Fifty-seven years after independence and three months to go, Nigeria would celebrate its first Nigerian Army University (NAU). Located in Biu local government area of Borno state, NAU is the first conventional, but uniquely specialized military university ever established in Nigeria by any of the arms of the Nigerian Military.
Appropriately named the Nigerian Army University of Science, Technology and Innovation (NAUSTI), the institution was relocated to Biu from Makurdi, Benue state in 2016, as the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environment Studies. It was established 12 years ago and operated under the Nigeria Army School of Military Engineering (NASME), also in Makurdi. The relocation was propelled by the desire of the Nigerian army to expand its scope.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai disclosed that the Army Council approved the institute’s upgrading to a full-fledged university, which berthed as NAUSTI. In addition, all the necessary modalities have been put in place to ensure the take-off of the university, with budgetary provisions in the 2017 budget and gradual movement of Schools /departments to its new site. Already, army engineers have commenced construction of buildings and amenities on its permanent campus, sitting on a spacious landscape of 5,000 hectres of land.
Explaining the concept of the Army University, the Army chief disclosed that it is conceptualized as a unique and specially advanced institution of learning that would serve as the hub of solutions, particularly, the warfare challenges of the Nigerian Army and the North East generally.
Buratai said: “The University was conceived as a unique university that would be different from conventional universities in Nigeria. The concept is to make a solution provider and a centre of excellence for variety of technologically related ventures such as generation and armament production.”
Many Nigerians might not recollect why the sudden relocation and upgrading of the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environment Studies to the status of a varsity. But President Mohammedu Buhari had promised Nigerians in his maiden address that after defeating terrorism, he would institute a sociological study to ascertain the veiled issues which surround and promote Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria.
He said, “Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connexions to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a reccurrence of this evil.”
Needless to repeat Nigeria’s years of tormenting journey with Boko Haram insurgents. But in keping faith with the presidential promise, Boko Haram insurgents have been defeated by the Nigerian military. The resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the Northeast is also in serious motion.
The next stage of the federal government’s interface with the Boko Haram’s entanglement of Nigeria is to obtain the sociological insights and understanding of the alien phenomenon of insurgency in Nigeria.
Therefore, the establishment of Nigerian Army University, located at Biu, Borno state in Nigeria’s Northeast is to erect the appropriate academic architecture of dissecting this sociological abnormality through academic researches undertaken by both military and civilian students of the varsity.
Part of the onerous responsibility of the university, like President Buhari hinted, is also to unveil multiple sociological solutions that could fast-track the healing process, peace, rehabilitation and prevention of a recurrence of this regrettable chapter in the history of the region and Nigeria as a country.
Additionally, the location of NUC would afford military officers studying in the university with a direct practical experience on combating terrorism, the stage of evolution, early signs, progression and explosion into a disaster of national dimension. They would acquire firsthand knowledge of environmental and social conditions that precipitate terrorism, and why it flourishes among communities and villages.
Furthermore, it would be tasked to unravel what psychological factors encourage local resistance to liberation from terrorism and so forth. Field work is crucial in these researches and the location of the varsity in the communities that suffered the scourge of insurgency will make it easier for researchers to access the spot and reduce cost of research, but achieve the same and expected results.
Besides, the presence of NAU in the Northeast will attract the rapid modernization and development of the region, as it would magnate a greater population to the areas, attract social amenities, open up obscure communities and expose members of the host communities to alternative frontiers of knowledge useful to the progress and preservation of their communities on security-related matters.
Again, while explaining the relocation of the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environment Studies to Biu, the Rector of the institution, Major General Clement Ojo conscientized that its new location was purposely effected. He intimated that it was indication that the nightmare and ghost of terrorism in the Northeast was gradually being completely obliterated.
Also, the phobia of natives on the possibility of the resurgence of insurgents overrunning their communities again has been tackled with the militarization of the region. No measure can restore spontaneous confidence in the locals traumatized by years of insurgency, than the overwhelming feeling of security around them, which enlivens their hearts and souls.
“It will create admission and job opportunities for them and it will translate to economic development of the area,” Gen. Ojo said.
The excitement about the increased military presence in the Northeast is more exuded by the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima. At the matriculation ceremony and commissioning of the permanent site of the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies (NAITES), before its metamorphosis into NAUSTI, the Governor was exceedingly happy with the Nigerian Army’s visible presence in all nooks and crannies, as it was a sign of enhanced security in the Northeast region.
Notwithstanding the usual criticisms of Nigerians for the establishment of NAUSTI in Biu, the COAS’s home town, the intention of the army was to expand the institution and land was a major consideration. And in the era where land is as precious as gold and scramble for it intensely endemic, it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to severe swathes of land measuring 5,000 hectres for any project in any community in Nigeria. But Northeasterners who suffered the pains and sorrows of terrorism had no inhibitions in freely donating these large lands to the Nigerian army; hence they were the main beneficiaries of the goodies that may sprout from the university.
Therefore Biu remains the incontestably best location and Governor Shettima deserves accolades for the seamless transaction. The historical and sociological relevance of the university in the Northeast should not be gambled on the horseback of equity in spread of military formations.
It is germane to understand that the emergence of this premier army specialized university is a decision of the Army Council. But Gen. Buratai, famed for his impartiality and non-tribalistic posture would have actively pushed for the establishment of the same university in any part of Nigeria, with experiences of terrorism like Nigeria’s Northeast, which the core mandate of the university is structured to address.
Besides, other security institutions like the Police College and other military institutions dot other parts of the region, so Biu, the ancient town automatically impinged on the reasoning of the Army Council as the ideal site of NAUSTI. It’s certainly a novel initiative, concertized in the unique and striking location of Biu. More grease to the Nigerian Army for its relentlessness in the protection of Nigerians and the priceless sacrifices they have suffered to protect, preserve and defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria.
Angula, is a forensic psychologist and writes from the United Kingdom.