Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Monday, ordered military commanders and troops to go after looters and hoodlums raiding warehouses and vandalizing property across the country.
Buratai denied that the army masterminded the miscreants involved in the arson, vandalism, and looting of public and private property going on in many cities.
The COAS, who addressed Principal Staff Officers, General Officers Commanding, and Field Commanders at a meeting held at the NA headquarters, Abuja on Monday, told the military brass hats that there must be no room for disloyalty amongst all officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army.
He said the PSOs, GOCs, and Field Commanders must emphasise it to all their subordinates that the Army was determined to ensure democratic stability in the country as the only panacea for development and progress.
“The recent activities by unscrupulous elements have shown their desire to acquire arms and ammunition at all cost from security personnel. No less than 10 AK-47 rifles have been lost to these miscreants in the past two weeks across the country with attendant loss of lives of personnel,” Buratai said.
Army spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, in a statement on behalf Buratai, said that the COAS charged the commanders to nip in the bud the trend at all cost, and further directed them to warn their troops on internal security or 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.”
Buratai explained that the Army must be resolute in preventing agents of destabilisation from achieving their goals.
“We will not allow any force, elements, or destabilising 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,” the army chief was quoted to have stated during the meeting.
The COAS drew the attention of the participants to the #EndSARS protests, which he said resulted in widespread violence and wanton destruction of property, noting that the army was aware from the outset the plan by the organisers to orchestrate a crisis and discredit the NA.
He stated, “The plan was to embark on massive propaganda to discredit the military and the government to set the people against the NA once it is called out to aid the civil authorities.
“The NA 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.
“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.”
He accused unnamed individuals and groups of falsely accusing the NA 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 and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.
“Thankfully, however, 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.”
But a member of the #EndSARS movement, Uche Philips denied that the protesters deliberately ignited a crisis in an attempt to discredit the army, noting that the miscreants attempted to hijack the marches.
He stated, “The reason we suspended the protests was because of the hijack and we are not protesting until those involved in vandalizing property stopped. We are calm because our protests were being hijacked by those who are not part of us. We will reinforce in a more peaceful manner when the situation is calm. Our protests will remain peaceful and we are not having a change of mind.”
Tasking his men on their responsibility, Buratai admonished that none of the PSOs, GOCs, Field Commanders and other officers and soldiers of the NA should be afraid of the ICC for carrying out their legitimate duties as stated in the Constitution and other extant laws, rules, and regulations.
He further averred that the commanders 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.
The statement said, “He (COAS) 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. He 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.”