So also the dramatic renovation and expansion of Army headquarters Complex in Abuja.
The development streak descended on the 3 Brigade Kano, where new blocks of multiple flats of accommodation for soldiers in the Bukavu Barracks, Kano have been completed. It amazingly displays two newly constructed blocks of 24 flats each and five renovated blocks of 12 flats each. Still under Gen. Buratai’s leadership, the NA renovated and remodeled accommodation for 120 soldiers in Ribabu Cantonment and Dalet Barracks, under 1 Division Kaduna, comprising of flashy 120 flats.
Similarly in 8 Division Lagos area, – specifically – in 9 Brigade Ikeja multiple accommodation for soldiers and officers have been renovated and new ones were built. There, in ikeja Cantonment, a befitting accommodation for NA pilots has recently been completed and commissioned by Gen Buratai.
And the NA’s partnership with Betonic West Limited has launched a N7.5 billion Army Post-Service Housing project in Otukpo and Ohimini LGAs of Benue state. The same rewarding partnership with Belemaoil Producing Limited, has earned the Army a 3-story building containing 30 flats at the 16 Brigade Headquarters, Camp Buratai, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Gen. Buratai has intentionally established a dozen Army Forward Operations Bases throughout Nigeria with all the necessary facilities to checkmate all forms of insecurity in Nigeria.
Quite impactfully too, the NA under Gen. Buratai has rehabilitated, re-equipped all existing Army hospitals, medical facilities and Referral hospitals across Nigeria. Two new reference hospitals have been approved and are under construction in 7 Division Maiduguri and 82 Division Area of Responsibility located at Abakaliki in Ebonyi State.The aim is to give the best medical care to Wounded in Action troops and members of their families as well as members of the public/host communities.
The reference hospitals are meant to provide effective healthcare services, – more accessible and affordable to soldiers, their families and members of the host communities. Gen. Buratai is indeed, the NA’s Mr. Infrastructure. He is indefatigable, charismatic and pragmatic leader and military commander of the highest order!Even at the risk of flattery, it is more accurate to say that NA has never experienced these robust structural developments and expansions in her over 100 years of existence as seen during the period of Gen. Buratai. There is a saying in the NA that the period 2015 – 2020 is the Golden Moment of the Nigerian Army as factually articulated in the Compendium of Nigerian Army Transformation: The Buratai Years – 2015 – 2020. This book objectively presents the remarkable transformation of the Nigerian Army under the leadership of Gen Buratai.
Therefore, it is obvious that there is no COAS since post -independence Nigeria that has dramatically upgraded structures, welfare, training and professional standing or disposition of the NA like Gen. Buratai. He has evidently done so much to better the lot of his officers and men more than any other COAS in the history of the NA.
Gen. Buratai represents the changing face of NA’s professionalism, rich history, records of operational achievements in the various theatres of Operations. One wonders what our country would have become in the absence of men and women of Buratai’s caliber especially in the face deliberately and politically engineered insurrection like the “ENDSARS cannibalism” in Nigeria.
Uzah PhD is Head of Department, Mass Communication, Kwararafa University Wukari