The Senate cleared the coast for the new service chiefs to hit the ground running after a closed-door screening last week. Coming after Nigerians almost wept blood while asking President Muhammadu Buhari to change former service chiefs, the appointment of the new heads of security services is a welcome development. They are Chief of Defense Staff, Major General Leo Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo; and Air Force Chief of Staff, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao. With the goodwill the new service chiefs have enjoyed from the populace comes a very high expectation for bandits and terrorists to be chased out or crushed from Nigeria’s territory.
The service chiefs are fresh on the job, but not new to the besetting insurgency and decade-long military campaign to quench fiery terrorist activities. Each of them has held tactical positions in the war theatre; they are not unaware of the loopholes terrorists capitalize upon to wreak havoc on the nation and its psyche. We challenge the new service chiefs to take the battle to bandits and terrorists instead of waiting for the ragtag armies to put them on the defensive.
It is totally unacceptable that bandits raid rural communities, abduct school children, kidnap the rich and poor, kill Nigerians as if they slaughter animals, amass wealth through ransom from government and ordinary Nigerians, and still live to repeat these criminal acts multiple times over. It is equally unacceptable that Boko Haram could infest territories and make them impossible for Nigerians to inhabit, and the terrorists sustain this humiliating status quo for over a decade. Apart from draining resources from the treasury, the activities of bandits and terrorists have brought Nigeria low among the comity of nations, and frustrated the country’s potentials for economic growth.
No doubt, the service chiefs know what to do, but we encourage them to do what they know. First, and we cannot shy away from this refrain, the services must close ranks and collaborate in the fight against these enemies of the State. The Defense Headquarters and the Office of the National Security Adviser to the President must come together to coordinate operations and get the buy-in of each of the services. From their experience in the last 10 years, there is no doubt that the war cannot be won if the services continue to operate in silos.
In order to take the battle to the enemy, it is important for services to reset their intelligence gathering mechanism. Though the battle is unconventional, near-accurate intelligence could give the military an edge over bandits and insurgents. The military must also look inwards and flush out the turncoats among their ranks who give the enemies information about troops operational plans and movements. Such saboteurs are too dangerous to be ignored, as most of the exploits by bandits and terrorists may have succeeded due to active collaboration between them and bad eggs in the military.
The new service chiefs must leave no stone unturned in this life-and-death assignment. Though their predecessor Tukur Yusuf Buratai made a gloomy prediction that the war against terror would endure for another 20 years, Nigeria is too fragile to survive for so long at the rate bandits and terrorists are destroying and dismembering the country. Apart from occupying territories, these criminals have poisoned the minds of Nigerians and fragmented the country along regional, ethnic and religious lines.
We commend the military for meeting the 48-hour target given to it by Army Chief Attahiru to clear terrorists from Marte and Ngala Local Government Areas of Borno State last week. The army chief’s command was carried out swiftly. That is the way to go in dealing with these criminals. The military must act fast. There is no time to waste in the task of clearing bandits and terrorists from all geographical locations in Nigeria.