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Ex-Service Chiefs: Why we failed to tackle insecurity

Former Service Chiefs, yesterday, at the Senate gave various reasons why state of insecurity deteriorated under their regime from November 2015 to January 2021. They specifically blamed the state governors, who allegedly did not respond to intelligence advice given to them on over 1,000 forest reserves scattered across the country and occupied by criminals, who terrorized Nigerians from such hideouts. This was as the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt- Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd), repeated his earlier declaration that it would take Nigeria 20 years to totally eliminate Boko Haram insurgency.

The former Service Chiefs expressed their views about the nation’s worsening security situation, when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for screening for appointment as non-career ambassadors. First to appear before the committee was the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin (rtd).

While responding to questions from senators, the ex-CDS said that the over 1,000 forest reserves in the country, which were not well managed, and secured by respective state governments, made the fight against the terrorists difficult. Olonisakin noted that the problem of insecurity in the country required well galvanized national approach for it to be surmounted since it is more of an asymmetric cum hybrid warfare as against the conventional wars that could easily be handled. He said: “I want to say that the solution to insecurity is multi-pronged. We talk about conventional warfare and asymmetric warfare.

We are talking about hybrid warfare where everyone is involved. “It is not about kinetics. Kinetics gives only 35 per cent success rate in any war we are fighting. It is a national approach that must be properly galvanized for us to actually surmount the insecurity.

“I will say, three years ago, I conducted a research on the forests in the country. I realized we have over 1,000 forest reserves. I sent the team to Kenya. They went to Kenya and brought out a paper and I said then, three years ago that our next crisis will be in the forest.

“Some governors were invited and we told them most of the forests are the prerogative of states. The states took over all the forest reserves. I told them that we have to protect the forests. We have to send troops to protect the forests. “We did the research in 2018 for six months.

I said that the next problem we are going to have is in the forests. But again, it is with us right now. It requires a multifaceted approach. “Everyone has to come on board for us to be able to address the insecurity situation. You can never have enough weapons, personnel and so on, but there are issues we must address and then it has to be all about the nation.” Also while fielding questions from the Senate panel, on the unabated problem of insecurity in the country, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, Buratai reiterated that it might take the country 20 years to eliminate Boko Haram insurgency in the country. He disclosed that through indoctrination, the Boko Haram insurgents were winning more and more communities to their side, apart from the problem of ungovernable spaces in the area and across the country.

The ex-COAS said: “My state (Borno) is an epicentre, where this indoctrination has penetrated so deep. They (insurgents) have won the communities to their side. That is why they (communities) keep Boko Haram. So it is complex, it requires a whole of government approach to solve this, military action or activity is just one aspect.

“One mistake that we have been making is that only the military can solve this. It is not. There are political, social, economic aspects that need to be addressed. “Development should be progressive, there should be road everywhere, there should be employment, schools, and hospitals all over. “On Wednesday, I counted five local government areas in Borno State that do not have good access road to those places.

“In North-West, North- Central, there are so many ungovernable spaces, which the insurgents are penetrating. The places don’t have schools, hospital and so on and education is very fundamental. “Unless these things are done, this insecurity will continue because the truth must be told.

It may take another 20 years for the country to surmount the problem of insurgency and that is the truth.” Similarly, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique; former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas and former Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshall Mohammed Sani Usman, blamed their failure to tackle insurgency on one factor or another.

Speaking, the former Intelligence Chief lamented lack of synergy among the various security agencies, as one of the reasons for the lingering security challenges in the country. After the screening carried out on the five nominees, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa (APC, Bauchi North), said that the committee would submit its report on the exercise to the Senate next week, for consideration and possible approval.

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