Nigeria: 10 things about Major General Chris Musa, leading the fight against Boko Haram

By Akin Irede
Posted on Thursday, 28 April 2022 14:56

After over 10 years of battling Islamist terrorists in the northeast, Nigerian Armed Forces are now gaining the upper hand thanks in part to Major General Chris Musa, the Theatre Commander, ‘Operation Hadin Kai’.

Although he is viewed as a hero in the army, the senior officer has also been at the centre of several controversies including the Kaduna massacre.

1. Early Life

Born Christopher Gwabin Musa in Sokoto State, northwest Nigeria on December 25, 1967, Musa attained primary and secondary education in the conservative Muslim state although he is originally from Zangon Kataf Local Government Area in the Christian South of Kaduna State.

2. Military education

In 1986 he was admitted into the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna State where he underwent intense and rigorous military training for five years during a time the Nigerian military held political power in the country.

3. Infantry corps

In September 1991 he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as a second lieutenant in the Infantry Corps, one of the most difficult sections of the army as it is not only physically demanding but psychologically draining. As a young infantry officer, Musa was trained on how to engage and destroy enemy ground forces. After being commissioned, he went on to obtain other degrees and attend several courses at home and abroad.

Some of these courses he attended include: the Young Officers Course Infantry at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry in Jaji, Senior Staff Course at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. He also attended the Commanding Officers Course at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji.

He holds an Advanced Diploma in Security Management from University of Lagos, Advance Diploma in Defence and Strategic Course (China) – International College of Defence Studies -National Defence University (ICDS-NDU).

4. Battalion commander

Musa held many positions in the Nigerian Army before attaining the rank of Major General. As a senior officer he served as Assistant Director Operational Requirements at Department of Army Policy and Plans at the headquarters in Abuja and was also the Deputy Chief of Staff Training/Operations at HQ Infantry Centre.

However, his first known position of command was in 2007 when he was a lieutenant colonel and was appointed as Commanding Officer 73 Battalion in Janguza Barracks which oversees military operations in 14 local government areas in Kano State and in neighbouring Jigawa State. As commander, he had well over 300 soldiers under his command which assisted the police in internal security in both Jigawa and Kano States.

5. The farmer and dad

Although a man of war, Musa as a lieutenant colonel acquired about 25 hectares of land in Nasarawa State. The integrated farm processes palm oil and also has poultry that produces about 200 crates of eggs daily. The farm also rears cows and has a fishery as well. “In the rainy season, I also plant maize and beans. What I do – whatever I’m getting from there – I give to the animals, and the manure that comes from the animals, I use on the farm. It’s a very interesting process,” he told Daily Trust newspaper.

He recalled that as a kid growing up in Sokoto, he loved farming and Agricultural Science was his favourite subject in high school. He also has two children that have shown an interest in farming.

6. War against Niger Delta militants

In 2008, he was appointed as Commander, 78 Battalion in Bayelsa State at the height of the militancy in the Niger Delta where expatriate oil workers were abducted and the country’s oil facilities were vandalised, causing Nigeria’s finances to take a hit. Musa launched an onslaught against militants but it also came at a cost as many soldiers under his command were killed by the militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Musa publicly accused politicians of sponsoring and shielding the militants.

However, a Presidential amnesty programme was introduced by President Umaru Yar’Adua which drastically reduced the militancy and the special army operations in the region came to an end. Musa was promoted to the rank of colonel.

7. Kaduna massacre

As a Brigadier-General, Musa served in various capacities. However, his most notable was as the Commandant, Nigerian Army Depot Zaria in Kaduna State in 2015 as he was in charge of training of recruits in the Nigerian Army. As commandant, Musa was to host the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, at the passing out parade of the 73 Regular Recruits Intake of the Nigerian Army Depot on 12 December 2015.

However, while Buratai was on his way to the venue, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a large association of Shiite Muslims, who were holding a religious procession, barred his convoy from passing. Soldiers mostly under Musa’s command immediately went on the rampage, killing at least 348 Shiites including women and children and buried their bodies in a mass grave, sparking international outrage.

A panel of inquiry set up by the state government determined that 191 corpses were recovered at the Army Depot where Musa was in charge. Musa was summoned by the panel of inquiry. However, he was not directly indicted in the final report. He remained in charge of the Army Depot until May 25, 2017 when he was transferred to the Army Headquarters.

8. Farmer-in-chief

On 4 November 2018, Musa was promoted to the rank of major-general, effectively becoming one of the top 100 officers in the Nigerian Army. He was then appointed the Managing Director of the Nigerian Army Farms and Ranches Limited, where he put his skills as a farmer to good use. He was saddled with the task of converting some of the existing lands owned by the army into farms and ranches all in a bid to boost the country’s food security and tackle the age-long clashes between farmers and herders which had affected the country’s agricultural sector

9. Lafiya Dole

In July 2019, Musa was appointed as the Commander Sector 3 Operation Lafiya Dole. Lafiya Dole, which means ‘peace at all cost’ in Hausa, was the codename for the northeast operation against Boko Haram. Although as a commander he was able to launch a massive offensive against Boko Haram, the terrorist attacks continued even as he and other generals failed to capture Boko Haram Commander Abubakar Shekau as ordered.

In September 2019 there was a massive terrorist attack that led to the death of many soldiers and the theft of a cache of weapons by the insurgents. Consequently, Major General Benson Akinroluyo, who was the Commander Lafiya Dole; and Musa, who was in charge of Sector 3 Operation, were both redeployed to the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), in Niger State, a move which was seen as a punishment. He also served at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, a think tank of the army in Abuja

10. Hadin Kai commander

The new Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, renamed the northeast counter-insurgency from Operation Lafiya Dole to Operation Hadin Kai which in Hausa means ‘Cooperation’. However, following the abrupt death of Attahiru in a plane crash, Farouq Yahaya, who was the Commander, ‘Operation Hadin Kai’, was appointed as the new Chief of Army Staff while Musa assumed the new position as Commander Hadin Kai in June 2021, coordinating all army counter-insurgency operations in the northeast.

As Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, Musa accelerated the amnesty programme for repentant terrorists. Under his watch, Nigeria took delivery of the Super Tucano aircraft from the United States Government which has been used in bombarding terrorists’ enclaves, forcing many of them to either surrender or flee westwards. Under Musa’s watch, over 47,975 terrorists and their families have so far surrendered to troops, according to military authorities.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options