- Say Buratai’s revelation on soldiers’ indiscipline on the frontlines worrisome
Shola Oyeyipo, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBL), Wednesday called for reorganisation of the nation’s security system to reverse the worsening security situation in the country.
Leaders of the group, in separate interviews with THISDAY, expressed concerns over the spate of bombings, kidnappings and banditry and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to step up efforts to protect lives and property.
They spoke against the backdrop of the statement credited to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai, that lack of willingness of military officers and men at the frontlines was responsible for the setback experienced by the Nigerian Army in recent anti-insurgency operations.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) also weighed in on the growing insecurity in the country as it expressed concern about recent escalation in attacks and bombings in Borno, Zamfara and Katsina States.
Buratai, at a workshop in Abuja on Tuesday, had said insufficient commitment of frontlines soldiers was the reason for the reverses the army had suffered in its anti-terrorism war.
“It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks: or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the frontlines,” he had told middle level officers at the workshop organised to retool them for the task ahead.
However, a leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; a founding ACF member, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai; as well as leaders of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBL), Mr. Yinka Odumakin and Dr. Kayode Ajulo, said Buratai’s indictment of the military showed that Nigeria was not about ending the security siege criminals had foisted on the nation.
They also described Buratai’s comment as self-indictment, saying that it has further created fear among Nigerians and the international community.
Adebanjo said: “Why did he (Buratai) say so? If that is what he said, then the Commander-in-Chief should change them. They have not performed; if the chief of army staff said his men were no longer committed, it behoves on the Commander-in-Chief to change them and put committed people there. The Commander-in-Chief has been slacking not to have sacked them. When they say they are not committed, then you should sack them and replace them.
“If he doesn’t do it, it shows that he is incompetent. That is why I said some time ago that he himself should have left the post because he is no longer capable of protecting lives and property in the country.
“I said that long before now. Is the president saying he does not have the courage to change the incompetent officers? Are we going to leave those who are not committed to defend us? They have shown that they are not competent; he should have sacked them before now.”
The Afenifere leader added that if the president employed people to carry out certain responsibilities for him and they failed or refused to perform, the best thing to do is to sack them.
Yakasai said he became more concerned about the insecurity crisis in the country after reading Buratai’s statement.
He added that many Nigerians are now jittery about the situation in the country, particularly as it affects the security of lives and property.
He said: “If you remember, the main reason why many Nigerians voted for Buhari in 2015 was because of the expectation that as a retired military general, he would be able to deal with the problem of Boko Haram and bring it to an end; and Buhari did made such a promise.
“Now, after four years in power, and with what the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Buratai said, Boko Haram is not degraded. What Boko Haram has done is to change tactics. Instead of targeting civilians, they are now attacking military formations.”
Expressing concern over the security situation in the country, Yakasai said before Buhari came to power, the country had one major national security challenge: Boko Haram.
But four years after, Nigeria is facing several serious security challenges, he added.
He said: “Apart from Boko Haram, we are having problem of banditry and it is localised. It is taking place all over the country. We have the problem of armed robbery. We had it before; but not in the same proportion as it is happening today. It is all over the country.
“We have the problem of kidnapping and ransom taking. This too is all over the country. We have the problem of cattle rustling. Cattle rustling has a dimension in the sense that the Fulani herders, when they lose their livestock, they are losing not only their life savings, they are losing the life savings of their parents and grandparents. So, we have multiple national security challenges.”
He urged the president and his team to go back to the drawing board, stating that the previous strategies that they had are not working.
“They need to devise new strategies. I think part of that is for the president to find a new team that will come with fresh ideas as to how you can tackle these problems to the satisfaction of all and sundry. I think this is the only way we can find solutions that can put the country at rest,” Yakasai stated.
Also, Ajulo said service chiefs ought to have been changed every four years, wondering why the president is still having the same people for over four years.
“Promotion has become stagnated within the military; and it is expected that by now they would have become wary,” he said, adding: “I think that is why some people have been asking for the introduction of new security architecture for the country – that the Nigerian security leadership should be rejigged. It needs to be rejigged because people are getting warier. People are getting disenchanted.”
SMBL spokesman, Odumakin, called for Buratai’s sacking.
According to him, “Why are his men, who signed up to defend Nigeria, who have put their lives on the line, no longer committed?
“For us, the chief of army staff being in office could be one of the reasons. All the Nigerian service chiefs should have been long retired. Their continuous stay in the office has truncated the careers of many officers. His stay in office and other service chiefs’ cannot be a morale booster within the armed forces.”
In addition, the Head of Transparency International in Nigeria, Mr. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, described the outburst of Buratai as disheartening and demoralising.
He said it was a worrisome development to hear the chief of army staff making such an allegation against his soldiers’ inability to fight insurgents.
He blamed the situation on lack of motivation and lack of equipment for soldiers fighting Boko Haram.
He said: “If you look at the alleged corruption in the military procurement, look at the recruitment process, we will not be able to deal with all these problems. Sincerely speaking, it is very disheartening and very demoralising.
“There is no way you can have a patriotic, committed security outlet who will give their lives, while others are siphoning their resources that is meant for their allowances and their wellbeing, as well as their promotions.”
NLC Raises the Alarm over Rising Terrorism
Meanwhile, NLC has expressed concern about the escalation in the spate of attacks and bombings in Borno, Zamfara and Katsina States.
It said the activities of the insurgents had assumed a frightening dimension in both frequency and casualty figures.
In a statement yesterday by its Acting President, Mr. Najeem Yasin, NLC urged the federal government to do more to protect lives and property.
It said no responsible government should condone these attacks, adding that the recent bomb attacks and killings call for stronger actions against all terror gangs.
“The recent massive suicide bomb attack at a viewing centre in Mandarari community in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State and other wanton killings of innocent Nigerians by bandits in Shiroro community in Niger State as well as communities in Zamfara and Katsina states, are clear indications that the battle against terrorism in Nigeria has assumed a frightening dimension both in frequency and casualty figures,” NLC said
It described it as shocking that at a period security forces claimed to be routing terrorists, there is an upsurge in criminalities.
According to NLC, terrorism and banditry are increasing nationwide and require urgent security agencies’ review with increased surveillance and prompt apprehension of suspects to forestall their heinous plans.