Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Lt.-Gen Tukur Buratai, at the weekend in Bayelsa State, lamented that fake news is worsening violence during elections in the country and putting military operations in jeopardy.
The army chief, who spoke when he visited the 16 Brigade Camp Tukur Buratai, Elebele, in the outskirts of Yenagoa, the state capital, noted that the army set up a situation room real-time, commanded by its cyber warfare unit, to deal with the menace decisively during the last polls.
He was at the 16 Brigade Barracks to inaugurate several ongoing projects, including an Integrated Medical Centre, Quarter Guard, and 30 flats for junior officers, among several others under the leadership of Brig.-Gen Kevin Aligbe, Commander of the Brigade.
Buratai, who was represented by Maj.-Gen Adeku Salihu, Commander, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) of the Nigerian Army, noted that the army would continue to support the lead forces to halt election violence, but solicited the cooperation of members of the public.
“Permit me to draw your attention to the Nigerian Army’s role in supporting the lead security agencies in the electioneering process.
“We had earlier launched Operation Safe Conduct and the army Situation Room to ensure real-time monitoring of events.
“This was borne out of our previous unpalatable experiences occasioned by electoral violence which has now been made worse by fake news.
“Fake news and false propaganda hold a dangerous threat to both the electoral process and military operations. The use of the media, especially social media to spread fake news should be a source of concern to all of us.
“Rapid spread of fake news has been responsible for misinformation and having an influence on public sentiments, sowing confusion among the electorate and igniting violence during elections,” the CAS maintained.
Buratai assured Nigerians that the army would continue to collaborate with the civil society and other sister agencies to ensure the rest of the elections are violence-free.
He noted that military operations in the Niger Delta region are of paramount importance to the country, given the region’s strategic place to Nigeria’s survival.
“You will agree with me that to protect the resources we have in the Niger Delta region and the equally strategic Gulf of Guinea, we need a strategic response mechanism made up of men and women who are well motivated.
“Some of these projects are quite unique in their own rights, particularly the integrated medical centre and the quarter guard, the only one in the country’s armed forces,” he added.
In his comments, Governor Seriake Dickson, who was represented by his Deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd), urged Nigerians to continue to protect the military by making sure the army is not denigrated by politicians.
“The Bayelsa government is ready to collaborate with the military and other sister agencies because it is a duty. We owe the armed forces that duty.
“On a final note, I listened to the comments on the role of the army in elections. It is not different from what my enquiries revealed. It is quite reassuring to me that we should all try to shield the army of any blame.
“Forget about politics, the Nigerian army remains the most important organ that has kept the cohesion of this country and has played this role over the years.
“The most important one was during the war. The army has also projected us outside the shores of this country. It is one of the most efficient organisations making sacrifices in Liberia, Sierra Leone and now in Nigeria.
“Don’t listen to us as politicians, just do the right thing and leave the rest to God,” he advised.
Brig.-Gen Aligbe, in his remarks, lauded the CAS, GOC, the Bayelsa State government and several private companies and individuals who contributed to the construction of the barracks and sought help to complete the parade ground and other uncompleted projects in the barracks.