The Nigerian Army has been in the eye of the storm over the conduct of soldiers deployed to provide security during the 2019 elections. The soldiers have been roundly accused in several quarters of committing infractions, including partisan interference in the electoral process, that seriously undermined the credibility and sanctity of the elections. In fact, in the estimation of many observers, both Federal Government and the Army stand condemned over the undue militarisation of the electoral process.
But it is an accusation that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, in this interview with Vanguard, dismisses in its entirety.
The military was accused of aiding in election malpractices like snatching of ballot boxes. Your reaction?
Militarisation has to be defined. What do you mean by militarisation? How exactly did the military take part in the elections? Generalisation is not the best. People just use the word militarisation without defining it. Was the so-called militarisation everywhere across the country? Why are people making so much noise about it? They are giving the impression that the military was involved in the entire process in the whole country. It is just probably a definition they only restricted to Lagos or where?
People cannot just use the word militarisation in general terms to say the security agencies were involved. Who are the people involved? What does the Constitution say about the role of the military? We have the constitutional provision. We have made it very clear; we are not part of these elections, we are only supporting the police.
Anything we do there is helping the police who are representing the civil authority in law enforcement and it is very clear that we have been called out to support the civil authority. That does not mean militarisation. And once we go out there, we are performing police role, it is not a military role, we are supporting the police essentially; that is very clear. The military was called out to come and support the police. So, they are just using the military in order to justify their failures, to justify their inadequacies, to justify their inability to rig because the security forces provided the needed security to prevent massive rigging, ballot box-snatching and so on. But strictly, the use of the word, militarisation is misplaced, it is wrong. We were there to perform our responsibilities based on the invitation to support the police which is legitimate.
There is no way you will say that the election was militarised; it is misuse of the term. If really the election was militarised, I tell you, nobody would take the law into his hands the way they did brazenly and deliberately did, even attacking our men, killing our personnel. An officer was killed, policemen were killed so if we were to take drastic steps to really show we were involved, it would have been worse than this.
We were able to maintain law and order; we were able to conduct ourselves within the rules of engagement which is legitimate. So there is a deliberate misconception or misinterpretation of the role of the military in order to malign the military and discredit it despite the stupendous efforts we have made to ensure security in support of the civil authority.
And you know very well if the security agencies, including the military, had not come out to support the elections in providing security, the level of insecurity, the level of killings, arson, ballot box-snatching and so on, would have been worse than what was experienced.
So many of the stakeholders, both at home and abroad, have commended the military for remaining neutral, impartial and conducting themselves professionally; but a few elements who felt they were not given the chance to rig and to disturb on a massive scale the election process, are the ones shouting that the whole process was militarised.
The military was not there to support any political party; we were there to provide adequate security as requested, in support of the electoral process. That was essentially what we did. So to say that the process was militarised is a misplaced use of word; it is unfortunate.
Over the years, from our historical experiences, the outcomes or results of elections have been the major cause of instability in our polity. They have led to a lot of killings, arson, you name it: in Kaduna, Zangon-Kataf, Modakeke and so many other places. So historically, if you look at it, we had those unfortunate incidents because they were allowed to go out of control.
We had so many underlying factors; even in the First Republic, we saw the underlying factors that led to the civil war; it is the same outcome of elections that led to that, characterised by so many malpractices. So government doesn’t want the same thing to happen and that was why the military was called in to support the police.
There is no way we would be partisan; the country’s stability, the country’s peace is our watchword, it is very, very fundamental. Some people just chose to blame different entities and bodies for their failures.
On the allegation that the soldiers caught snatching ballot boxes are fake
“Yes, that is another dimension because as I said, those people that did not want the election to go smoothly, created their own local militia, gave them military and police uniforms to be moving out here and there to misbehave, snatch ballot boxes, to disrupt the electoral process and so on. So anyone that sees them will automatically say it is the military and that is completely at variance with our code of conduct, with our ethics and the way we train our officers and men to ensure they behave professionally; that is very clear. We arrested several of them and you must have seen our press releases with pictures of the fake soldiers, fake policemen, fake security operatives and so on. So once you see this, it is not the Army that created those ones and gave them uniforms; so instead of them to admit their shortcomings and misconduct, they are covering their heinous activities/crimes under the guise of militarisation.
It is so painful, so terrible that they don’t have conscience and continue to blame the military for their own mischievous actions. This is where the Press needs to be objective, look at it critically. The Army cannot go and dress fake people or criminals to go and act on their behalf. We have seen the thugs, the militias; so where does the military come in?
These are very clear. So we have to be reasonable and objective; we are paid by the state to ensure that we defend our country and prevent breakdown of law and order for us to progress; there is no other way. It is very important.
UPDATED: Soldier Fighting Boko Haram Opens Fire On Colleagues, Kills 4 And Commits Suicide
A corporal of the Nigerian Army attached to Operation Lafiya Dole has opened fire on his colleagues, killing four personnel and injuring two others.
The corporal also shot himself during the shocking incident which happened in an Army Base in the Malam Fatori area of Borno State in the early hours of Wednesday.
According to the Army, the mass shooting happened at the Army Super Camp 15, located at Malam Fatori, and the two injured personnel had been rushed to a military hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State.
The injured soldiers were said to be in a stable condition.
The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, in a release, said the authorities had ordered an investigation into the case.
He said, “A corporal of the Army serving at the Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, Army Super Camp 15, located at Malam Fatori went berserk in the early hours of Wednesday and opened fire, killing four of his colleagues before shooting himself.
“Two of his colleagues were also injured during the incident and are currently in stable condition in our hospital in Maiduguri. Efforts are ongoing to contact the families of our gallant colleagues who paid the supreme price in the line of duty. May their gentle souls rest in peace.
“Meanwhile, an investigation into the case has since been instituted to determine the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident.”
BREAKING: Angry Soldier Kills 4 Of His Colleagues In Borno
An aggrieved soldier has opened fire on his colleagues at army super camp 15 in Malam Fatori, Borno state, killing four of them and leaving two injured, TheCable reports.
Sagir Musa, spokesman of the army, who confirmed the tragic incident, said it happened in the early hours of Wednesday.
More to follow…
‘It Is Not The Job Of The Military To Fight Boko Haram’ — Buratai
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai, has stated that the war against Boko Haram could not be won by military might due to series of indoctrination that have been carried out in the north for more than two decades. Buratai said that only 25 per cent of the war falls within the ambit of the military.
The rest, according to him, is for the civil populace to handle. He made these declarations yesterday in Lagos during the 2020 Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Security Meets Business Dialogue.
Buratai stated that: “We are fighting the mind. So, can the military fight the mind of the people? That is not the job of the military.
Psychological operation is government- driven. Facility to reach the minds of the people is within the precinct of the governments. Does military have control over religious leaders that preach hate? There is lot of mundane issues that culminated to this problem. And unfortunately, we do not look at these little things that really matter. You see religious leaders addressing congregation violently on social media to instigate violence against other people.”
He urged Nigerians to own the military and other security agencies and support them with information to enable them win the fight against Boko Haram.
He also debunked the insinuation that there was no synergy between the security agencies in the fight against mounting insecurity facing the country. “It is easy to sit in our rooms and make conjectures even though we are not on the ground. In 2013 the international community issued a warning that foreigners should not go beyond Lagos. But starting in October 2015 they started coming. Can this be achieved without synergy?” he asked.
Buratai also regretted that the country failed to develop the “Ogbunigwe” that was invented by Biafra during the Nigerian civil war and lamented that Nigeria’s allies were denying the country strategic military supplies needed to combat insurgency.
He said: “We all know how the armed forces have been deprived of what it is supposed to have in terms of equipment. There was civil war in this country between 1967 and 1970. Did all our allies support Nigeria as a country? Those Nigeria relied upon for the supply of equipment disappointed her. We are experiencing the same thing with Boko Haram. Some of the arms the government has paid for since 2017 and 2018 have not been supplied. As I speak, no pin has arrived Nigeria. Will Boko Haram sleep and wait till our arm arrives? These are the issues.”
He said that during the civil war, the ingenuity of the Biafrans produced the “Ogbunigwe” but Nigeria paid no attention in developing it. He therefore, called for a detailed research and development to enable Nigeria to produce some of these equipment domestically. “Honestly, this is the crux of the mater. As Nigerians we must develop our own solutions. In doing this we need help and assistance,” he said.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, who was represented by Air Vice Marshall Ado Inuwa, regretted that Nigeria’s security challenges which would have been treated when it was a small ailment has now become cancerous.
Olanisakin noted that “Nigeria is at war whether we like it or not,” and called for all hands to be on deck rather than the current attitude where Nigerians viewed the country’s security challenges as personal problem of the security agencies. “The Boko Haram issue has lingered for too long. We cannot see a group that is a rag-tag militia holding up a nation for almost 10 years now if it is not having adequate supplies and logistics. It is not possible. Something is really wrong somewhere,” he said.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of SGF, Dr. Amina Shamaki, said that the country needed to strengthen its moral fabrics in order to win the war against insecurity. “If we all account for every member of our families and uphold the tenets of moral, religious, cultural, societal and traditional values, there will be no terrorists, bandits, robbers, arms smugglers, child traffickers, cattle rustlers, militants, etc. And, the work that our government, military and security agencies are doing, will become positively, evident,” he said.
The Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr. Zubairu Muazu, noted that community policing is the way to go in finding lasting solution to the insecurity challenges facing the country. Similarly, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, who was represented by the Flag Officer Commanding the Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral O B Daji, said the navy is fishing out foreigners that carry out 90 per cent of crimes in Tarkwa Bay Beach in Lagos to protect maritime business. In her opening remark, the President of LCCI, Mrs Toki Mabogunje, said that “insecurity erodes business and investors’ confidence, resulting in disruption of domestic supply chains and weakening of capital formation required to drive significant economic growth as Nigeria finds it more challenging for us as a country to attract new investment and grow the economy.”