The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai has implored Nigerians to divorce politics from security matters when commenting.
Buratai was reacting to calls for the removal of Service Chiefs for the first time noted that President Muhammadu Buhari who appointed the military chiefs knows exactly when to change them.
The COAS who spoke during a recent media chat with select team of media executives to mark the 2020 Nigerian Army Day celebration in Faskari local government area of Katsina State noted that the service chiefs had been fighting myriads of security threats facing the country.
On the clamour for the removal of Service chiefs, Buratai said, “Because I am an actor in it, I think it will not be appropriate for me to respond to that. But the most important thing is that we have a commander-in-chief.
“I have been appointed; we are fighting several battles in different fronts. You can say that in a war situation, everybody has a right to his opinion but the commander-in-chief has the final say.
“He appointed the service chiefs and I believe he knows when to make a change. I believe this is a situation whereby we have to look in a more strategic way, a more passionate way to divorce politics from security.”
Buratai explained that revealed that banditry had become a business which thrives because of the financial gains that the perpetrators derive from such illegal activities, adding that there are hired assassins posing as bandits.
He noted that although the Police remain the lead agency in internal security duties, the military had often been called to support civil authorities.
“The military, in this regard, comes in for internal security duties in aid of civil authority. So, if you look at it in this context, everybody should be concerned with all the activities of the bandits, be they in the communities where they get their funding whether from cattle rustling or mere killing for cash because some of them are hired assassins. If you look at it from that point, you will realise that they do it for the financial benefits they expect to derive from it”, he said.
The army chief refuted claims that the military has a running battle with Amnesty International or any other right organisation in respect of human rights violations.
He said the military adheres to its rules of engagement in line with international laws of conflict, noting that the Army in its operations had abided strictly by its codes of conduct and United Nations rules.
He continued: “The issue of having a running battle with Amnesty International (AI) is a perception. That is the perception of majority of Nigerians but I don’t think we are having a running battle with anybody.
“Amnesty International is on its own, it is an international organisation, they have their roles and tasks and we also have our roles and instruments of government. We have laid down rules of engagement.
“We are highly trained with the international laws of armed conflict. We have all our documents that guide our troops during operations, we have our codes of conduct and we follow the procedures as laid down by international communities such as the United Nations (UN), International Criminal Court (ICC) and all violations of rights are being investigated and those that are found culpable are being punished appropriately.
“So, as far as the Nigerian Army is concerned, we have nothing against AI or any other human rights organisation. We are performing our constitutional roles”.
He blamed some of the allegations by the rights body to lack of knowledge of military operations and procedures.
“We see some of the allegations by the human rights organisations as lack of knowledge because they don’t get it from the right sources and they don’t verify before going to publish. So, we are not fighting AI or any other organisation that are protecting human rights. There is no gap in communication”, he stated.
Buratai further explained that the Army has adopted series of engagements to educate Amnesty International on the Nigerian troops’ operations but they have not yielded the best results.
He noted: “When I was appointed, I was very much concerned with the level of allegations against the Nigerian Armed Forces in particular the Nigerian Army on human rights, so we invited them to Army Headquarters and educated them on the procedures for investigations and punishments.
“It is up to the organisations to accept it or not but as far as we are concerned we follow the best international practices in all our operations or dealings. There is no human rights violations that have not been investigated and those found culpable not punished accordingly.
“We have established human rights’ desk across formations and units and one at the Army Headquarters. We have a good working relationship with the National Human Rights Commission and we work closely with International community of the Red Cross and some other NGOs.
“If AI is antagonistic to the army then I think they should see reason and follow other organisations. We don’t condone any acts of infringement by our personnel and if such occurs we punish them accordingly and our doors are open. AI can always approach our department of Civil Military Affairs for them to find out any abuse of human rights across the Army.
“But let me be quick to say that we are not responsible to any particular organisation or individual. We are responsible to the federal government and whatever that has to do with military in terms of law, we have the ministry of justice that represents the government. They can make contact with them”.
He further noted that there are certain intangible activities being carried out by the military that Nigerians may not see the results for now immediately, assuring however that in the long run, Nigerians will get to see the results.
He added: “So, no matter the resources we have expended on these projects, if we don’t get immediate results, in the long run surely we will get. During our operations in the North East, in the Niger Delta, here in the North West and of course many other places, we discovered that the perception of the military has been hostile and unfriendly.
“This has been taken off the minds of majority of Nigerians who have come across the civic activities of the Nigerian army. By and large, I would say that the line of operations carried out in this regard is already provided for in our budget for civil activities and we are getting a lot of intelligence especially from the North East.”
He said the Army has been getting intelligence from the communities, which is an indication of trust following these projects.
“The information we normally get from the field are direct in relation to some of the civic activities we conduct and it is very important. In addition to the information we get, the goodwill of the people, acceptance of the military in various communities is fundamental and key to military operations globally. “So no matter the resources we spend, we are deriving commensurate value in terms of information including peaceful co-existence that we have been witnessing and the support in our operations”, he said.
80 Bandits Killed, 33 Suspects Arrested In July – Military
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters hinted yesterday that troops deployed for Operation Sahel Sanity killed 80 bandits, arrested 33 suspects and recovered cache of weapons in the month of July.
The acting director, Defence Media Operations, Brigadier General Benard Onyeuko in a statement said the Operation Sahel Sanity which was flagged off by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai on the 6 July 2020 as part of activities of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration 2020, during which the Nigerian Army Super Camp IV Faskari in Katsina State was established has continued to yield positive results.
He said within the first month, the troops have recorded successes and restored farming and economic activities in the general area.
“So far, in all the operations conducted, 80 armed bandits have been neutralised, a total of 943 cows, 633 sheep/rams recovered; 33 suspected bandits arrested; 7 AK47 Riffles, 1 GPMG and 16 Dane guns captured; 17 kidnapped victims rescued and 14 bandits informants and collaborators arrested. Also several bandits’ camps including the notorious Dangote Triangle and their logistics bases were destroyed by troops of Operation SAHEL SANITY,” he said.
He added that the operation was launched to support Operation HADARIN DAJI in stemming the activities of armed bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers, incessant killings and other sundry crimes in the North-West zone of the country which had crippled the agricultural, social and economic activities of the people of the zone.
He further said the people of the North-West Zone have felt the immediate impact of the operation with the tremendous successes achieved within the short period of time.
The director continued: “The gallant troops of Operation SAHEL SANITY within the period under review has carried out series of clearance operations, ambushes and other aggressive and confidence building patrols within Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara States.
“These operations have led to the rescue of kidnapped victims, recovery of rustled cattles, arrest of suspected armed bandits, arrest of bandits’ informants and collaborators. Furthermore, there were recoveries of large cache of arms and ammunition as well as recovery of motorcycles and other bandits’ logistics within the period”.
He said troops have continued to dominate volatile areas with confidence building patrols, ambushes and clearance operations to deny the bandits and other criminal elements freedom of action.
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