Army Won’t Be Intimidated in Discharge of Constitutional Duties, Says Buratai

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•Explains efforts to enforce curfew in Lagos misinterpreted
•Pledges unalloyed loyalty to civil authority

By Kingsley Nwezeh

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, yesterday assured officers and men of the Nigerian Army that they have nothing to fear in carrying out orders to secure Nigeria and assist civil authorities to maintain law and order.

Buratai, addressing his Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), General Officers Commanding (GOCs) and field commanders at a meeting in Abuja, urged the military chiefs and soldiers not to be intimidated by threats by some Nigerians to report them to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged human rights violations.

He spoke against the backdrop of threats by civil society groups to report the army to the ICC for allegedly mistreating and shooting unarmed #EndSARS protesters last week.

Buratai urged the military chiefs to cooperate with the police and other security agencies to ensure compliance with curfews imposed by states to curb social unrests and other extant security instructions in force.

A statement by the Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, quoted the army chief as saying that there will be no room for disloyalty amongst all officers and soldiers.

He directed that the commanders must impress it on their subordinates that the Nigerian Army is determined to ensure democratic stability in Nigeria as the only panacea for development and progress.

He said: “The best system of governance is democracy and we must all ensure that Nigeria’s democracy remains stable and steady. We will not allow any force, elements or destabilising agents in or outside our country to set our beloved country on fire. We remain resolute in doing everything possible to ensure that subversive elements, detractors and other enemies of this great nation do not achieve their aims and objectives of destabilisation.

“The events of the past few days in our dear nation have shown the determination of some unscrupulous individuals and groups to destabilise Nigeria by all means. These individuals, groups and other undesirable elements have hijacked the peaceful #ENDSARS protest marches resulting to widespread violence, acts of wanton destruction and looting of public and private properties in many parts of the country. These acts led to the imposition of curfew in several states of the federation.”

The COAS also said from the onset of #ENDSARS protest, the army was aware of a plot by the sponsors of the protests to draw it into the crisis.

According to him, the plan was to embark on massive propaganda to discredit the military and the government so as to set the people against the army once it is called out to aid the civil authorities.

He said the army being aware of the plan was careful not to be dragged in and issued the initial warning through a press release on October 14, 2020, of its resolve to secure and safeguard a united Nigeria.

Buratai said: “Now the detractors alongside their local and international collaborators have mischievously and deliberately misrepresented troops’ efforts to ensure compliance with the curfew imposed by legitimate civil authorities in Lagos and other states.

“These agitators are falsely accusing the Nigerian Army of being responsible for the activities of the miscreants despite glaring evidence to the contrary.

They have continually threatened to report the Nigerian Army to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.

“Thankfully, however, a large percentage of Nigerians and the international community have started seeing through the smokescreen of falsehood and deliberate misrepresentation of facts being orchestrated by enemies of Nigeria and have retracted their earlier false publications.”

The COAS stated that despite all these, the army has continued to exercise restraint, applied all the principles of internal security operations and fully abided by the internationally recognised rules of engagement as contained in its published Standard Operating Procedures for Internal Security Operations, which are derived from the international human rights laws and are in accordance with the international principles guiding the use of force.

He added that none of the officers and men should be afraid of the ICC for carrying out their legitimate duties.

“[We] have every right under the constitution to carry out assigned and legitimate roles of maintaining law and order in aid of civil authorities and other security agencies,” he said.

Buratai said anyone doubting their commitment to their constitutional responsibilities must be made to know that they remain committed, loyal and unwavering in ensuring the unity, stability and security of Nigeria.

He charged them to show critics that they are neither part of them nor in any way supportive of their activities at all times.

He also directed that any act of arson or attempt to kill or maim any military or security personnel and other law-abiding civilians must be responded to quickly and decisively.

“In dealing with any security threat, they [soldiers] must fully cooperate with personnel of the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies and must ensure that everyone is in full compliance with imposed curfews and any other extant security instructions in force.

“The recent activities by unscrupulous elements have shown their desire to acquire arms and ammunition at all cost from security personnel. No fewer than 10 AK-47 rifles have been lost to these miscreants in the past two weeks across the country with attendant loss of lives of personnel,” he said.

He charged the commanders to check this emerging trend at all cost, and directed them to warn their troops on internal security or on guard duties outside the barracks to be at maximum alert at all times and to also deal decisively with any attack on their duty locations.

“There is no choice between a democratically united, strong and prosperous Nigeria and a nation disunited in a state of anarchy and retrogression. We must all strive for a united, strong, stable and progressive Nigeria,” he stated.

The statement noted that at the end of the meeting, the PSOs, GOCs and field commanders resolved to: “Remain loyal to the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari; ensure the unity and indivisibility of our country; assist the federal government to bring an end to insecurity across the country and to prevent miscreants and criminals from hijacking the #EndSARS protest nationwide; remain focused and not to be deterred by any local or international threats.”

All commanders were also directed to intensify joint training with the police and other sister security agencies to enhance interagency collaboration and cooperation.