Insurgency may continue in the country for another 20 years, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd) said on Thursday.
He said the military alone cannot win the war, unless civil leadership provided economic and social solutions.
Buratai’s former boss Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin (rtd) said the forest reserves had become a haven for criminals – a place from which they launch attacks on people because the vast forests were unprotected.
The ex-military chiefs spoke when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for screening as non-career ambassadors. The two of them along with former Chief of Air Staff , Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas and former Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Sani Usman, were nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari after their retirement.
Buratai, who hails from Borno State, also painted a gloomy picture of the situation with the Army when he took over as COAS in 2015.
According to him, Boko Haram indoctrination of the people started in the 60s and 70s, but the Federal Government can drastically mitigate it through good governance instruments like social and educational amenities.
Buratai said: “My state is the epicentre of this kind of indoctrination as far back as the 60s and the early 70s. In Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad, they have penetrated the communities.
“They have won the communities and the people over to their side. That is why (Boko Haram) in one or two hamlets, you will see few people keeping and supporting hibernation of Boko Haram fighters in their midst.
“As early as the sixties and the seventies, they used to despise us, those of us that wore uniforms to attend school. They saw us as if we no longer prayed or we didn’t listen to our Quranic teachers. That is the Boko Haram concept that has been penetrating since 60 years or more.
“So, it is complex and the people and government have to deal with it. Military action is just one aspect of the problem and this is one mistake we have been making, believing that only the military can solve this thing. It is not. The military cannot solve such action.
“In the first place, it is not only the military that started it. There are political, social and economic factors needed to address from the beginning.
“Development should be progressive, there should be roads everywhere; there should be employment, hospitals, schools all over.
“For instance, yesterday, I counted five local governments councils in Borno State that do not have good access roads.
“I am not indicting anybody but that is the truth. You cannot have access to those places since independence up till now.
“Same thing in Niger State, Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto having so many ungoverned spaces.
“In Northwest and North Central, there are so many ungovernable spaces, which the insurgents are penetrating.
“The places don’t have schools, hospital and so on and education is very fundamental.
“Unless these things are done, this insecurity will continue.
“The truth must be told, because this thing cannot end soon. It may take another 20 years and that is the truth.”
The ex-COAS said he met a highly demoralised army on assumption of office in 2015, due to poor equipment, adding that he was able to improve the lot of the institution.
He said: “In 2015, I met an army that had no single equipment, even simple gun carrying vehicles.
“They were using trailers that carry cows and horses to move troops from one location to the other for operation. But today, we have invented our own indigenous vehicles to carry troops.
“Most of the areas that were occupied by terrorists have been taken over by our troops.
“You need more training and manpower because of the vastness of the terrain. A lot is required on the military side, but more is required on the governance side. Unless these things are done deliberately, this insecurity will continue.
“We cannot continue to use the same tactics or same procedures and expect to get different results. We have to change and that is why the supper camp concept came up; that is why the mobile strike team came up.”
General Olonisakin said the unattended forest reserves become a fertile haven for criminals.
He said: “I will say that three years ago, I conducted a research on the forests in the country. I realized we have over 1,000 forest reserves.
“I sent the team to Kenya. They went to Kenya and brought out a paper and I said then, three years ago, that our next crisis will be in the forest.
“Some governors were invited and we told them because most of the forests are the prerogative of states. The states took over all the forest reserves.
“I told them that we have to protect the forests . We have to send troops to protect the forests. We did the research in 2018 for six months.
“But again, it is with us right now. It requires a multifaceted approach. Everyone has to come on board for us to be able to address the insecurity situation.
“You can never have enough weapons, personnel and so on, but there are issues we must address and then, it has to be all about the nation.”
Chairman Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs, Senator Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa (Bauchi North), said the panel would submit its report on the screening to the Senate next week.