THE Nigerian Army at a high-level meeting on Monday reiterated its loyalty to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria.
The Army also vowed to ensure the unity and indivisibility of the country.
The meeting, which was convened by Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff was attended by all Principal Staff Officers, General Officers Commanding, and Field Commanders of the Nigerian Army. It held at the Army Headquarters, in Abuja.
The meeting came against the backdrop of escalating insecurity across the country after the #EndSARS protests had led to ongoing looting of public and private properties amid clashes between irate Nigerians and security agents.
A statement issued by Sagir Musa, a Colonel and acting Director of Army Public Relations, which disclosed details of the meeting suggested that the military authorities believed the security situation in the country posed a threat to the Buhari-led Federal Government.
To forestall any possible attempt to undermine the democratic government in the country, Buratai, at the beginning of the meeting, warned the military officers at the meeting that there was no room for ‘disloyalty’.
“At the meeting, the COAS, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai, made it unambiguously clear to the PSOs, GOCs and Field Commanders that there will be no room for disloyalty amongst all officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army (NA). He directed that they (PSOs, GOCs, and Field Commanders) must reiterate to all their subordinates that the NA is determined to ensure democratic stability in Nigeria as the only panacea for development and progress,” Musa said.
“The best system of governance is democracy and we must all ensure that Nigeria’s democracy remains stable and steady,” he quoted Buratai as said.
“We will not allow any force, elements, or destabilizing 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, according to the statement, stressed that some groups and individuals were bent on destabilising Nigeria by all means.
The Army chief said the unnamed individuals and groups hijacked the #EndSARS protests.
”The events of the past few days in our dear nation have shown the determination of some unscrupulous individuals and groups to destabilize Nigeria by all means,” Buratai said.
“These individuals, groups and other undesirable elements have hijacked the peaceful #ENDSARS protest marches resulting in widespread violence, acts of wanton destruction and looting of public and private properties in many parts of the country. These acts led to the imposition of curfew in several states of the federation,” he added.
The statement further claimed that right from the onset of the #EndSARS protests, the Nigerian Army had been aware of the ‘grand design’ by the sponsors of the protests to draw it into the crisis.
It was silent on the role of the Army in the attack on unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20.
A video from the incident, now known as ‘Lekki Killings’, had shown soldiers firing live bullets at protesters at the Tollgate. The Army had claimed that the video was ‘photoshopped’ and the statement issued after Monday’s meeting further suggested that the video was part of the ‘propaganda’ to set the people against the Army.
The statement 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.”
“The Nigerian Army being aware of the devilish plan was careful not to be dragged in and issued the initial warning through a press release on 14 October 2020 of our resolve to secure and safeguard a United Nigeria.”
It added, “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 Nigerian Army of being responsible for the activities of the miscreants despite glaring evidence to the contrary.”
They have continually threatened to report the NA to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.”
Despite widespread misgivings over the role of the Army in the protests, the statement claimed that 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, according to the statement, also said at the meeting that despite all the alleged provocation, “the Nigerian Army has continued to exercise restraint, applied all the Principles of Internal Security Operations and fully abided by the internationally recognised rules of engagement as contained in our published Standard Operating Procedures for Internal Security Operations which are derived from the International Human Rights Laws and are in accordance with the international principles guiding the use of force”.
The Nigerian Army had for long been accused of extra-judicial killings and excessive use of force against unarmed civilians in various operations targeted at quelling civil disturbances.
Global Rights group, Amnesty International, had in various reports, accused the Army of extra-judicial killings. Also, already, some civil society organisations and individuals have petitioned the ICC over the Army role in the Lekki Killings and other incidents in the #EndSARS protests.
But, in a defiant tone, the Nigerian Army said it was not afraid of the ICC.
According to the statement, Buratai “used the opportunity to re-emphasise that none of the PSOs, GOCs, Field Commanders and other officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army should 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.”
“They have 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 (Buratai) reiterated that anyone who doubts their commitment to their constitutional responsibilities must be made to know that they remain 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 destabilization that they are neither part of them nor in any way supportive of their activities at all times,” the statement added.
In what amounted to giving soldiers the licence to kill, the statement said Burarai “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”.
The Army chief further directed the Army commanders to assist the police and other security agencies to enforce curfews imposed in various states by governors.
According to Buratai, in dealing with any security threat, the Army commanders must fully cooperate with personnel of the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies and must ensure that everyone is in full compliance with imposed curfews and any other extant security instructions in force.
Buratai also alerted the PSOs, GOCs, and Field Commanders that the recent activities by unscrupulous elements have shown their desire to acquire arms and ammunition at all costs from security personnel.
The statement said no less than 10 AK-47 rifles have been lost to people it described as ‘miscreants’ in the past 2 weeks across the country with attendant loss of lives of personnel.
“He charged Commanders to nip in the bud this emerging trend at all cost and directed them to warn their troops on internal security or on guard duties outside the barracks to be at maximum alert at all times and to also deal decisively with any attack on their duty locations.
“General Buratai concluded that there is no choice between a democratically united, strong and prosperous Nigeria and a nation disunited in a state of anarchy and retrogression. We must all strive for a united, strong, stable, and progressive Nigeria.”
The statement disclosed that at the end of the meeting, the PSOs, GOCs, and Field Commanders resolved to “remain Loyal to the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari” and also “ensure the unity and indivisibility” of the country.
The Nigerian Army also resolved to assist the Federal Government to bring an end to insecurity across the country and to prevent miscreants and criminals from hijacking the ENDSARS protest nationwide.
In the same vein, the Army resolved to “remain focus and not to be deterred by any local or international threats”.
The statement added that all Commanders have been directed to intensify joint training with the Nigerian Police Force and other sister security agencies to enhance inter-agency collaboration and cooperation.
The protesters are carting away food items and other materials believed to be palliatives donated for distribution to vulnerable Nigerians to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The orgy of violence has continued despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in various states by governors.
Several civilians have been killed in the course of the civil disturbances. Many security agents, mostly policemen, have also lost their lives.