The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai charged field commanders to remain focused toward containing the traces of insurgency still being recorded.
Buratai made the remark on Monday, while declaring open a five-day retreat for past field Commanders of the ongoing counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations in the North East.
“I want to state that the counter terrorism operation that is ongoing in the North East is equally being fought or being conducted by our neighbouring countries, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
“That is why the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was established, knowing the volatile nature of that region – the Lake Chad region.
“So, keep your mind focused, not only on the short term, but equally on the long term containment of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The Boko Haram may go any moment, but there are other forms of criminality and other criminal activities may spring up within that Lake Chad region.
“So, it is not just a one-off solution that we should expect, but it is going to be a continuous operation, especially within the Multinational Joint Task Force environment,’’ the army chief said.
He described the Boko Haram insurgency which began in 2009 as one of the most daunting security challenges that had threatened and undermined the peace and security of the country.
Buratai noted that the situation was so bad when he took over the helm of the army in 2015, when the terrorist held onto “about 14 Local Government Areas in Borno.’’
“Their activities disrupt the socio-economic activities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
“I took over the mantle of leadership of the army when troops’ morale was at its lowest ebb and the battle tide almost in favour of the terrorists,’’ he said.
Buratai, however, said that the army swiftly responded and turned the tide against them and commended past and present commanders for their contributions in degrading the terrorists.
According to him, what informed my directive for this retreat is the need to share experiences, particularly the need to identify operational, command, leadership and logistics challenges of the various field commanders for an effective and efficient future counter terrorism and counter insurgency campaign.
“Thus, it is my sincere hope that this retreat will provide an all-inclusive forum for past field commanders to share their experiences on the operations through cross fertilisation of ideas.
“This is with a view to drawing lessons for an improved future counter terrorism operation engagement by the Nigerian army.
“Furthermore, the lessons learned from the retreat will be documented and produced as a compendium to serve as a reference material for future Nigerian army counter insurgency operation.
“And indeed, this can be equally exported to our neighbouring countries,’’ he said.
Buratai further charged the commanders to share the various experiences, including “tangible and intangible’’ experiences they had while on the field.
“I know that you have all experienced different challenges.
“When you look back at when you were in theatre and indeed those that are still there, please put at the back of your mind that there are several factors that will contribute to your success, especially in this type of operation.
“Intelligence is one, morale is another and so many other intangible factors that will contribute to your success.
“If you concentrate only on the logistics and other factors that are obvious, then we may be missing the point.
“Training is another very important factor, so you must look at it in totality, in the whole context, both the tangible and intangible factors as you discuss your various experiences in the counter insurgency operations in the North East.
“The retreat is not about fault finding, but an opportunity to have an honest reflection on the various counter terrorism and counter insurgency campaigns the Nigerian army has conducted in the North East.
“I, therefore, implore all of you to be frank in your submissions as it is only through this that we will be able to improve our future counter terrorism and counter insurgency engagements.
“This is particularly important because asymmetric warfare has become the defining feature of the 21st century security challenges that we will be contending with,’’ he said.