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Nigerian Army - PKO (peacekeeping operations)

Western African powerhouse Nigeria has assumed a leadership role in regional peacekeeping efforts since the early 1990s. Today, it is the largest African contributor to UN peacekeeping missions, both in and around Africa. Western Africa has been one of the most volatile areas on the continent. Central to creating stability in this turbulent area was the emergence of Nigeria as a leader in Africa in regional (and lately global) peacekeeping efforts.

The Nigerian military both suffered from and gloried in its PKO (peacekeeping operations) participation. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) dispatched troops to Liberia in August 1990 to contain the civil war. The newly formed multinational military entity was termed the ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). The Nigerian military generally fought well (with a few notable defeats), but episodes of individual valor among the Nigerian military contingent within ECOMOG during the Liberian contingency were marred by widespread corruption.

The Nigerian military's reputation certainly took some hits in the early days of ECOMOG for its unprofessional performance. They but they also looted, engaged in corruption, and committed human rights violations. The priority for many Nigerian troops in ECOMOG, who sometimes went months without being paid, was often on personal profit. Looting by ostensible peacekeepers was common, and quickly led Liberians to suggest that ECOMOG should stand for Every Car Or Movable Object Gone.

As ECOMOGs presence in Liberia dragged on over seven years, corruption became institutionalized and ever more efficient. The latter days of ECOMOG and ECOMIL's performance in Liberia in 2003 seem to have restored some pride in the military. The senior Nigerian military leadership seems to see participation in peacekeeping missions, especially UN operations, as a means of restoring both soldiers' pride and public confidence in the military.

There are numerous challenges for Nigerias military regarding their continuing support and leadership in peacekeeping operations. One of the most insidious yet unspoken issues is the high infection rate amongst returning Nigerian peacekeepers regarding sexually transmitted diseases, especially the HIV/AIDS virus. A study done in 2005 by the U.S. Naval Health Research Center determined that the Nigerian military had an estimated infection rate of about 15%, as compared to about 5% in the general Nigerian civilian population. 13 Additionally, the chances of becoming infected with HIV/AIDS dramatically increased with the number of years deployed, from about 7% with one year to about 15% with three years of duty on peacekeeping missions.

Nigeria faced fiscal pressures regarding military funding. The fragile economy was poorly situated to man, train and equip their military and police forces in support of the numerous peacekeeping missions. Consequently, these conditions contribute to the fielding of forces that are haphazardly screened and poorly trained for important out-of-area deployments in support of UN missions. Additionally, much of the equipment fielded in support of peacekeeping operations by regional leader Nigeria, is in substandard condition due to age and lack of maintenance.

Another challenge facing Nigeria in recent years is perceived corruption regarding payment of deployed Nigerian military members in support of peacekeeping operations. In order to incentivize African countries supporting peacekeeping operations, the UN reimburses governments supporting these missions based upon a stipend per member and piece of equipment actually deployed. However, the perception within the military is that Nigerian officials seem to be skimming these payments, reducing the reimbursement to the military establishment and shortchanging the personnel participating in peacekeeping operations.

In a report released on June 03, 2015, Amnesty International said that since March 2011, Nigerian soldiers and militiamen had murdered, tortured and abused thousands of detainees. The report said an estimated 1,200 people were extrajudicially killed, and about 7,000 young men and boys died while in military custody. Amnesty also said military commanders either sanctioned the abuses or ignored the fact they were taking place. The rights group says it based its report on years of research and analysis that included leaked internal military documents and interviews with hundreds of people.

A spokesman for Nigerias military says accusations by Amnesty of human rights violations were an unfortunate effort aimed at undermining the armys resolve to defeat terrorist acts carried out by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Army spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade dismissed the accusations leveled against the military. He says Nigerians should be assured that the military will not be deterred in the fight to rid the country of Boko Haram militants, despite the allegations.

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