- Alleges plot by politicians to disrupt March 9 polls
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Following allegations of misconduct against some soldiers in the recent presidential and National Assembly elections, the Nigerian Army Wednesday said it has launched a probe into the allegations of unprofessional conduct against its personnel.
Speaking Wednesday at a meeting with Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), General Officers Commanding (GOCs) and Operatinal Commanders (OCs) in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, disclosed that the governors of Bayelsa, Oyo and Ogun States had lodged a formal complaint against some soldiers with the Army Headquarters.
Buratai was, however, silent on Rivers State that recorded widespread violence and killings in the last election.
Buratai has also raised the alarm over alleged plot by some unnamed politicians to disrupt the forthcoming governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections and carry out assasinations.
Also, the army chief warned that those behind the killing of soldiers during the polls would be tracked down and brought to justice.
He said the army has inaugurated a high-powered committee to look into the allegations of unprofessional conduct levelled against its personnel during the last election.
“There have been reports of alleged compromises by some personnel during the elections. We have received complaints from some stakeholders, major political parties, Governors of Bayelsa, Oyo and Ogun States of allegation of misconduct as well as unprofessional conduct by some of our personnel.
“Unfortunately, some other states have gone to the press with unsubstantiated allegation without resort to the Nigerian Army leadership.
“Nonetheless, all these complaints are noted and will be addressed appropriately. A high-powered committee had been convened and instituted to investigate all cases of alleged misconduct by troops arising from the 2019 general election.
“This is aimed at ensuring that all cases are thoroughly looked into for the purpose of dispensation of justice and to uphold Nigerian Army’s credibility, professionalism and apolitical stand,” he said.
Addressing the officers on the conduct of soldiers in the coming elections, he warned them against hobnobbing with politicians, to guard against surprise attack and to be ready to deal ruthlessly against any post election violence.
“Commanders must ensure robust and extensive patrols are carried out to cover all flash points; enforce the no- movement restrictions and carryout thorough searches of vehicles and persons.
“Commanders must deal decisively with any electoral crime or action such as electoral thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of electoral materials and firearms as well as other crimes that would mar the smooth conduct of the election.
“There must be no military escort for any politician or retired military personnel until after the elections”, he directed
He further ordered that “commanders must ensure that no retired military officer is allowed to use service weapons hitherto authorised for their personal safety during the period of the election.
“Commanders must ensure that troops remain on ground to counter and deal ruthlessly with any post-election violence.
“Commanders must work in conjunction with the police and other security agencies to dominate the environment to forestall any form of violence.
“Commanders must maintain force protect and respond decisively to prevent any surprise attack on troops of Operation Safe Conduct and eligible voters by armed militia groups or political thugs”.
He also warned that “they must act according to the rules of engagement and within the code of conduct as well as have respect for fundamental human rights in the performance of their assigned roles. “Commanders must not take any unlawful orders from any politician no matter how highly placed that will jeopardise the apolitical stand of the Nigerian Army.
“Commanders must ensure troops under their command remain apolitical, neutral and should deal ruthlessly with electoral law breakers as well as avoid compromise with any politician and political party”.
Meanwhile, Buratai has also alleged that the army has uncovered plans by some politicians to carry out bombing campaigns and carry out acts of assassination on election day.
“Recent security threat assessment and analysis of the coming elections showed that politicians have made plans to use all means available to truncate the peaceful conduct of the elections.
“There are indications of their intent to take advantage of and to use the farmers/herders crisis, armed political thugs and ethnic militias to perpetrate acts of violence including bombings.
“Some of them also intend to infiltrate domestic staff of political opponents, employ mercenaries to carry out acts of assassinations, use the social media for smear campaigns, hate speeches and spread fake news in a bid to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the elections. We must not allow them succeed”, he warned.
Speaking on the killing of soldiers during the last elections, Buratai said the army was determined to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. “As we mourn the death of the young officer and soldiers killed on the course of their lawful duty during the recently held election, I want to assure their families that their death will not be in vain.
“In line with the tradition of the Nigerian Army they will be given heroic burial as they are indeed the heroes of our democracy. I have directed that their full entitlements be paid.
“Let no one be in doubt that those desperate politicians and criminals that attacked our troops in the course of carrying out their legitimate duties will be tracked down and brought to justice,” he stated.