The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has said that the Boko Haram terrorist group has since been defeated but the Nigerian military is now fighting an international criminal gang known as Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP).
He explained that what is currently playing out in the North-east is the metamorphosis of ISWAP which is an attempt by a group of international criminal organisations to explore the loopholes created by the breakdown of law and order in some neighbouring countries to perpetrate criminality in the West African sub-region.
The army chief who spoke when children of several schools in Abuja visited him to learn more about book, ‘The Legend of Buratai’, written in his honour and presented to the public on May 17, however, declared that just as Boko Haram was pursued out of the North-east, the current band of international criminals gangs operating under the guise of ISWAP will also be chased and hunted down.
Commenting on how he copes with the pressure of office, the COAS said, “When I was appointed the Chief of Army Staff, I had the feeling that I will be the least controversial COAS. I had the feeling I will have an excellent relationship with the media. This first thing I did was to call the then Director of Army Public Relations and I told him that henceforth, all our actions and activities must be reported and made known to the media.
“They had a right to know. It is the Nigerian Army. There should be no gaps about information in our operations in the North-east or elsewhere. Before then, we used to have so many reporters in the North-east including informants for the terrorists who plant stories and breaking news some of which went contrary to happenings, with a ploy to make troops unstable or demoralised.
“So we started reporting events and occurrence about the battle, attacks in the North-east. We were breaking the news ourselves but this time, the real actions on the ground, not fabrications.
“We also commenced interaction with stakeholders for them to see and know the true happenings, which later opened their eyes to appreciate what we were going through and the heroic efforts of troops. We interacted with the NBA, human rights groups, the media and others and they now understood our job better.
“I also took personal steps to ensure troops fitness and agility particularly on the battlefield by issuing orders for officers and soldiers to trim down.”
Continuing, Mr Buratai said, “We also had pressures from International Organizations including Amnesty International who also found fault in anything we do.
“I believe they have a hidden agenda which is best known to them by reporting falsehood against Nigerian military. But by and large we set up investigation teams and found out the allegations they made were fabricated.
“We ensured rules of engagement were adhered to in all our operations and those who flouted them were dealt with according to the rules.”
Asked to comment on the secret of his successes, the army chief said, “I never give up. Never retreat and never surrender is one of the secrets of my success. You must work hard and hard work eventually pays.
“All who aspire to succeed must be patient, must aspire and work hard. For children, you have to read very hard. I had a dream of becoming a soldier & God answered my prayer.
Schools present at the interaction ceremony included the White Plain British Schools, Abuja, EFAB International School, Gifted Hunira Arcade, Command Children School Mogadishu, Command Day Secondary School, Lungi, and Command Secondary School Suleija.