Brig Gen. Dzarma Zirkusu: Another one bites the dust

Brig Gen. Dzarma Zirkusu: Another one bites the dust

A few days after Col. DC Bako died in an ambush in Borno in September 2020, another mid level officer was killed. Lieutenant Colonel MZ Manu was fatally wounded in action after a successful clearance patrol in ‘Operation Sahel Sanity’ in Damboa. In Col. Bako’s case, the theories about his demise ranged from sabotage from repentant Boko Haram terrorists to intelligence failure. More than a year after both unfortunate incidents, it has happened again.

This time, to an officer senior to both men. A senior officer, Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu and three soldiers, just as they were on their way to provide reinforcement in a counter-offensive against the terrorists were shot dead in an ambush by fighters of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Borno State.The incident occurred at Bulguma, few kilometers from Askira town in Askira Uba Local Government Area. It was gathered that troops of 28 Task Force Brigade, Chibok, had mobilised to provide reinforcement in Askira, which was under attack. Daily Trust had reported how ISWAP fighters stormed the town in a large convoy of gun trucks. A local guard had said they stormed a military base and engaged soldiers in gunfire. The troops were ambushed while on their way to provide support for the soldiers battling the insurgents.

In military strategy, ambushes happening just weeks, days or months of each other to the point of claiming senior officers is a call for a revamp of reinforcement strategies. One of the first attempts the military devised to respond to this problem was the greater emphasis it placed on mine resistant vehicles. Army procurement in the past four years have focused on production and procurement of mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs) to first minimize losses from mines, as well as delivering reinforcement. In January, about 52 Ezugwu MRAPs were ordered to beef up the available ones. The second response was the creation of a motorcycle battalion to respond to hit and run terrorists especially in the rainy season where moving large vehicles like gun trucks and MRAPs would be incredibly difficult because of the muddy ground on which they have to move, compared with the insurgents who attack in large numbers on motorcycles and disappear in the same. While these initiatives helped, it has not minimized incidents of ambush, neither has it saved lives.

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This leads me to believe that there is a third factor underplayed–credible intelligence. Clearly electronic intelligence has been used to call for help when bases are being attacked, and the urgency of the situation means there’s hardly enough time to look at other important areas of intelligence: signals and aerial surveillance. On this note, how the military has not prioritized constant aerial surveillance of the location of its bases is baffling, because geospatial data using aerial surveillance equipment like drones should be enough to guide reinforcement troops. If the military lacks drones that stay permanently in the air, it does not lack other short term drones and other surveillance equipment that have guided the airforce in its precision strikes.

What the lack of innovation show is absolute nonchalance, so callous that it makes conspiracy theories about possible sabotage worth considering, because it is hard to believe that an army that created forward operating bases out of supercamps to minimize the loss of manpower and personnel is finding it difficult to come up with innovative solutions to protect the lives of its senior officers, let alone a hapless infantry troop. And sadly, it does not appear that General Dzarma Zirkusu’s death would be the last of such tragedies, because of the military’s statement in that regards is anything to go by, it is not ready to review the circumstances that led to his death. To them, another one simply bites the dust. We move.

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Confidence MacHarry

Confidence MacHarry

MacHarry is a security analyst With SBM Intelligence.

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