By Omololu Ogunmade
President Muhammadu Buhari Monday in Abuja threatened to deal with any act of hooliganism under the guise of lawful and peaceful protests as youths commenced another round of peaceful protests in some parts of the country.
Buhari issued the threats while declaring open the Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference 2020, in Abuja with the theme: “Human Capacity Development in Sustaining Professionalism and Responsiveness of the Nigerian Army in the Discharge of its Constitutional Roles.”
He commended the Nigerian Armed Forces for their efforts in restoring law and order in various states when hoodlums hijacked the #EndSARS protests in October.
The president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said the president expressed government’s commitment to the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful protests in accordance with the laws of the land.
According to him, the president lamented that the #EndSARS protests were hijacked by hoodlums, thus resulting in wanton destruction of lives and property in several parts of the country.
According to him, Buhari described 2020 as a very challenging year, citing the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on almost every aspect of the country’s national life.
He said he was pleased with the Army, which he said had been resolute in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities as well as the maintenance of the welfare of soldiers.
He also commended the Army for its support to civil authorities in the battle against COVID-19 and conduct of Edo and Ondo polls.
He said: “Despite this, I am pleased to note that the Army remained resolute in the discharge of its Constitutional roles and in keeping the wealth and welfare of our soldiers a priority.
”The Army’s support of Civil Authorities in the management of the COVID – 19 Pandemic is a case in point.
”Also, the peaceful elections conducted in Edo and Ondo States would not have been achieved without the high level of professionalism displayed by all security agencies, including the Army.”
Buhari commended the Army for what he described as its unwavering commitment to the battle against insurgents, armed bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and other violent criminals through ongoing exercises and operations in different parts of the country.
He also praised the Army for what he described as their successes at the ongoing Operation FIRE BALL in the North-east.
Buhari also claimed that the Exercise SAHEL SANITY launched a few months ago in the North-east states to rid the Katsina-Zamfara corridor of marauding bandits, had recorded notable progress, charging the Army to sustain the efforts until peace prevails in the land.
”I have also been briefed about the tremendous successes that have been achieved by troops during the ongoing Operation FIRE BALL in the North East.
”I charge you all to sustain these efforts until the full restoration of peace and security in the nation is achieved,” he said.
He said the conference provided an avenue for the leadership of the Army to re-assess its preparedness and operational readiness to carry out its constitutional roles.
Adesina said Buhari used the occasion to pay tribute to uniformed men and women whom he said had paid the supreme sacrifice in the defence and security of the country, commiserating with their families, comrades and friends.
”As we pray for the repose of their souls, we must strengthen our collective resolve to address those issues that will make every part of our country a safe and secure place to live and carry out our normal business,” he said.
The statement also said Buhari pledged his administration’s dedication to the well-being of families of fallen heroes whom he said had paid the supreme sacrifice in the fight against insurgency and other forms of crimes across the country.
It also said Buhari launched the housing scheme for next of kin of the personnel of the Nigerian Army killed in active service, saying it will boost the morale of troops.
”It is in line with this that the Army as part of its welfare initiative and in line with the federal government’s housing programme is undertaking the Housing Scheme for families and next of kin of troops that were killed in action in the fight against insurgency and other criminalities in the country.
”I believe this initiative will act as a huge morale booster to the troops on the frontlines as well as project the Army in good light.
”On our part, I assure you that this administration will continue to do all within available resources to provide for your operational and welfare needs,” he said.
Adesina said Buhari told the meeting that he had been briefed about some of the major capabilities procured for the Army, that will soon be inducted into various theatres of operations.
Buhari urged the army personnel ‘‘to make judicious use of these capabilities, even as we await the arrival of others currently pending shipment to the country.’’
The president also spoke on the choice of the theme of the annual conference, noting that it is only through human capacity development that any institution can attain the level of professionalism needed to effectively and efficiently carry out its constitutional roles.
Buhari congratulated the Army for organising the conference, saying it showed that the Army was alive to the changing nature of warfare which he said was gradually moving into the cyber domain.
”By the same token, I commend the visionary leadership that has worked assiduously to emplace this vital capability that will fill an existing gap in our nation’s security and defence architecture.
”This and other numerous infrastructural projects that have been embarked upon in recent times by the leadership of the Army has shown good utilization of scarce national resources,” he added.
Earlier, Adesina said the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi appreciated the president for always approving funds for operations of the military in the country, assuring that all resources would be judiciously utilised.
He added that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, noted that the Nigeria Army was well poised to confront all security challenges, which he said included cyber threats.