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North-East Counter Terrorism Operations: Challenges and Lessons

By Lt. General Tukur Buratai

As we are all aware, the emergence of the Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) led insurgency that began in 2009 in the Northeast has  been  one  of  the  most  daunting  national security challenges that have threatened and undermined the peace and security of Nigeria. The activities of the Group have inflicted overwhelming negative and destructive consequences on human lives, property, infrastructure and development in the entire landscape of North-Eastern (NE) Nigeria.

The situation was so bad when I was appointed COAS in June 2015 that about 14 local government areas in Borno State were under the full control of the BHTs.

Furthermore, their activities have reduced the socio-economic activities in the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe almost with concomitant hardship on the citizenry.

This national security challenge that the BHTs pose to the Nigerian State informed Mr President’s directive to the Armed Forces to end the Boko Haram menace in three  months  from  when  he  was sworn-in in May 2015.

Additionally, I took over the mantle of leadership at a time troops morale in the NA was at its lowest ebb and the battle tide almost in favour of the BHTs.

The need to swiftly respond to this challenge informed the fashioning of my mission statement which is “to have a professionally responsive NA in the discharge of its constitutional roles”. I am glad to say that Commanders have all keyed in to this vision, with the resultant effect of a change in battle tide against the BHTs, which led to the successful degradation of their military capability to hold any portion of the Nigerian territory.

In the same vein, with the support of the Commander in Chief (C-in-C), despite the economic downturn, we have recorded significant achievements in improving the welfare of troops particularly those in the frontline in particular and the entire NA in general. I must categorically state that we are still committed to doing more. Let me therefore once again congratulate all past and present commanders for their leadership steadfastness that saw to the degradation of the BHTs capability and restoration of relative peace and stability to the Northeastern part of our dear Country.

It is against the backdrop of the normalcy that has been restored in the NE and socioeconomic activities which is gradually picking up, that I directed NARC to organize a Retreat for all past field commanders that have participated in the NE CTCOIN operations. What informed my directive for this Retreat, is for 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 CTCOIN engagements by the NA.

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-fertilization of ideas, with a view to drawing lessons for an improved future CTCOIN engagements by the NA. Furthermore, the lessons learnt from the Retreat will be documented and produced as a compendium to serve as a reference material for future NA’s CTCOIN operations.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that this Retreat is not about fault-finding but an opportunity to have an honest reflection on the various CTCOIN campaigns the NA has conducted in the NE. I therefore implore all participants to be frank in their submissions, as it is only through this that we would be able to improve our future CTCOIN engagements.

This is particularly important because asymmetric warfare has become a defining feature of the 21st Century security challenges that we will be contending with.

*Lt General Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff delivered this remarks at a Retreat in Abuja on Ongoing Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency Operations in North-East.

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