Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, has expressed sadness over the utterances of some politicians aspiring to rule the country, inciting officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army to disobedience.
This is just as Buratai has again warned that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable and that those who seek to undermine the nation’s democratic process would be seen as enemies of Nigeria and dealt with accordingly.
The army chief made this known at a meeting he held with principal staff officers, general officers commanding, and directors at the army headquarters to strategise on the roles of the Nigerian Army during the 2019 general election.
Buratai, who said the army would no longer fold its arms to watch politicians set the nation on fire with their utterances, reiterated the decision of the Nigerian Army to remain neutral and apolitical in the political dispensation.
He, however, warned that direct and public incitement of the Nigerian military against democracy and constituted civil authority would not be tolerated and advised such politicians to withdraw these inciting statements.
He said: “It is unfortunate to hear persons who are aspiring to rule this country again inciting the army to disobedience. We have consistently stated our position in the political dispensation to remain neutral and apolitical. However, direct and public incitement of the Nigerian military against democracy and constituted civil authority will not be tolerated. I request such persons to withdraw this inciting statement. Let me reemphasise loud and clear that the Nigerian Army is a professional army. The foundation of military professionalism is discipline and without discipline an army cannot stand. One of our core values is loyalty to constituted authority. Loyalty must be 100 per cent. I shall leave you in no doubt as to our resolve to bequeath a professionally responsive army to Nigeria and Nigerians. Should any officer or soldier have doubts as to his loyalty to the Nigerian state as presently constituted, such a person has up to February 22, 2019, to resign.
“I wish to first remind all of you that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. Hence, those who seek to undermine our democracy by interfering in our electoral process must be seen as enemies of Nigeria and dealt with appropriately.
“Our role is aptly captured in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and we must defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity, as well as act in aid of civil authority when called upon to do so. Therefore, commanders must work with all stakeholders, interest groups and agencies to avert any act by any individual, groups or entities that seek to undermine our democratic process.
“As expected, Nigerians have expressed general disappointment with the postponement of the elections. The postponement has also increased apprehension in the populace and the international community with regard to safety of voters and the electoral materials.
“It is, therefore, vital that the Nigerian Army, alongside other security agencies, rise up to the challenge of ensuring a peaceful outcome to this general election so as to give confidence to Nigerian citizens and to reassure the international community about our electoral process.”
To ensure the conduct of a smooth and peaceful election, Buratai, while calling on officers and soldiers to cooperate with the various security agencies, however, directed the commanders to deal decisively with political thugs, ballot box snatchers and anyone who tries to violate the electoral process.
“I want to remind all here present that the act of electoral thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of election materials and similar crimes are intended to mar an election and create deliberate avenues for post-election violence and mayhem. Such actions can also become more damaging when they are widespread, leading to destruction of life and property. Incidences of this nature in previous elections are often planned and orchestrated by politicians and the Nigerian Army has hitherto been very cautious in its approach.
“However, this time around, the Nigerian Army will adopt a proactive posture that ensures that similar incidences do not even arise. Accordingly, in addition to my earlier directives to you in the last operations conference, I wish to lay emphasis on the following actions that all commanders are to abide by: commanders must deal decisively with any electoral crime or action that would be inimical to national security; commanders are to ensure that they and their personnel do not hobnob with politicians at any level. In this regard, there will be no military escort for any politician and all Nigerian Army personnel are to stay clear of retired military officers, especially those who are now politicians, until after the elections; commanders are to conduct extensive patrols within their AORs. They must ensure that all flashpoints within the area are dominated; commanders must, in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Force, enforce the restriction on movement within their AORs. All vehicles must be searched and suspicious persons or vehicles arrested/impounded and later handed over to the NPF.”