The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Wednesday came under attack for blaming “inadequate commitment of troops on the front line of the insurgency war” for the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks.
Prominent groups, individuals and political parties expressed shock over the statement by Buratai who said there was inadequate commitment by soldiers involved in the war against insurgents.
Buratai had on Tuesday blamed soldiers at the frontlines for the recent setbacks in the war against Boko Haram.
He had said, “It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national and military course by those at the frontlines.”
But groups and individuals including the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, the Peoples Democratic Party, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, the Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze, and a Second Republic politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, said President Muhammadu Buhari should sack him and all the service chiefs. They claimed his statement would not only demotivate the troops, it also showed that Buratai lacked the capacity to head the Nigerian Army.
CAS can’t vouch for his troops’ integrity – SERAP
SERAP and the CDHR, in separate interviews with The PUNCH called on Buhari to reconsider the collective public opinion and re-jig the security architecture by replacing the service chiefs.
The SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, while reacting to the army chief’s comment, said, “What I think should happen is that the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has to replace the security chiefs. This is because once a war goes on and you are not able to do what is expected of you, I think you probably need a replacement. New officers with a new set of ideas will be brought on board. This is very important.
“If the commander cannot vouch for the integrity and seriousness of his troops, then I think that commander should be allowed to go.”
His statement is grave – CDHR
Also, the CDHR National President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “This is a very grave and authoritative statement coming from no less a security top actor than the army chief. The Buhari administration should look no further in ascertaining the reality of affairs on the ground.
“I believe that Nigeria can no longer suffer under the weight of aggressive attacks. If the army chief is aware and has done very little or nothing to stop it, then it means that the conspiracy is not only in the frontlines but also in the hierarchy of the army leadership itself.”
Sack Buratai, other service chiefs, PDP, CUPP, Yakasai tell Buhari
Similarly, opposition parties including the Peoples Democratic Party, Zenith Labour Party and Coalition of United Political Parties on Wednesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the service chiefs over renewed Boko Haram attacks, rising kidnapping and banditry as well as the general insecurity in some parts of the country.
The PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr Diran Odeyemi, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja said it was worrisome that after budgeting huge sum of money to tackle Boko Haram and kidnapping, insecurity was still high in the country.
He said, “The leadership of these security outfits need to be questioned…If the head of Daura community could be kidnapped, who else is safe in this country? We are not safe. The United Kingdom just gave a directive to its nationals that Nigeria is not safe for them to visit. This is very unfortunate. We call on Buhari to declare a state of emergency in security and act fast.
“The service chiefs should be sacked with immediate effect. They deserve to be sacked. He should sack all of them.”
Also, the National Chairman of the ZLP, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, stated that the growing insecurity in some parts of the country was worrisome and alarming.
He said, “Of course, the tenure of the service chiefs has expired and the job has become monotonous for them. There are young military officers who want to prove that they can do something and they must be given the chance.”
He stated that state police should be established to improve security.
The spokesman of CUPP, Mr Imo Ugochinyere, in an interview with one of our correspondents called for the sack of the security chiefs, adding that Buhari should tell Nigerians the truth about his alleged inability to address the security challenges of the country.
He said, “You can see the Chief of Army Staff telling us that the morale of some of the troops is low… First of all, the President should sack those incompetent people who are heading the security agencies.
These people have been heading these agencies for the last three or four years. The first responsibility of any government is the security and welfare of the citizens. Let him sack them first and then declare a state of emergency. Everything is not politics. Tell the nation the truth that this war, you are not winning.”
He has lost control of his troops – ex-Director of DSS
In his view, a former Director of the Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofor, said, “If the army chief actually meant this statement, that means he has lost control of the troops. There must be something responsible. It may be that they no longer have confidence in him and this is very dangerous. Besides, this statement is capable of demoralising the fighting troops. Officers and soldiers are being killed and barracks are being attacked. There must be something fundamentally wrong.
“The President appointed the service chiefs. We can have our opinions. If the man feels they are not doing well, then it is time for a change.”
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, said the group feared something was wrong with the war in the North-East.
He said, “The army must be in internal contradiction or tired of the war. Whatever it is, Mr President needs to investigate the challenges facing the army and the root causes.”
Buhari needs a new team – Yakasai
On his part, Yakasai urged the President to admit that his strategies for fighting the Boko Haram insurgency had failed.
Yakasai, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, on Wednesday, said, “It is disheartening to hear from no less a person than the Chief of Army Staff that the army which he commands is to blame for recent losses in the battle field.
“That the head of an army that is the backbone of the fight is making such a statement is disappointing. Before President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, the Boko Haram insurgency was our main security challenge.
“Today, four years down the line, Boko Haram is still strong despite claims to the contrary by those in government. We have no less than five other active serious security challenges confronting us, instead of reducing, our security challenges have multiplied.
“The President must admit that his strategy has failed and that he needs to return to the drawing board by first, changing his security team-perhaps the new team will come with bright new ideas to deal with the problem.”
Buratai’s statement, an attempt to blame soldiers for his failure – CSO
In the same vein, the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy flayed Buratai for blaming his troops for the slow pace of the war against insurgency, saying he was merely attempting to shift responsibility for his failure.
The CDND Convener, Arito-Dare Atoye, said it was obvious to Nigerians that the military leadership had no strategy to the insurgency, noting that Buratai had not demonstrated quality leadership.
He stated, “Buratai’s statement is also a disservice to the young male and female military officers who have paid the supreme price simply because their families are still mourning their loss. He is not doing the right thing and the war is not progressing as expected.
“The President should do the needful and change the guard. The current military leadership has run out of ideas. Buratai cannot give to Nigeria what it needs to defeat Boko Haram. He should be allowed to retire, he shouldn’t blame the soldiers for his failures.”
Also, a retired military officer and lawyer, Johnson Oyewole, said Buratai’s statement was uncalled for, adding that it could demoralise the troops, many of whom he said, had lost their lives to insurgency.
Oyewole said, “President Buhari should ensure that sophisticated weapons are supplied to the officers and soldiers to boost their morale. Their welfare should also be looked into; the N49,000 salary being paid to private soldiers is grossly inadequate.”
Pay attention to troops’ welfare, ACF tells Army chief
However, the pan-northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, said for the fight against the Boko Haram to succeed, the welfare of troops must not be toyed with by military authorities.
Although the forum acknowledged that the statement was an honest assessment by Buratai because he knew them (the troops) better, it noted that factors such as troops’ welfare should be adequately taken care of.
This, the ACF said, would motivate the soldiers to perform better.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, told one of our correspondents that with adequate welfare coupled with professionalism and patriotism, troops’ performance on the battlefield would be enhanced.
He said, “The statement credited to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, that “apathy among young generation of soldiers has caused recent setbacks in the fight against insurgency is in my opinion an honest assessment by the Chief of Army Staff who knows the soldiers better.
“It is in realisation of this that the Army organised a transformational leadership workshop to enhance officers and troops’ professionalism and efficiency.
“However, factors like adequate equipment, troops’ welfare and logistics are necessary ingredients in addition to professionalism and patriotism which the Army should pay attention to for effective performance.”
B’Haram killed 25 soldiers in army base, say sources
Meanwhile, military sources said on Wednesday that no fewer than 25 soldiers were feared killed when the ISWAP terrorists attacked an army base in Gajiram in the Nganzai Local Government Area of Borno State on Monday, adding that some others were abducted by the insurgents.
The army spokesman, Col Sagir Musa, had yet to respond to the attack and these claims as of press time.
Also, an online newspaper, The Cable, reported on Wednesday that during the attack the insurgents carted away ammunition and seized military trucks.
A source told the newspaper that “It looks as if ISIS has taken a new interest in our country. The way these people have been taking us on is surprising.
“This Monday attack was very serious. We fought for more than three hours before we ran out of ammunition. They used that opening to kill many of our troops and seize many weapons.
“Many of our soldiers were taken hostage by the terrorists who did not touch anybody in the community because we were their target. They only looted foodstuffs.”
B’Haram, foreign terrorist groups’ collaboration, dangerous – Olonisakin
However, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Abayomi Olonisakin, on Wednesday raised the alarm about the increasing cooperation between Nigerian and foreign terrorists in the insurgency war in the country.
The CDS, while speaking in Abuja at the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of Economic Community of West African States, said, “The growing trend of local terrorist organisations affiliated with and receiving support from well-known international terrorist organisations has also become very worrisome. This trend portends grave danger to our collective security. It is a matter of concern that terrorism and violent extremism have continued to threaten the peace and security of our sub-region.
“These security threats have been exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms, and light weapons occasioned by the numerous porous borders within the sub-region. This threat calls for collective action on the path of each member state as well as collaboration with other stakeholders and partners.
“In this regard we need to intensify intelligence gathering, joint and combined operations to combat this menace. It is hoped that through this frequent interaction of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff and our political leaders, our collective efforts at ensuring peace and stability in our region will be fruitful.”
Buhari orders security agencies to end Taraba killings
In a related development, the Presidency said on Wednesday that Buhari had ordered security agencies to end the killings in Kona,Taraba State, immediately.
He condemned the attacks, saying that reprisals should be halted as well.
“No group of people has the right to surround innocent people and unleash murderous violence on them”, a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying on Wednesday.
The President also called on leaders in the affected communities to be truthful, instead of saying one thing in the public and doing something else behind the scenes.
“It is difficult to build a virile nation where hate and intolerance dominate the people’s minds.
“It is easier to destroy than to build. People should count the economic costs of this violence to their own lives”, he added.
Meanwhile, Borno State Governor, Mr Babagana Zulum, has advised the Federal Government to seek other measures, in addition to the military option, in combating insurgency in the North-East.
He spoke to State House Correspondents after he held a meeting with the President in Abuja.
The governor said, “You are aware that some incidents occurred two, three days ago where about 40 people were killed in Konduga. By and large, we are aware of steps the President is willing to take that will virtually bring that issue to a standstill.
“But, most importantly, there is the need for the Federal Government to also open other opportunities of bringing down the crisis rather than the kinetic force. It is also important for those people who have been forced to join the insurgency, if they are integrated into society, I think this will be good.
“There is an existing policy within the military called operation safe corridor just to strengthen the system. By and large we are optimistic that Borno State will bounce back again.”