Nigeria’s war against terrorists rages on, 11 years. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the man leading the ground war against Boko Haram and its terror affiliates, in this special interview takes THISDAY Newspaper and ARISE News Channel through the labyrinth of the battle to defeat the terror groups. It is a gripping account of sacrifice, audacity, frankness amid a variety of challenges that have been as confounding, as well as revealing. However, despite giving their all to the anti-terror campaign, the army chief does not know when Nigeria will be free from terrorism. But his ideas on how to rid the country of the scourge are fascinating.
Why has it been so difficult to technically defeat or decimate Boko Haram? Where exactly are we in the fight against Boko Haram?
This your question is very complex. On the issue of technical defeat of Boko Haram, before we know where we are now, we must know where we were before the present situation.
Let me start by making this point very clear. As of 2015, up to the time the Multinational Joint Task Force was established and started to contain the Boko Haram insurgency, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria was at stake. This is within the background of concept of operation of the Multi National Joint Taskforce. You must know that the establishment of the taskforce has so many stakeholders within the Lake Chad Basin Commission, if you start at that point – countries like Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. Later on, the Republic of Benin also joined. The African Union also has interest; the European Union has interest; and other European countries like France, Britain, even the United States of America, have interest to contain the menace as they saw it to be detrimental to their interests in the sub-region.
At that point, the conceptualisation of the MNJTF concept of operation envisaged that a peacekeeping force was to be established and deployed within the Nigerian territories. You and I know very well that once an intervention force is put in place, then, be rest assured that your territorial integrity, your sovereignty, will be infringed upon. That was the idea.
Specifically, the MNJTF initially had three main sectors – the first sector is in Cameroon, which was to be deployed in far northern Cameroonian province with headquarters at Mora. Sector 2 is where the issue of sovereignty came in. Chad was to deploy in the northern part of Nigeria with decoy up to section of Gamboru Gala, Maute and some parts of Bama and Gwoza. They were to be under the Chadian troops deployed there. Then Sector 3, which is Nigeria, with headquarters at Baga, to be stationed at that place in conjunction with Nigerien troops – troops from Niger Republic. They are to operate there with the mandate to defeat Boko Haram terrorists. To also rescue abducted persons, including the Chibok girls, and also to facilitate humanitarian activities and to equally get the restoration of law and order by bringing back the civil administration in those areas.
That is the key mandate of MNJTF. The point is at what point did the thing change? I was privileged to command the MNJTF. I have the concept operation at my fingertips. I realised the dangers of having an intervention force deployed in one’s territory. Although the concept provided for the operations of those countries armed forces or military within their own territories, but that of Nigeria was an exception because the Chadian troops would be on our territory; the Nigerien troops would be on our territory although partially, not completely, not until later when they created the fourth sector which had been deferred. These are the complexities. If we had allowed the foreign forces to be on our territories, our country would have been divided along that line. Clearly, the adversary, the terrorists’ territory, would be clearly defined as against our own sovereign territory.
This is key. When Mr. President came and saw the implication and I had been appointed the Chief of Army Staff, my first priority was to ensure that we don’t allow a full implementation of that concept of operation where the Chadian troops would be on our territory on permanent basis. That was the action I took. Within the first two months, we were to move, take over decoy, take over Gamboru Gala and that is the end where we now said the other force from Chad had to find alternative location within their own territory. This was a major achievement of Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief where he saved the territorial integrity of this country from falling into the hands of foreign interests and foreign interference. Let me use that word and if that decision was not taken, that we were able to recover that aspect and deployed our troops by now, we would probably have been negotiating between the terrorists as well as our own government, which is quite dangerous and we would have been fighting on so many fronts.
Nigeria must be grateful to Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief and by extension, they should be grateful to the Armed Forces of Nigeria for keeping our territorial integrity and that is our constitutional responsibility, which we have been able to safeguard and ensure that it’s enforced up till today.
This is indeed an asymmetrical war that is being fought on many fronts and yet we had the National Assembly passing two resolutions with the speaker of Reps calling for service chiefs to be replaced and the Senate calling for a state of emergency. What is your response to that?
We are not questioning the wisdom of the National Assembly. I believe they also have their sources of information where they did their own analysis and came to that conclusion; but in reality, they have to look at it within the concept of what are the responsibilities of the executive as well as what is their own mandate. I’m tempted not to comment on this particular issue because I am directly involved, but I want to believe that whatever happens, the Commander-in-Chief is the right arbiter. He knows where it pinches; he knows where the problems are and as such, the decision should be left to him. He has been pushed, prompted but by and large, the issues I see are not the service chiefs. They are not thinking about the service chiefs. I want to believe so because we are leading troops; we are leading men; also deploying equipment to safeguard our territorial integrity. If they have been to the ground and see the efforts that have been taken place, the efforts the troops are making, every day we are getting one casualty or the other; people are dying, I think they should look at what role they are playing to resolve the issue because it is not just a military action. It is an action that requires every segment of the society. That is the approach. Countries that have experienced such insurgency, terrorism, some of them have been contending with it for 50 years, 55 years, 30 years and so on. So nobody is above any change but the excuses that have been given, what is on the ground, I believe, is not tenable. I am not joining words with anybody but that is the reality on the ground. They should encourage the troops, encourage everybody. You can’t divorce what efforts that have been done at the field and the commanders that are deployed across and even at the headquarters. The most important thing is that the challenges are quite enormous and the troops are facing them on daily basis. If there was no action despite all these challenges, despite all the resurgence, not only in the North-east, but in other parts of the country, if there was no responsiveness to tackle and address those challenges, I believe it is then you can say yes, the leadership has a problem – they are not meeting up to their responsibilities.
I did mention in my interview with the DAILY TRUST, the issue is far beyond equipment and far beyond the number of troops to be deployed on the ground.
One popular phrase we often hear is ‘security architecture ‘and on many occasions, the military had told us about this security architecture and at another point there is national security strategy document.
What is the missing link? What are the specific challenges that you just referred to?
People just use semantics to confuse or to project some distorted ideas that many people don’t understand about the security architecture. You must differentiate between defence and security; national security and national defence. These two things, although they are related, there are distinct issues that you have to identify. Security, which is the umbrella body, is being defined differently. The issue of internal security – this is our main contention. Internal security. Who is responsible for internal security? It is the civil police. It is not the army; it is not the navy and it is not the air force. When you talk of internal security, it is the responsibility of the civil police entirely. The military comes in at a time when the police are overwhelmed. This is what we are doing. It is not our primary responsibility. If you lump the security architecture to include the defence, you are making a very big mistake. Let us see it in this perspective. If we say why is it so that every aspect, even in elections, you see the military being called out? This is entirely a civil authority responsibility. The police should handle that. But you and I know the complications, the intricacies, the scheming; but you know the military institution still holds its head very high in terms of integrity and professionalism. We do ensure that we are not distracted but that does not say there are no few deviations. That one is natural in every society and every institution but 99 per cent, I tell you, the Nigerian military is professional, it is up to its own responsibility, it is carrying out its assigned tasks as enshrined in the constitution. Any time we come in to support the civil authority, we do it professionally. That is why we do try to train and conduct exercises and carry out operations. I believe that the overall point is that we are not resting on our oars. We are working day and night which should be appreciated. We are working day and night. If we are to adopt what other agencies, including civil agencies and other security agencies, the way they conduct their operations, I am telling you nobody will even talk about service chiefs. Everybody will be finding where to escape to; but we are there, we are doing our best. That is why some individuals can find time to talk and condemn to some extent what people are sacrificing their lives for in the field, trying to keep the country one.
If I go back to national integrity, which foreign countries are behind the insurgency and have they penetrated such that we are in trouble? There was a report the other day that Turkey and other countries were funding the insurgents. Are they making your job more difficult and how do you stem that?
When you talk of the international dimension, it is complex. You must have concrete evidence against any country or any group of individuals, either local or international, before you come out categorically to say this.
But even if you have all the facts, there are diplomatic approaches that should be followed. It is not something that you would come out and say this country A or country B or this organisation and so are behind so-and-so. Investigation will continue to be done and as far as the military is concerned, we will be on the ground and anyone who sponsors these terrorists, criminals under whatever guise, will meet us on the ground. That is what the military must be concerned with rather than to talk on the political or diplomatic level. So it is a complex issue. We would try to avoid joining words with any international organisation. We know we have many well-meaning countries that are supporting us, material-wise; they are supporting us in training and we are relating very well with them. This is very important and I believe that any foreign interference, any foreign funding and so on can be handled at the diplomatic level.
Still on the foreign interference, many believe that the porosity of our northern borders makes it difficult to win the war against insurgency. Do you agree with that?
It is not only our northern borders, the whole borders, including the maritime domain, are porous. The recent closure of borders has brought to light the complexities that we are facing in terms of security as well as in terms of our economy. Definitely, it is a very important aspect that the government has taken bold steps to ensure that the borders are controlled; the borders are managed so that we minimise the security challenges we are facing. It is important; I believe that sometimes, the government will come out with a clear border policy in order to address this. Definitely, we had reports of cross border banditry, smuggling of arms, trafficking human beings, smuggling of goods, and so on. It is very important. It is a critical issue that needs to be seen in totality in terms of the national security architecture as well as national defence and planning. It is very, very important.
In December 2016, we celebrated Camp Zero. You presented the Boko Haram flag to the president as well as the Quran that was used by Abubakar Shekau. What has changed along the line?
Well, there is no change. We are still very much on course. The symbolic presentation of the flag and the recovery of the Holy Quran are pointers to show that the troops are determined and are doing their best to make sure that we dominate the areas where we are operating and secure our country and we also contain the menace of these Boko Haram terrorists. Tactic or operational act is not a straightjacketed approach that you will hit one place and call it off, and that is the end. You must continue to explore more hidden evidence, more location like what is happening in the Middle East. You continue to move around. At any point in time, you see them re-assemble, coming back to their enclave and so on. This is the complexity of the overall operation. Regular intelligence is needed, regular clearance is required also. But most importantly, is the issue of intelligence which we are working on very hard to get resolved.
Is it the failure of policing that worsens the crisis because when you capture a territory, you are supposed to move to the next territory and leave the police to hold it? Is it the failure of policing that is making your job even more complicated?
The question of asymmetric warfare is complex. There is no defined territory. This is one area we really miss the point generally, even analysts. They see the conflict as if there is a line drawn between the adversaries and the federal government and the troops. There is no defined line. If you look at it in that context, the issue of policing will also be complex because they are right inside the population, inside those villages, communities and hamlets. There had been sleepers’ cells as well. This brings me to the issue of indoctrination. We all believe that Boko Haram started in 2009. No it didn’t start in 2009. That was the phase. Probably, the second phase of the Boko Haram campaign to establish their own caliphate, to establish their own territories. This is just the second phase. We are in the third phase now. The first phase started before 2009, probably 20 years back, 30 or even 50 years back. It did not start overnight. They have been indoctrinating in the countryside, in the villages, in the hamlets; in the communities; in the township; in the schools; in the mosques; on the streets; in the markets; at the motor parks; they have been indoctrinating people, convincing people for 40, 30 years before 2009. And you say overnight you want to remove this indoctrination; you want to deradicalise them within a short time and you think that is the end? That was the first phase and you are aware of Maitatsine, the Talibans. You are aware of other groups, smaller groups that have been operating. These are all the processes of indoctrination. The process of brainwashing. If you look at it in that perspective, you will know that we are into a very serious issue, which should not be taken lightly. This is where when you say certain crop of leaders in the military should be removed for whatever reason, it sounds very odd because we are not addressing the issues. I’m not saying this because I’m the Chief of Army Staff today. And I don’t want to leave, no. It is beyond that. This is a national issue. It is a sovereign issue. Issue of national pride, national interest. Those that will cry loudly against the service chiefs are the ones within. They are the ones that should be more vocal if there are things that are not going right. I don’t want to defend myself.
The second phase was in 2009. It started effectively in 2009 when they took up arms against the state, killing everybody irrespective of religion, tribe or your belief or whatever association you belonged to, political or social association. That was what led us to this point. You see the killings, devastation of community and so on, mass abduction. That is the second phase of the Boko Haram terrorist.
Globally, scholars of terrorism and insurgency believe that once you defeat the terrorists or the insurgents, they now resort to terrorism; targeting soft spots, carrying out bombings, suicide attacks. That is the weakest part of the insurgency. This is a very difficult period of the insurgency that everybody must put hand together to ensure that we work and get this thing out. Massive deradicalisation, massive dis-indoctrination of the youth, otherwise they will still continue to do that and will continue to have recruits, recruiters to recruit youths to join their folds. As such, we have to look at it holistically. It is not the responsibility of the military alone. It is a national war; a national conflict.
Now what is the present situation? We are in phase three now- massive bombing, arson, murder, targeted murder, attacking soft targets, like what happened on Monday in Maiduguri. These vehicles were parked inside the village, not on our checkpoints, not on our deployment areas. They were within the community and they came out from the bush or within the community. The situation report we had said some of them were in the community and they went and started attacking and burning the vehicles there. You call that one military action? No. It is a civil action. Civil police are supposed to take full control of the community. How many are we? How many soldiers can defend every house, every vehicle? You see, how many soldiers can defend every community? How?
This is the complexity. Now everything will be blamed on the military that we failed to defend the community. How?
Because they belonged to the community there, they are there; they don’t wear uniform like us. Only those that come from the village directly to fight us, or from their enclaves or from bush or border areas can we take on. Anything they see, they use it. They do this, probably to give themselves confidence, to disguise, that is the end.
In the real sense, what we are facing is not only terrorism, but also to some extent, let me use those words, our territorial integrity or our sovereignty is being threatened in the sense that these guys are hell-bent on establishing their territory. But now, as it is, it is not possible. But they will continue to demoralise the troops, demoralise the populace and make people believe that the government is ineffective and cannot protect the people in order to achieve their aim. Meanwhile they are working continuously to sabotage, subvert our country.
Many Nigerians believe that the military is not doing enough in terms of protecting lives and property. The security situation, you will agree with me, has deteriorated badly. People no longer feel safe to travel by road. Borno State governor has openly said that three local government areas are occupied by Boko Haram. The military disputed that but he insisted. Tell us why the Nigerian army cannot defeat ragtag, untrained insurgents. Why are the insurgents besting our military in battle? The same Nigerian army that went to Liberia, Sierra Leone and made exploits? What exactly are the challenges?
That is a very good question. I believe you asked this question genuinely, deep in your heart. There are certain issues, when people talk. When we see, I am not referring to you, it is general ignorance, serious ignorance. First of all, look at the role of the military, which is to secure the country. We have to defend the country; people are being killed, abducted and so on. There is insecurity and so on and it is blamed on the military. That is a wrong direction. If everything is heaped on the military, it is a wrong direction. It is the wrong institution to blame. Look at the constitution, section 217 (1), (2),(3).to (4). The first priority is to defend our country from external aggression. Have we got any external aggression from any country or any force? Are we not doing it? Our deployment covers everywhere. Now, the issue of protecting our sovereignty from violation, are we not doing it? I just gave you how we intervened in 2015, 2016 to stop foreign incursion. If as of 2015, we have Ghanaian forces, we have Argentine troops, we have Brazilian troops from different parts of the world coming as United Nations force or African Union force, then be rest assured that this thing will last for another 50 or 100 years. Nigeria will be effectively divided. This is a military responsibility if you look at the third one, we are to support the United Nations, the African Union, any agreement that we signed to promote world peace. We are doing that. We have troops in Mali, we have troops in Gambia, in Sudan. This is our constitutional responsibility. The last one, which is coming to the aid of civil authority, is the last of our priorities. Only when called out to aid civil authority and this is what we are doing. We have an institution that has primary responsibility to promote law and order. This is an issue of law and order. What you said is issue of law and order and it is the issue of civil authority and it is the police that are supposed to provide law and order. You talked in general terms before you went to the issue of North-east. Law and order is the responsibility of the police. What we do is to support the police. If we have not come out of it from 2015 till date, you would not even dream of coming here. Every week, if we give you our report of activity on our efforts to support the civil authority, it is so much. Recovery of arms, ammunition, rescue of abducted persons, and so on. These are all police responsibilities. This has to do with a comprehensive approach. It is not only the force that should be used, what about the non-kinetic approach? What about development? So many places don’t have roads, several places don’t have schools. There is low level of education, high illiteracy. These are what breed insecurity and criminality.
But coming to the issue of three local governments in the North-east, relate it to the issue of development. If I talk sometimes, they will say I’m antagonistic to the administration or state authorities. You know those three local governments they are talking of? There is no local government that we don’t have troops deployed in the headquarters. About three or four local governments, you cannot access them by roads, tarred roads. Even lateral roads, at certain period of the year when it rains, those local governments are blocked; you cannot move in and you cannot go out. Either you paddle or you better stay back. That is why I talk about comprehensive approach. It is all government approach. So if somebody cannot go to that local government and he says it is under Boko Haram because the person has not bothered to see who is there. There is no local government in Borno that we don’t have our troops there. If we don’t have troops there, we go there on patrol on daily basis. Is it Maute? Is it Gufumala? Or is it Abadan or is it Kalabake?
Several large communities, you cannot go there because they are inaccessible. Who do you blame for that? Most of those facilities in those local governments were destroyed by Boko Haram when they were there. Any effort to rehabilitate them to make sure that the people go back? In 2017, we deliberately moved in to all the local governments and we said let the people go back. They started moving, they were happy, but there was no corresponding developmental effort to restore those facilities and infrastructure for people to go back there and go about their normal businesses. How can they start? Do you go to a local government where there is nobody? It is not that we are not there, we are there but when you don’t encourage these people to go back by providing all the amenities to them, how can someone blame the military for this?
It is a complex operation. There is no where you will not find Boko Haram; even in Lagos here, there is Boko Haram. In Kaduna, there are Boko Haram elements. There are more across the North-east. Many have been arrested here in Lagos. We have been tracking them. We arrest them and take them into custody.
We must differentiate between insurgency and terrorism. I have tried to tell them at the National Assembly. Someone said three local governments under Boko Haram. How? These guys are not controlling any territory. They attempted to establish their territory, caliphate in Gwoza, but they have not been able to because they were flushed out. That is insurgency. They are not holding any territory. Typically, that is the end of insurgency. But what of terrorism? Terrorism will outlive you and me and probably everybody in this house because terrorism since it started, just like armed robbery, like kidnapping, burglary, cultism, it would continue. These are all smaller parts of terrorism. It is when it goes higher that you have arsons, like it happened yesterday, murder and so on deliberately, no cause.
What is happening now is just criminality. Since last year, we have not given them any respite. They are now blocked. They no longer have access to food, their movements are constrained, they no longer get the fuel they needed easily because we have strangulated them. They are now in a distress state so they go out with vengeance to attack commuters, to abduct individuals and targeting certain religious persons just for their propaganda. This is also one of the Boko Haram terrorist strategies. Propaganda.
On the question that the country is no longer save as before. How? THISDAY office in Abuja, was it not bombed? Has this happened now? The UN building was bombed, has it happened now? The Madala attacks, the Nyanyan attacks – these are all in the centre of Nigeria, Abuja. The Suleja attack at the heart of Abuja, heart of the country and you talk of Kano, how many motor parks they attacked in 2014, 2015 and part of 2016, several suicide bombings. In 2016 and up to 2017, there was no day you would wake up that you would not have a suicide bombing in the mosque, or in a church or in a motor park. Is it happening now? Is there resurgence? Are the troops not doing anything? Now that it is restricted. Not even in the whole of Borno State. Now the centre is this critical road, Maiduguri-Damaturu. That is all. Then some few remote areas. Only that road and now you said Boko Haram has come back?
Look at the propaganda that the Boko Haram is doing? So the whole world believes that all the efforts that had been made over the years had come to nullity, which is not correct, but we are made to believe because of the level of propaganda. This is where you have to come in – the press. In terms of national security, you know, this propaganda is affecting national security seriously; and our national unity seriously. The press is there to inform, educate and entertain. The military will make sure that we interact to inform and also to educate through this interaction. We can also entertain you as well.
You came up with the idea of super camp, how effective has it been?
In military tactics or strategy, you must always anticipate. This anticipation is based on your experiences, based on other people’s experiences. We brought up this super camp thing last year. We have applied all the tactics, strategies, and personal acts that you had been taught. You would discover that you can no longer do things the same way. This is an asymmetric war and we discovered that if we continue in the same manner, what people envisage, what they are speculating now and what they are propagating now is what they had wanted to happen – total breakdown of law and order. But as soon as we changed the tactics, the tide changed. Introduction of the super camp. What is the super camp? It is just a concept. Because we have a super camp, they felt we would concentrate everyone in one place and only defend our place without moving out. This is a very faulty conception of the idea. That super camp is meant to harness all our resources and to be targeting locations, to be blocking locations, to project, first, where the threats are coming from and we dominate the whole theatre of operation and then you have enough force to project across. If we had allowed this thing to happen up to December last year, nobody would be in Maiduguri probably by now because of the level of propaganda and because of the level of effect of our own system not properly organised . We have to realign or readjust deployment. This has helped in economy of effort to make sure that we prioritise message, help to achieve surprise, to achieve concentration. These are all principles of war. It also boosts your morale. Instead of scattering 100 soldiers here, 200 there, 500, 700 scattered all over without proper coordination, without proper support for each other. We said no, we could not do that we have to bring them at a point. If we have super camp here, we know that we have enough troops, we have tough equipment, we would coordinate, deploy and patrol more effectively, rather than separating them, dispersed and they would become ineffective. We achieve concentration of our troops. Then we realigned. This brings me into the issue of Maiduguri-Damaturu Road. There was no attack on that road since 2015, the attention was not given, nobody put any thought on the Maiduguri-Damaturu road but it is only within this period when we changed our tactics and realigned and now they found that place untenable. What are they doing? They are using propaganda, they are using sentiment and unfortunately, there is political interference. They are using the sentiment because people that are living there directly or indirectly are supporting the insurgents to be in their community and in their midst. If we remove them they will say they are punishing innocent ones. They are telling us to target the Boko Haram. Who are the Boko Haram when they are in the midst of the people? How do you identify them when they are not wearing uniform. Only when you see them carrying weapons? But they hardly carry weapons openly, they hide them. These are the complexities that we have to contend with.
Our super camp concept has come to stay; borne out of our experiences, borne out of the challenges we had. It would be the most effective in the present circumstance. Along the line, if there are gaps, we will adjust and if it proves to be ineffective in the future, we will have to change. That is flexibility, another principle of war. We are doing this thing in the most professional way. These guys are desperate now, that is one thing we should all take note of. They are desperate. This is the point they would continue to make noise, spread their propaganda. We are not going to rest and make sure that we deal with them decisively so that this thing will be minimised to the barest.
On the question – when will this Boko Haram end, I did mention that insurgency has ended, that is technical defeat of Boko Haram but terrorism will still persist as in any other country that it is happening. Even today, Colombia that experienced over 50 years terrorism, there are still pockets of terrorist acts going on. The same thing with the Middle East. Even armed robbery and kidnapping are all acts of terrorism. This is what people must understand. Effectively, we will continue to deal with those that carry arms in all parts of the country.
The image of the military, arising from negative perception from the involvement of the military in police work such as the involvement of military in elections and in other operations such as the python dance, Lafiya Dole, is being dented. One of the complaints is that soldiers are using excessive force, and two, that they abuse human rights when they are involved in civilian operations; and three, is the allegation of extortion by soldiers that would have been unthinkable in this country. The Borno State governor had also accused soldiers of extortion.
Excessive force, human violations and extortion. There is a serious misconception on the role of the military, which I mentioned earlier. It is not our wish to be called to perform police duty but since we have been called, we must do it as a national duty. It is a national directive that we must obey. It did not start today. It has been on since independence. We have been performing this duty. During the civil war, we were called out. It initially started as a police action but later, it turned out to be a civil war and the military was called in. Since then, we had been called into the Maitatsine, to fight the militants. These are internal security issues, which primarily are the responsibility of the police. We are trained not to maim but to kill. That is the training. When you don’t want such thing to happen, then don’t call the military out. When we are called out, despite the fact that we are trained to kill, we give rules of engagement; we have human rights’ code of conduct; we obey the international humanitarian law. In doing so, every soldier on the ground who is called out is aware. He has a copy and it is applied. We don’t just use force for the sake of use of force, but we use it based on the threat. There are guidelines. Anyone who attempts to kill anybody, or to threaten to kill a colleague or so on, this is where the use of force comes in. We never apply the use of force deliberately but in order to quell riot, not just for the fun of it. However, whatever is done, there are always those that will always have one reason or the other to misapply it and those ones are always investigated. If they are found culpable, they are dealt with accordingly. It is not a military policy. It is not in our character. We don’t have a rule that says once a soldier is called out, he should kill somebody without any justification. This is very clear, while we are trying to use force, we are also trying to protect human beings; to protect lives and property; to apply fundamental principles of human rights as enshrined in our constitution. The issue of extortion, is unfortunate that a thing like this happens. These are isolated cases. We have over 100,000 troops and of these, one or two or three engage in this. It is not a policy of the army that extortions are carried out and we don’t ask soldiers to extort; no. It is an exception and unfortunately, also in the society, individuals they are not helping matters. In several places, we warn. There are written warnings that do not give any bribe or inducement to soldiers and anyone caught doing that is committing a crime. It is not our policy. It is not a directive and anyone caught doing that would be dealt with in accordance with military justice system. Those are exceptions. There is always need for caution. Rather than to generalise, it is good to be specific. Don’t malign an institution; a highly respected institution, an institution that is there for the people and the government, for law and order and by the time you denigrate that institution, it is not good for the country.
What words of comfort do you have for the Nigerian people in this battle against the insurgency, your final words?
What we are having now is terrorism. I call on Nigerians to really understand the critical situation that is happening within the North-east, especially and across our country. We are making every effort to contain this insurgency. We are developing technical capacity; we are developing the human capacity also to deal with this situation in collaboration with other security agencies. It is not the army that will do it alone. It is not the armed forces; but everybody, including other security agencies and every Nigerian has a role to play. I am happy that the issue of community policing is coming on board by the Nigerian police. Everybody should cooperate to make sure that the new policy on community policing succeeds. That is the best way we can secure our country. Getting information and passing it rightly. Like the army, we have our platform on Instagram, emails, short messaging system, as well as short cut telephone calls for free are there to lay complaints on any human rights abuse, any crimes, and so on and so forth. We are ready to respond and deal with such violations appropriately. We want to thank Nigerians and the people for their continuous support. The army is here to protect our territorial integrity; to defend our country from external aggression. Be rest assured.
We will not allow anything to affect this very important and very sacred responsibility that we have been ordained through our constitution. By the grace of God, we are going to abide by it.