The Nigerian military cannot solve the ongoing insurgency ravaging parts of the North-east alone, since “they did not start it in the first place”, the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has said.
He made this comment when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for his screening.
The screening exercise is for a possible confirmation of his appointment as non-career ambassadors. Mr Buratai and other former service chiefs appeared one after the other before the committee.
They are the former Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin; former Chief of Air Staff, Ete Ibok Ibas; and former Chief of Naval Staff, Abubakar Sadique.
They were all nominated as non-career ambassadors by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The president’s media aide, Femi Adesina, had on February 4, announced that the president had forwarded the ex-service chiefs’ names to the Senate for confirmation as non-career ambassadors. This was barely a week after they resigned from service and their replacements announced.
The screening exercise comes barely two weeks after they were nominated by President Buhari.
At the screening, the former service chiefs were grilled one after the other by members of the panel.
They were asked questions ranging from their successes in their previous jobs to their diplomatic plans in the new appointment.
Mr Buratai was the second to be screened. And reeling out his successes, he said he was one of those that worked out the concept of operation of the Multinational Joint Task Force – a project for which the federal government pledged $100 million.
He went on to explain the challenges facing the military with regards to tackling insecurity.
The frustration, he said, “is that of asymmetric warfare, a complex operation and something that started more than 30, 40 years ago”. He lamented that insurgents have penetrated communities both in Nigeria, Chad, Niger.
He said the military alone cannot solve the problem of insecurity, especially without the federal government playing its part by providing necessary infrastructure.
“They have won the communities to their side. It requires the whole government approach to deal with this.
“Military activities or military action is just one aspect. And this is one mistake we have been making – only the military that is seen to solve this thing it is not. Military cannot solve this action, in the first place, it wasn’t the military that started it.
“There were political, social, economic factors that need to be addressed from the beginning. Development should be progressive. There should be roads everywhere. There should be employment, hospitals, schools all over.”
He said “many local governments in the north do not have good access roads and have become easy targets and until the right amenities are provided, the menace will persist”.
“Unless these things are done…despite the diplomatic efforts…internally, we must get it right. That is the essence of this diplomacy, foreign policy is a protection of your domestic policy. If we can contain this internally, we’ll project to other countries.
“These are the realities, the truth must be told because this cannot end at the dictates of time and may take another 20 years and that is the truth.”
Earlier, Mr Olonisakin told the panel that the solution to insecurity is multi-pronged and “that insurgency is a hybrid warfare where everyone is involved”.
He narrated how he conducted research on the forests in the country three years ago and predicted that the next crisis will be in the forest.
“Some governors were invited and we told them because 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.”
Like Mr Buratai, he said everyone has to come on board for Nigeria 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,” he added.
Other service chiefs gave similar suggestions as they made promises to represent the nation well in their new jobs.
Their appointments have been trailed by condemnation.
Many Nigerians have said the President’s decision was aimed at shielding the former military officials from possible prosecution for alleged rights abuses, especially by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Allegations levelled before the military chiefs, especially Mr Buratai, range from the 2015 massacre of more than 350 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), violent attacks on members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to last October’s shooting and of innocent Nigerians who took part in the #EndSARS protest at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, the extrajudicial killings in Oyigbo, an Igbo settlement in Rivers State, among others.
Experts have called on the National Assembly and even countries where they will be posted to reject them as ambassadors.
The committee is to submit a report of the exercise to the Senate on another legislative day. This will be considered and the nominees either confirmed or rejected.