Armor: Nigeria Has A Maintenance Problem


August 2, 2017: Since 2014 Nigeria has been scrambling to obtain more wheeled armored vehicles for use in fighting the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists in the northeast. Needing these vehicles quickly and inexpensively has led to a fleet of several hundred new vehicles from about ten different sources. The latest acquisition is 177 Spartan and Typhoon wheeled armored vehicles from a Canadian firm (Streit) that uses components and designs from Ukraine. These vehicles are also built in Ukraine and got their first combat experience in 2015 against Russian backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. These new MRAP designs proved a lifesaver against rifle and machine-gun fire as well as many types of landmines and roadside bombs.

The first 25 of these vehicles recently arrived in Nigeria. Based on Russian designed trucks, they are of an MRAP design but smaller. The smaller one is the Spartan. At 8.8 tons each with a payload of 1.1 tons that means a vehicle that carries at least eight troops and can mount a machine-gun in a turret behind the driver. Being an armored truck Spartan has lots of bullet proof windows and firing ports for passengers. The Typhoon is also 4x4 and similar in other respects to Spartan but larger (12.5 tons) and has a payload of 2.5 tons (or ten passengers.)

There are some unique problems when providing Nigeria with military equipment. In early 2016 the United States got a lesson in this after they donated 32 MRAP armored trucks to Nigeria. These were used (in Iraq) vehicles and were among the thousands the U.S. Army had declared surplus and donated to police and military organizations worldwide. This donation more than doubles the number of MRAPs Nigeria had.

Previous to this American donation Nigeria had purchased a few MRAPs and found them useful in the northeast. But these vehicles are expensive, costing half a million dollars (and up) each. The ones the U.S. delivered were in running condition but needed regular maintenance and repairs and that cost money, which the Nigerian military has less of because of the much reduced oil income. Nigeria had problems keeping the MRAPs operational and some officers blamed the Americans because the MRAPs were used. But what these officers were really complaining about was that there was no way to get a bribe from the supplier of the MRAPs.

To make matters worse a new reform-minded president (and former general) took power in mid-2015 and that encouraged the Americans to make the donations. The new president knew from bitter experience that although the Nigerian government had bought thousands of armored vehicles (and hundreds of aircraft) for the military over the years most of the stuff soon because inoperable because government and military officials would steal most of the money allocated for maintenance and operation of this equipment. Changing that attitude is taking time and the new president currently has some serious health problems.

Technically the Nigerian Army had several hundred armored vehicles when the fighting in the northeast escalated in 2014. But because of corruption many of these older vehicles were inoperable and those that were in running condition were down in Niger River Delta trying to deal with local gangs attacking the oil production facilities. Many of the older armored vehicles (from over a dozen different suppliers) were in such bad shape that it would cost more and take longer to get them operational again than it would be to buy new vehicles. When new vehicles were purchased they soon became inoperable because of the corruption and resulting shortage of maintenance and even fuel. This helped get retired general Buhari elected but that alone has not changed the way things are usually done in the Nigerian military.