Background to the Study
At the most basic level, the Nigeria Army possesses a national command network and constitutes a pool of disciplined manpower, including reserves, that can be deployed at relatively short notice to supplement civilian frontline services during national emergencies such as epidemic outbreak.
Nigerian armed forces have acquired substantial experience in crisis planning and emergency response, including during previous Ebola epidemics. Nwankwo (2018)
In the recent COVID-19 epidemic that is ravaging the world, Nigerian army account for the relatively successful governmental mobilization efforts in tackling the epidemic. Most militaries can offer logistical support, including transport, as well as medical staff and infrastructure during epidemic.
There is need for armed forces to possess specialist knowledge in epidemiology as well as self-protection capabilities developed for biological and chemical warfare. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, for example stood up a COVID support force, placing 20,000 military personnel on higher readiness and putting reservists on standby. Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel have assisted with repatriation flights and helped to extract passengers from a cruise ship hit by the virus, while military helicopters are being used to transport emergency supplies to hospitals and remote locations around the UK. Specialist planners are assisting local authorities and emergency services. In addition, 150 military personnel are being trained as drivers to deliver oxygen to hospitals. Scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory are directly supporting the civilian public health effort. The RAF alone has contributed 600 staff and trainees to boost the ranks of the National Health Service. These joint service contributions are mandated under standing arrangements for Military Aid to Civil Authorities.
A requirement to provide operational support to civilian government during large-scale civil emergencies can create tension for professional militaries if this undermines their ability to perform priority functions in external defence. Tasking the armed forces as an auxiliary emergency service incurs some opportunity cost in terms of defence readiness and maintaining skills for warfighting. While an overlap exists, specialised military skills do not automatically ‘plug in’ to civilian emergency-service competences. Given the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, military commanders are likely to be particularly concerned about the force protection aspect, given the potential for personnel deployed in ‘frontline’ support roles becoming infected. Some active duty personnel may be confined to base, as a precaution and to ensure that normal defence operations continue as far as possible.
Armed forces differ widely in terms of capacity, capability and, perhaps most importantly, their relationship to the state. Some will be more involved than others in countering COVID-19. But in most cases, the governmental response is unlikely to be military-led, except in countries already under military rule. In communist countries, the military is not strictly professionalised in the Western sense but subordinate to a ruling party. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has played a central role in China’s anti-COVID suppression efforts, but in the context of a state-led, cross-governmental response that is centrally directed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Particularly, the Nigeria army is likely to remain in a supporting role during a epidemic outbreak. By and large, the role of army in supporting the fight against epidemic outbreak is likely to conform to the prevailing pattern of civil–military relations. However, societal stresses caused by the pandemic may embolden politicised militaries to intervene more directly, reversing gains in civilian control.
It is against this background that the present paper seek to explore the role of the Army in combating epidemics in Nigeria .
Statement of the Problem
Objectives of the study
The main objectives of the study is to investigate the supporting role of the Army in combating epidemics in Nigeria.