As the extremist Boko Haram sect steps up attacks in Nigeria’s north-east region, the country’s Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has made a shocking prediction, saying Africa’s most populous nation will most likely continue to suffer terrorist attacks for the next 20 years.
Mr Buratai made the comment on his verified Facebook Page days after Boko Haram terrorists killed dozens of rice farmers in Zabarmari, a community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State. Residents say at least 43 farmers were murdered.
“There is general misunderstanding of what insurgency and terrorism entail,” Mr Buratai said in the post he made at 7:53 PM on December 1. “There is likelihood of terrorism persisting in Nigeria for another 20 years.
“It only depends on the level of escalation and the appropriate responses by all stakeholders both civil and military authorities. Also by both local and international actors. Citizens responsibility is equally important and imperative. All must cooperate to contain the lingering insecurity. Let there be collective action and responsibility.”
Mr Buratai (a lieutenant general) did not expatiate on what the “appropriate responses” to the decade-long insurgency should be. On Tuesday, the Nigerian Senate resolved that Mr Buratai and other chiefs should be relieved of their positions since they had proven incapable of leading the armed forces to victory over Boko Haram.
Mr Buratai, the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.); the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas; and the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshal Morgan Riku were appointed on July 13, 2015.
But more than five years on, they have been unable to implement any coherent strategy to reign in Boko Haram. Of late, the terrorist group became even more daring, ambushing troops and slaughtering civilians.
Groups like the Islamic State’s West Africa Province and Boko Haram have terrorised the northern parts of the country for more than 10 years.
Also, between 2019 and now, there has been a surge in kidnapping and banditry across the country, although President Muhammadu Buhari had on different occasions claimed that the nation had defeated the Boko Haram insurgency. Reports of rampant killings in many parts of the country have proven him wrong.
Ukpong Ekam, Editor-in-Chief at The Weekly Torch Newspaper, described Mr Buratai’s comment as inappropriate. “This is very embarrassing,” Mr Ekam said on an email listserv where the army chief’s comment was discussed. “Such a statement coming out of the mouth of COAS is demoralizing and risking the lives of the fighting men and women in the forest of northern Nigeria.
“So very sad. I believe the honourable thing left for the COAS at this juncture is to resign since he can’t deliver on his mandate. That would even protect and safeguard the political reputation of the C -in- C. So very sad indeed.”
Another commentator, U.S.-based Baba Adam, added, “All the Service Chiefs including – you (referring to Mr Buratai) – must do the honourable thing… rather than being forced out. We are hereby demanding that all the Service Chiefs again including you to resign with immediate effect!”
The service chiefs have all overstayed beyond the allowable 35 years in service.
Mr Olonisakin has spent 39 years while Mr Buratai has now been in the army for 37 years. Mr Sadiqque, who was commissioned into the air force in 1979, has now served for 41 years while his naval counterpart, Mr Ibas, has so far served for 37 years.
But despite having overstayed in service and being unable to deliver on their mandates, President Buhari has remained reluctant to remove Mr Buratai and his colleagues in spite of widespread calls on him to do so.