Army Sets up Court Martial to Try Partisan Personnel

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• Bars religious worship outside barracks

Paul Obi in Abuja

Barely 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari declared his intention to seek re-election in the 2019 polls, the Nigerian Army Tuesday set up a special standing court martial that will prosecute officers caught dabbling in politics, compromising military ethics or playing any role in the 2019 general election.

Officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army have been accused several times of meddling in the elections in the country, especially the Ekiti State governorship election in 2014 where Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) beat then-incumbent Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Military personnel have also been accused of aiding and abating vote rigging in some of the states won by both major political parties.

Speaking at the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) First Quarter Conference in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, warned his officers and men to steer clear of the 2019 elections.

He also decried the recent criticism that trailed some of the interventions and operations of the Army, stressing that officers are mandated to abstain from meddling in the forthcoming polls.

According to him, “The Nigerian Army must remain apolitical and professionally responsive in the discharge of its constitutional duties. GOCs (General Officers Commanding) and Field Commanders at all levels are therefore warned that anyone that runs foul of his professional ethics will be appropriately dealt with.

“You are all enjoined to continue to remind officers and soldiers under your command to remain non-partisan and be guided by the stipulated code of conduct and rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties particularly in the coming 2019 general election.

“I have directed for a special standing court martial to be set up in preparation for the coming 2019 elections. I must warn that any Nigerian Army personnel found hobnobbing with politicians or being partisan will be investigated and sent to the special standing court martial.

“I must state that any officer or soldier who wishes to be sympathetic to a political, religious or ethnic group should voluntarily retire from the Nigerian Army.
“Furthermore, all are reminded on the ban on any form of worship outside the barracks except those permitted for wedding and other social events.”

Buratai cautioned officers and soldiers to refrain from any acts of political, religious or ethnic patronage, warning that this would attract severe consequences.
“The fate of the 38 officers who were retired is still fresh in our memories,” he reminded them, making reference to the Ekiti election.

The army chief also charged his men to ensure that killings by criminal gangs are prevented.
“In this regard, issues of murder, arson and other serious crimes perpetrated by ethnic and local militias, criminals and miscreants must be dealt with decisively.

“Commanders would be held responsible for any lapses arising from their actions or inactions,” he said.
Buratai added that though he was aware of the constraints affecting some of their operations, but plans were underway to improve, particularly in area of procurement, subject to 2018 budgetary releases.

He assured participants that the Nigerian Army would continue to patronise Nigerian made hardware such as Innoson Motors, Proforce Nigeria and Nigerian Machine Tools, among others.
Buratai also hinted on the partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on the leadership programme to be held at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Earlier, the Chief of Policy and Plans (COPP) of the Nigerian Army, Major General R.O Yusuf, had said that the army has continued to receive encomiums from several quarters on its performance in Operations Lafiya Dole, Sharan Daji and MESA.
Yusuf noted that the conference presented an opportunity to appraise all operations by the army for optimum results in the second quarter of the year.