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Buhari to Nigerian Army: Stay off politics

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NIGERIAN President Muhammadu Buhari has warned officers and men of the Nigerian Army to stay off politics.

Buhari gave the advice on December 6 at the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference in Abuja, where he was represented by Chief of Defence Staff Lucky Irabor, an Army general.

“While performing your constitutional roles, I urge you to remain apolitical and continue to operate within the framework of the principles of fundamental human rights and the laws of armed conflict,” the president said.

The development is coming about three weeks after the Nigerian Army pledged loyalty to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Buhari while reacting to reports that said the Defense Headquarters had warned soldiers against overthrowing the president.

An online newspaper, Naija News House, had reported that the Defense Headquarters warned officers of the Nigerian Army and politicians against plotting a coup to overthrow the Buhari-led Federal Government.

The report titled ‘Defence Headquarters warns soldiers against overthrowing Buhari’s regime,’ was attributed to a statement issued by the Nigerian Army.

The Nigerian Army denied the report, saying it never issued any warning over a coup against the Buhari government.

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A statement released on November 14 by Acting Director Directorate of Defense Media Operations (DDMO) Bernard Onyeuko, a brigadier general, said the report was the handiwork of mischief makers.

The statement also pledged loyalty to Buhari.

Parts of the statement said, “The military high command hereby warns all mischief makers and their proxies not to draw the military into their engagements.

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria remains apolitical and would not hesitate to deal decisively with any person or group of persons that want to tarnish its image or draw it into partisan politics.

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria remains loyal to President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and also sworn to defend our democracy as well the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

In another statement also released on November 14, a spokesman of the Nigerian Army Onyema Nwachukwu, also a brigadier general, said the report that the military authorities warned officers against overthrowing the Buhari administration was a deliberate and calculated attempt to mislead the general public in order to cause disharmony in the polity.

Noting that the purported statement on which the report was based did not emanate from the Directorate of Army Public Relations which he heads, Nwachukwu said, “The online newspaper manipulated with the intent of disinformation a previous message released in May 2021 by the then Director Defense Information, who is the current Army spokesperson.

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“It is a malicious attempt to bring the military to disrepute. It is obvious that the online newspaper has its own sinister intention to cause confusion.”

The Army spokesman stressed that there was no need to warn officers against any coup because they were already loyal to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Buhari.

“In any case, officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army do not need to be ‘warned against overthrowing Buhari’s government’ as their loyalty to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has never been in doubt.

“The Nigerian Army is a reputable national and patriotic institution that has fully subordinated itself to civil authority, having stood unwaveringly in defense of the nation’s democracy.

“The Nigerian Army will continue to be steadfast in defending Nigeria’s constitution and the much cherished democracy by providing aid to the civil authority, whenever it is called upon to so do.”

The alleged statement that warned officers of the Nigerian Army against plotting a coup to overthrow Buhari was attributed to Army spokesman Onyema.

Onyema, in the statement he released to deny the report, stressed that he did not issue the statement.

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“The only reason why this grossly unprofessional and blatantly irresponsible report is receiving any attention is the attribution of the false statement to the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu.

“The authors of the story must be the only news reporters who do not know that Army Spokesman does not speak for the Defense Headquarters.

“However, for the sake of clarity and to keep the records straight, we wish to state that at no time did the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu issue any statement on the subject matter.

“It is, therefore, a figment of their imagination, which did not in anyway emanate from Brig. Gen. Nwachukwu.”

* Concerns over recent military coups in Africa

Recent military coups in Chad, Mali, Guinea and Sudan have led to concerns that democratically elected governments are endangered in Africa.

At the Extra Ordinary Summit of the Authorities of the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Accra, Ghana, in November, Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had warned that military coups were no longer acceptable.

“One of the important points that the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government make is that coups and coups d’etat generally are completely unacceptable.

“We cannot continue to have a situation where they are tolerated for the simple reason that in Africa, West Africa in particular, we have gone way beyond military coups as an answer to the question of change in political actors,” he said.

Buhari urged the United Nations, the European Union and other international bodies to support the imposition of sanctions on individuals and groups that choose not to follow the democratic process of change of government but go by way of coup d‘etat.

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