The immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, has criticised the call made by the Northern Elders Forum, for his trial at the International Criminal Court, ICC, for the alleged killing of defenceless civilians in Bama, Borno State by soldiers of the Joint Task Force, JTF during a recent operation.
Ihejirika who spoke to state house correspondents after a church service held at the Presidential Villa’s chapel on Sunday, said rather than making such a call, which is based on misinformation, the elders should express gratitude to the military which had sacrificed a lot to protect the Northern region and the country at large.
The former army chief noted that there is no senatorial zone in the country that has not lost personnel in the armed forces, adding that the northern leaders had not bothered to send a single condolence message to the military, in spite of its huge sacrifices.
“We have sacrificed, first, to see that Nigeria is safe and the north in particular, since they are the first beneficiaries of the sacrifices being made. It is unfortunate that the same elders, if they are really elders, have not cared to send a single condolence message to the military,” Ihejirika said.
He described the call made as discouraging, saying it would impact negatively on counter-terrorist efforts.
“As we speak now, there are soldiers that have not had a meal since yesterday because of the peculiarity of where they are at the moment,” he said.
According to him, the fight against terrorism had been tasking but results are being achieved.
“It has been a very busy thing and I believe that, very soon, Nigerians will be very happy because we have put quite a number of structures in place. I want to say that with some equipment and training that were carried out in recent days, there will be little or no hiding place for the insurgents,” he added.
The elders forum had on Friday threatened to drag the former army chief and six other unnamed persons before the International Criminal Court at the Hague for serially killing civilians in Bama and Giwa Barracks.
According to its spokesman, Ango Abdulahi, the forum made the call based on the evidence of two committees of legal and security experts it set up to “investigate the details of the gruesome use of force against unarmed civilians in Bama and other parts of Borno State.”
“At our meeting in Kaduna on the 15th January, 2014, we received the reports of the two committees on security and legal matters, regarding extra-judicial killings by soldiers in Bama and the act of strangulating civilians in Giwa Barracks using an underground detention centre, while depositing the corpses in hospital.
“The Forum has therefore resolved to harmonise the reports of the two committees, preparatory to filing a case of extra-judicial killings by the Nigerian Army under the then Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika and six others. The reports will be harmonised at our emergency meeting in Abuja on Wednesday the 22nd of January 2014 for further action,” Abdulahi said.
The Bama incident occurred on Tuesday May 7, 2013 when suspected members of Boko Haram unleashed terror on residents, killing many people.
The casualties included 13 officers of the Nigeria Prisons Service who were killed during a raid on the Bama prisons by the terrorists where about 105 inmates were set free by the insurgents.
The army authorities said at the time that the terrorists who carried out the attack wore military fatigue and were armed with high calibre arms and ammunition.