The Nigerian Army on Thursday cautioned citizens, be it groups, communities or individuals, against any action that can lead to the disintegration of the country.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a Lieutenant General, who issued the warning in Damaturu, Yobe State, reminded Nigerians of the army’s Rules of Engagement (ROE) for internal security operations.
“The Nigerian Army would like to send an unequivocal warning to all and sundry, more specifically to all those threatening and agitating for the dismemberment of the country, committing treasonable felony and arson, as well as wanton destruction of lives and properties that once deployed, we shall apply the ROE to the letter,” he warned.
Buratai, however, expressed hope that such circumstances “would not arise that we should be deployed on such operations”.
The army chief also informed the public that officers and men of the Nigerian Army had equally been cautioned not to take sides in any conflict, but should work objectively in the interest of the country.
“The public is hereby informed that officers and soldiers have been warned not to take sides in any conflict and if found wanting would face the consequences of their actions. Any officer or soldier found aiding or abetting any act of arson, vandalism or unprofessional conduct, would be severely dealt with according to the extant laws”.
According to him, the ROE sets out the circumstances and limitations under which force may be applied to achieve military objectives in furtherance of government policy and once deployed on any internal security, it is the duty of an officer or soldier to ensure the enforcement of law and order in conjunction with other security agencies for the restoration of peace.
On troops, he said they “are duty bound to intervene in any situation to avoid a breakdown in peace, stability or law and order of an area where they are deployed”.
He pointed out that it is inexcusable for troops to stand aside and watch the security situation deteriorate leading to loss of lives or damage to property without intervening.
Buratai said that “such intervention should be strictly based on sound judgement and within the ambit of the code of conduct for Internal security operations while exhibiting good professional ethics”.
He said the rules of engagement include the application of the Principle of Minimum Force and Proportionality at all times, while every reasonable effort would be made to control the situation through measures short of using force, including personal contact and negotiations whenever operational situation permits.
He maintained that the use of lethal force would only be resorted to if all other means to control the situation had failed, or in cases of unexpected attack or suspected Improvised Explosive Device, IED, attack during which a delay could lead to loss of life or serious injury to personnel, among others.