PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was the Special Guest of Honour at the 2018 Chief of Army Staff (COAS) which held in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital on Wednesday.
In his keynote address at the event, Buhari commended the army leadership for changing the venue of the conference which was initially scheduled for Benue State, to Maiduguri. He said it was a thoughtful thing to do as the troops that are taking part in the counter-terrorism operation, “deserves all the attention our country’s leadership can demonstrate to them”.
Here are six takeaways from President Buhari’s address at the conference:
Commendation for general improvement in security
Buhari pointed out that one of the cardinal objectives of his administration is security, and in this regard, the Nigerian army has recorded significant successes. He noted that the North East is a lot more peaceful than was the case before he took over power, several persons abducted by Boko Haram have been rescued and many internally displaced persons have been returned to their homes.
Outside the North East, “the efforts of the military have also stabilized the security situation in the Niger Delta, and other parts of the country, and curtailed the clashes between herdsmen and farmers”.
“I must commend the selfless sacrifices of our armed forces, especially the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army, who, by virtue of their commitment to operations all over the country, have brought about the desired peace,” Buhari said.
The President also said that despite the recent setbacks and operational losses recorded in the Northern part of Borno State, “I know that you are doing your best to reverse this trend, and I want to assure you that no effort will be spared in providing the necessary support you require to complete your task”.
He also paid tributes to the officers and men who have paid the supreme prize in the course of the anti-terrorism operations, as well as all other victims of the insurgency.
Preparation for 2019 general election
As the 2019 general election draws nearer, Buhari urged all the members of the armed forces to live up to their responsibilities and remain non-partisan and apolitical.
“In addition, you must all remain vigilant throughout the electioneering period, and alongside other security agencies, prevent every form of violence that could disrupt the process in line with your rules of engagement,” he said.
Reduction in human rights abuses allegation
The president also noted that there has been a “drastic reduction in human rights allegations against the Nigerian Army”. He urged the officers “to continue to ensure that all troops remain committed to the observance of all international human rights laws and laws of armed conflict”.
Commendation for the handling of Gen Alkali’s disappearance
Buhari also commended the army for the professional manner with which it unraveled the perpetrators involved in the disappearance of the late General Idris Alkali, who was waylaid by hoodlums in Jos, Plateau State, on his from Abuja to Bauchi.
Alkali’s body was dumped inside a well after he was killed by the hoodlums who also pushed his vehicle into a mining pond and made away with his valuables. His remains was brought back to Abuja where he was given a befitting burial.
Buhari said that the unraveling of Alkali’s disappearance and the attendant arrest of the suspects involved in his murder, “attests to the capabilities that exist in our security apparatus”.
“I want to assure you that the perpetrators will be brought to book,” he promised.
As the Commander-in-Chief, Buhari assured that he would do everything within his power to continue empowering the army by providing it with all necessary equipment and enablement required for the officers and soldiers to prevail on the field.
“I also want you to be aware that I am currently looking into measures to improve your entitlements and welfare generally,” he said.
Commitment to fighting corruption
Buhari reiterated that his administration remains committed to its cardinal objectives of boosting security, restoring the economy, and fight against corruption. This, he said, is “to ensure a steady, sustainable and inclusive economic growth”.
“Our commitment to entrenching purposeful and accountable leadership remains firm, because it is the base from which peace, security and national development will be built,” he said.
“I, therefore, wish to reiterate that leaders of all strata of society, including our armed forces, must embrace the wind of change that is blowing across the country for good.”
Contemporary security challenges
As part of his concluding remarks, Buhari urged the army officers, as they review their activities so far in 2018, to “concentrate on the contemporary security challenges facing our nation, and proffer ways of surmounting the challenges”.
“I am convinced that this conference will renew the vigour and dedication for which the Nigerian Army is known,” he said.
The opening ceremony of the 2018 COAS annual conference was also attended by other top government functionaries, including the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima; the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; the former majority leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, among others.