A Case for the Establishment of a Special Army for Biological Warfare in Nigeria.
G.V. Dania, O.M. Ogedoh.
Nothing in recent history has brought the world to her knees like the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The threat posed by a disease outbreak of this proportion makes any threat from chemical, cyber or nuclear warfare fade in comparison. Even the United States of America with all its artillery and technological know-how has been humbled by a single virus that is smaller than 1/10th the size of a bullet. While there are contentions as to how the virus emerged, one thing is certain; disease outbreaks of this nature pose existential threats to humanity, and how nations prepare to respond to similar outbreaks in the future will make all the difference. This article will make a case for the establishment of a Special Army for Biological Warfare (SABW) in Nigeria and suggest ways the establishment can defend Nigerians against biological weapons.
But first, what is a biological weapon?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Biological weapons are microorganisms like virus, bacteria, fungi, or other toxins that are produced and released deliberately to cause disease and death in humans, animals or plants. Biological agents, like anthrax, botulinum toxin and plague can pose a difficult public health challenge causing large numbers of deaths in a short amount of time while being difficult to contain (WHO, 2020). As you can imagine, biological weapons attack can result to epidemics or pandemics. WHO also states that Biological weapons is a subset of a larger class of weapons referred to as weapons of mass destruction, which also includes chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons. The use of biological agents is a serious problem, and the risk of using these agents in a bioterrorist attack is increasing (WHO, 2020).
Outbreaks of deadly diseases is not new in history. Even the Bible made reference to it in the Psalms “For He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly diseases” (New Living Translation, 2015). What is relatively new is the deliberate use of infectious diseases as weapons in warfare or for bioterrorism. According to Friedrich Frischknecht
(Frischknecht, 2003), during the past century, more than 500 million people died of infectious diseases. Several tens of thousands of these deaths were due to the deliberate release of pathogens or toxins, mostly by the Japanese during their attacks on China during the Second World War. Two international treaties outlawed biological weapons in 1925 and 1972, but they have largely failed to stop countries from conducting offensive weapons research and large-scale production of biological weapons.
The question is, “What if biological weapons like deadly diseases become the major weapon for warfare in the future? It is scary to imagine a future where biological weapons are used for warfare, but it’s a reality we must prepare for. As John F. Kennedy stated in his inaugural address in 1961 “For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed” (The Avalon Project, 1961).
The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed a major loophole in our national security architecture. A Loophole which we must address. Failure to prepare for this may lead to dire consequences in the future. Nigeria needs an army who understands how microorganisms work, how to protect Nigerians against microbial attacks, and how to create biological weapons for warfare should the need arises. If this is done, maybe those who read courses like Microbiology, Biochemistry, Zoology and the likes, will finally find something meaningful to do with their degrees.
Whether the proposed Nigeria Special Army for Biological warfare should be under the leadership of the Nigeria army, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control or a separate entity under the federal government will be a matter for the National Assembly to decide.
Frischknecht, F. (2003, June 4). The history of biological warfare. EMBO reports, pp. 47-52.
New Living Translation. (2015). Psalms 91:3. IL: Tyndale House Foundation.
The Avalon Project. (1961, January 20). Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy. Retrieved from Yale Law school Lillian Goldman Law Library: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/kennedy.asp
WHO. (2020, April 4). Biological weapons. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/biological-weapons#tab=tab_1