- Praises media, urges more support for military
By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Nigerian Army has degraded Boko Haram, the Nigerian terror group, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, insisted at the weekend, explaining that the recent sporadic attacks on military locations in the North-east of the country were the handiwork of international terror, isolating Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) as the culprit.
Buratai spoke at an interactive session with media editors in Maiduguri and said the military had successfully concluded the physical and conventional war against Boko Haram, having expelled it from the Nigerian soil.
He explained that what subsisted was the psychological phase of the fight against terror, saying the terrorists sought to intimidate the Nigerian military through propaganda that could demoralise the troops and discourage them from effectively concluding the ongoing mop up of remnants of the insurgents.
Saying the major platform of the terrorists in this psychological phase of the fight was the media, he appealed to the editors to make their media unavailable to the extremists even as he praised the Nigerian press for their cooperation with the military in the war against terror.
“The real situation on the ground is that in terms of the conventional war against insurgency, Boko Haram has been degraded,” he said, adding, “What we are dealing with now is international terror led by Islamic State West Africa Province.”
According to Buratai, “The operational and physical war has been contained. It is no more a physical war. It is a psychological war and they are using the media to wage it.”
He said what was happening in the North-east was less of insurgency and more of crime, explaining that the trend had moved from local uprising to organised international terrorism.
The Army boss said Boko Haram having been effectively contained had yielding ground to ISWAP and warned that even when the new terror machine is defeated there are no guarantees that a new group would not emerge.
“There are people somewhere pulling the strings, and what we have now is a psychological war with international terror dimensions,” Buratai said.
Appealing to the media not to yield their platform to the terrorists,
he said, “My appeal to the media is to deny the terrorists access to propagate their dastardly acts. Giving them space in your media encourages them. It is the tonic they need to energise their followers, intimidate the public and demoralise troops.”
He praised the media for what they had done so far in the coverage of the war against terror even as he requested for less dramatization of the activities of the terrorists.
Buratai responded to media complaint of slow response to enquiries, explaining that it was the nature of the military to be cautious in disseminating information, particularly about causalities, adding that apart from the need to ensure accuracy, there were also national security implications that would have to be considered.
“We have procedures in the military, which may not accord with your need for timely response to request for information. But I assure you that our policy is openness, and all I appeal for is your understanding, knowing full well that we have nothing to hide at all times,” he said.
The military had come under heavy criticism over its handling of information on recent attacks on 157 Task Force Battalion at Metele, on the fringe of Borno State, where 23 soldiers were killed by Boko Haram. It took the Army almost a week before it clarified the casualty figures.
But the Army boss explained that it was not deliberate, saying military procedures required that they do proper checks and account for troops before making pronouncements, saying these take time to conclude.
He assured that the army took the welfare of troops seriously, denying any iota of truth in speculations that soldiers’ salaries and emoluments were being compromised by the military high command.
“No officer would dare such a thing. We take issues of welfare of troops very seriously and deal decisively with any infraction in that regard,” he said, appealing against further publication of such speculations because “portraying the officer corps as corrupt and uncaring would have demoralising effects on the soldiers.”
Buratai also spoke about the funding and equipment available for the war against terror and said the federal government was doing its best within the resources available to the country.
“No Army can have all it needs for its operations. I say to you that the federal government is doing its best and we are optimising what we have to do the job the nation has given us to do,” he said.
With Buratai were the first General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, now Chief of Training and Operations, Maj. Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, and the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Benson Akinroluyo, as well as sector commanders and officers of the operation in the North-east.