Wilfred Eya, Molly kilete and Okwe Obi, Abuja and Lukman Olabiyi
The Nigerian Army, yesterday, claimed the #EndSARS protest was a ploy by its masterminds to discredit the Federal Government, incite the public against the army and set the nation on fire.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, in his remarks during a meeting with Principal Staff Officers (POS), Commanding Officers (GOC) and field commanders in Abuja, said the army lost over 10 AK-47 rifles during the protest across the country, which he said was unacceptable.
He warned that the army would not allow subversive and unscrupulous elements destabilise the peace and stability of Nigeria.
While shedding more light on the #EndSARS protest, he said: “The plan was to embark on massive propaganda to discredit the military and the government so as to set the people against the Nigerian army once it is called out to aid the civil authorities”.
He told the PSOs, GOCs and field commanders that there would be no room for disloyalty among all officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army. He directed them to reiterate to all their subordinates that the army was determined to ensure democratic stability in Nigeria as the only panacea for development and progress.
“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”.
Buratai stated that the events of the past few days had shown the determination of some unscrupulous individuals and groups to destabilise Nigeria by all means.
The COAS added that the army had been aware from the outset of the #EndSARS protest about the grand design by the sponsors of the protests to draw it into the crisis.
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 of its resolve to secure and safeguard a united Nigeria.
“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 army of being responsible for the activities of the miscreants in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary.
“They have continually threatened to report the 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.”
Buratai insisted that the army had continued to exercise restraint and fully abided by the internationally recognised rules of engagement as contained in its published Standard Operating Procedures for Internal Security Operations.
He said the processes were derived from the International Human Rights Laws in accordance with the international principles guiding the use of force.
The COAS, however, encouraged officers and soldiers not be afraid of the ICC for carrying out their legitimate duties as stated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and other extant laws, rules and regulations of Nigeria.
He said they had 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 stressed that anyone who doubted their commitment to their constitutional responsibilities must be made to know that they remained committed, loyal and unwavering in ensuring the unity, stability and security of our dear country Nigeria.
He charged them to show the detractors and other elements of destabilisation that they are neither part of them nor in anyway supportive of their activities at all times.
He 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.
He charged them to fully cooperate with the police and other security agencies to ensure that they are in full compliance with imposed curfews and any other extant security instructions in force.