Buratai Speaks from Isolation, Says Planned ICC Probe Will Affect Internal Security Operations, Troop Morale

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•Urges soldiers to focus on final onslaught against insurgents

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

Following an announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it was opening a full investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by terrorist group, Boko Haram, and Nigerian security forces, Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, has said the investigation would hurt internal security operations and dampen the morale of troops.

Buratai spoke 72 hours after going into self-isolation with other generals and commanders, after the death of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Major General Olubunmi Irefin. Irefin died of complications arising from the COVID-19 virus.

A statement issued by Army spokesman, Brigadier-General Sagir Musa, said the decision of the ICC would be a setback for internal security operations, with attendant negative consequences on troops trying to contain the Boko Haram insurgency.

The statement said, “The Nigerian Army’s attention has been drawn to a press release by the Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday 12 December 2020, alleging that she has found a reasonable basis to believe that ‘members of the Nigerian Security Forces (NSF)’ have committed acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“This was immediately followed by a release by the local branch of Amnesty International (AI) in Nigeria ‘demanding full investigation of atrocities by Nigerian forces.’”

The Army Headquarters statement added, “There is no doubt such statement and instigation can distract the Nigerian Army troops with its demoralising effects. It will have negative consequences on troops morale, interest in military service by Nigerians and be a severe setback to all our internal security operations in the country.

“However, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General TY Buratai, enjoins Nigerian Army troops to ignore the distractions and call on the gallant troops never to be worried or demoralised by these moves.”
He further enjoined troops “to ignore the wicked, unnecessary distractions and direct troops to fully concentrate on the final defeat of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists group, which is in sight”.

The army chief also directed fighting troops to adhere to the rules of engagement, code of conduct, and standard operating procedure.

“He also charges the troops to work hard and be guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Rules of Engagement, the Code of Conduct and the Standing Operating Procedures for all Nigerian Army Operations,” the Army statement said.

Buratai reiterated, “The Nigerian Army is not only protecting human rights but also sustaining human rights nationally and globally. Our professional conduct over the years and most recently during the #ENDSARS protest at Lekki Village near Lagos are clear testimonies to the Nigerian Army’s posture on promoting sustainable human rights policy.

“The Nigerian Army wishes to advise local or international organisations not to allow themselves be used to destabilise or destroy the troops’ morale by the sponsors of mischief in Nigeria.”