Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai
The Presidential and National Assembly elections held across the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja may have come and gone, but the significant role played by the military (Nigerian Army) in the electoral process is legendary. And this, no doubt, has changed the dynamics of
the country’s electoral process for good and in clearer terms, as it was unprecedented.
The situation is worrisome in spite of the efforts of our gallant military, the Nigeria Police and other para-military agencies to stem the tide of the violence.
Nigeria’s elections are usually characterized with violence and have now become a criminal enterprise where everything must be done to win the election no matter whose ox is gored. In view of the fact that the security challenges at the period usually overwhelmed the officers and men of the Nigeria Police who are saddled with ensuring security of persons and property during elections; the Nigerian Army is usually called upon by the civil authorities to give a helping hand, which is empaneled by Section 271 of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) to assist the civil authorities in addressing internal security challenges, aside its primary constitutional role of protecting the territorial integrity of the country.
Nigerians will attest to the fact that just few days to the elections, the Nigerian Army leadership began every possible preparation to put in place some pro-active measures that would ensure peaceful and violent-free polls. And, as such, launched two strategic military operations Egwu Eke III (Python Dance) and Operation Safe Conduct which was also inaugurated across the length and breadth of the country, coupled with the establishment of the Election Security Situation Monitoring Room, the first in the annals of history of the Nigerian Army, to spot any emerging security threats; adequate protection of the electorates, vis-à-vis logistics of materials and the protection of lives and property across the country.
The situation room was launched on February 13, 2019, to gather intelligence, information sharing as well as gathering other security intelligence situated at the Cyber Warfare Command, for real-time observation of events during the general elections. It was also to further enrich the quality of information during the elections. And, as such, the Nigerian Army partnered with civil society elections monitoring groups and other stakeholders, so as to communicate promptly to nearby troop locations to respond to distress calls and security situations within ten minutes. We must emphasize that the elections were conducted in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity which brought about the combined efforts of security agencies who showed resilience in the face of provocation.
Arising from the Coalition of Civil Societies extra-ordinary General Meeting at the weekend in Lagos, Airport Hotel, the Arewa Youth Coalition (AYC) National Co-ordinator, Comrade Mahmud Bello, are compelled to issue the following press statement due to the orchestrated campaign aimed at disparaging the military and the role played by the Nigerian Army during, before, and after the Presidential, National Assembly and Governorship elections nationwide.
The military leadership, had, before the elections, due to security information gathered, warned Nigerians of miscreants, thugs, touts, and political jobbers planned to be used by mischief politicians and disgruntled elements in their desperation to grab power would be knitted and dressed in illegal army’s uniform to cause havoc during the electoral process and this took place accordingly and was brought to the barest minimum and was under control by the military. The Nigerian Army ensured that the credibility of the electoral process was not undermined as they provided maximum security for the lives and property of Nigerians throughout the electoral process;
· The Supreme Court, the highest legislative authority in the land, had declared Rivers State as a violent state, based on the consistent and persistent electioneering violence and subsequent deaths over the years. The Nigerian army swung into action, leaving no stone unturned, to curtail the excesses of hoodlums, ballot box snatchers, moving from one polling unit to another, taking strategic positions, while acting on the intelligence reports, traversing every nooks and crannies of Nigeria, including Rivers State, to ensure that the electoral process was devoid of any violence and monitoring influence and inducement. The hitherto pervasive ballot box snatching that heralded Rivers State, the few deaths recorded, including the CCTV footage in a State Commissioner’s residence stormed by the men of the military is still under investigation by the army authorities to ascertain the veracity or otherwise the authenticity of the claims and counter-claims emanating from the political parties involved. The Nigerian military has arrested men and hoodlums used by these desperate politicians from Rivers, Imo, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Abia, Cross River, Zamfara and other states across the country, which are now currently undergoing thorough investigation to unravel their culpability during the electoral process. While the army has also paraded fake INEC ad-hoc staff in Rivers State and few other states across the country. In view of the above, we therefore warn desperate politicians to, henceforth, stop dragging the military into politics, because of the dire consequences of such acts on the nation’s stability and national cohesion;
· We have observed that during the electoral process across the country, kudos must be given to the Nigerian Army for intensifying their efforts by repelling and killing of Boko Haram in the North-East states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states respectively. For instance, 155 Battalion (Operation Lafiya Dole) repelled insurgents at Firgi-Banki axis in Borno State, 122 Task Force Battalion at Ngwon community killed six Boko Haram terrorists near Ngwom and Kubu villages in Borno State; while troops of the Nigerian Army responded to distress calls at Kubu village in Shani local government area and recovered a lot of arms, fire power trucks, rocket propelled grenades, AK47 rifles and so many other weapons. The troops also killed 55 bandits, rescued 760 abductees in Zamfara State during the Operation Sharan Daji and the return of over 1,000 Internally Dislaced Persons (IDPs) from Maru to Birni villages. Whereas a lot of returnee-IDPs have been resettled and reunited with their families by the military during the elections period in question;
AYC has watched with dismay the orchestrated campaign of calumny to malign and disparage the Nigerian Army by a section of the political class, sponsoring all sorts of campaigns to dent the hard-earned reputation of the army leadership and the Nigerian Army for their commendable efforts which ensured that Rivers State in particular and Nigerians in general exercised their franchise to vote in a safe and secure environment during the 2019 general elections. Before now, the people of Rivers State were tired of living in fear of state-infused terrorism, politically motivated murders which have almost destroyed the economy of the state. As students of history, we are aware of what transpired in Rivers State in 2015, 2016 and 2018 respectively and the gory tales of precious lives lost, properties damaged and the loss of lives by security agents, including the gruesome murder of Chief Adube and family members, Mr Franklin Obi, Hon. Monday Eleanya and the dreaded Don Wary criminal empire and many others too numerous to be mention here. Compared to what happened at the just concluded 2019 general elections, Nigerians owe a lot of gratitude to the Nigerian Army for the sacrifice, protection and safeguard of our territorial integrity. The gory scenes in Rivers State in the past and now, including the incessant shootings, bombings, occurring days to the elections had left most people traumatized, psychologically defeated, resulting in voters’ apathy and disenfranchisement of the people. However, the deployment of soldiers on the streets of Rivers State recently gave the electorates a sense of belonging and security for them to exercise their rights without molestation or intimidation by political thugs. Those who made attempts to compromise the electoral process met their waterloo, as soldiers arrested and handed them over to the police for prosecution. Therefore, the Nigerian Army should be applauded for this laudable endeavor;
· The Nigerian Army has shown they are abreast of the conduct of security operations before, during and after the election as shown in various trainings acquired by them before the 2019 general elections. At several fora, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai has reiterated that the Nigerian Army should remain neutral and non-partisan in the conduct. And, if any soldier or officer is interested in partisan politics, he should resign forthwith. AYC states categorically that the Nigerian Army conducted itself professionally and should be given a pat on the shoulder for a job well-done. Again, the AYC also states that “the extreme caution and professional candour displayed won the admiration of both local and international observers like the Independent Foreign Observers/monitors led by Bill Campbell, ECOWAS, Coalition of Accredited Domestic Election Observers (CADEO), Concerned Traditional Rulers, Chiefs and Elders of Rivers State, Concerned Professional Congress (CPC), Civil Society Organizations, European Community Union, and others who commended the Nigerian Army for being professional and proactive in their conduct as they acted within the requirements of the law, rules of engagement and the army’s code of conduct. We therefore pass a vote of confidence on the Nigerian Army leadership for its rebranding efforts since it took over the mantle of leadership and for ensuring the security of the successful 2019 general elections. That well-meaning Nigerians at home and abroad should applaud and commend the Nigerian Army for the growth and sustenance of democracy for the patriotic role played during the elections.
We also join well-meaning Nigerians to endorse the leadership of the Nigerian Army for the inauguration of a nine-man investigative committee by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai, to investigate all allegations of misconduct during the just concluded general elections to be headed by Major-Gen. T. A. Gagariga, a thorough-bred officer of the first order with a deadline of March 31, 2019, to submit its report. It is a self-cleansing investigative committee to review and investigate the role of officers in the 2019 general elections and to bring any perpetrator of the electoral process to book. This is to also serve as deterrence to others in future elections and, if possible, be court-marshaled by the Army authorities. This is a welcome development by the Nigerian Army leadership that must be applauded by all for its forthrightness and professionalism to see that justice has been done. And the various allegations are investigated and the perpetrators brought to book as the massive turn-out of voters recorded during the elections was significantly encouraged by the adequate security put in place by the Nigerian Army.
Comrade Mahmud Bello Com. Shola Isiaka
National Co-ordinator, AYC Ag. Secretary, AYC