The Nigerian Army has restricted the movement of soldiers because of “rising tension” as President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua remains in Saudi Arabia receiving medical treatment.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau, told reporters yesterday that troops must have passes, and good reasons to travel outside the places their units are stationed.
Fears of a military coup are rising because of Yar'Adua's absence since November 23, 2009 and the ensuing tension in the country occasioned by nationwide protests by civil society groups, Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday.
Danbazau dismissed the “unnecessary, unwarranted and inflammatory comments” circulating which suggest that a coup might be needed to pull the country out of a constitutional crisis in Yar’Adua’s absence.
He warned that a military coup would be akin to “dragging us back to the dark days of our nation's history”.
“We are aware of the fact that there is tension in the country. We know it's not a secret," Danbazau said. "Everybody knows that. And we also got intelligence information that some people are trying to infiltrate our ranks."
The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Paul Dike, also told reporters that military officials would not seek to overthrow the government.
“Meddling in political issues does not complement our constitutional role in any way, shape or form,” Dike said. “I therefore warn all members of the armed forces to steer clear of politics. Ours is a military that is mindful of its past, conscious of its present and hopeful of the future.”
Dike said: “Regardless of the imperfections of our political experiments, democracy remains the only acceptable form of governance.”
Both men stated this at the inauguration of the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Forward Operations Base along the Bill Clinton Drive that leads to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
According to Dike, “Pertaining to developments in our political scene, the Nigerian military would not in any way meddle in the political affairs of the country. Politics is better played by politicians.”
Dike stated that it is the duty of all military personnel to defend the nation’s democracy “at all cost”.
The Defence Chief further warned that meddling in political issues does not complement the military’s job of protection of the nation’s territorial integrity.
Reacting to comments in the news media expressing fears of possible military take-over, Dike said: “From the recent comments and innuendos about our Armed Forces by certain segments of our society pertaining to developments in our political scene, I am compelled to remind everyone of the constitutional role of the Armed Forces which is primarily anchored on the protection of Nigeria’s territorial integrity. I therefore warn all members of the Armed Forces to steer clear of politics. Ours is a military that is mindful of its past, conscious of its present and hopeful of its future.”
The Defence Chief further stated that it is imperative for all personnel of the military to “justify the trust of the nation’s leadership by exhibiting unflinching loyalty.”
On peacekeeping operations, he noted that “Nigeria would, in the foreseeable future, continue to play a pivotal role at both regional and global levels in the efforts to create and sustain a peaceful environment. We must also realise that for as long as the nation exists, conflicts will occur that will require the deployment of peacekeeping troops. Furthermore, our deployment outside the shores of Nigeria confers the status of ambassadors of this nation. This presupposes that our troops will obey the laws of their host countries and must upon return join us in our collective resolve to serve our great nation with pride while upholding the tenets of democratic governance at all times.”
Dambazau in his comment earlier noted that with “the subsisting democratic environment giving us a lot of advantages in our pursuit of professionalism, the Nigerian Army affirms its commitment to its constitutional responsibilities and will continue to contribute meaningfully to the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria. The Nigerian Army urges all stakeholders in our national affairs to eschew violence and promote peace and tranquility in Nigeria.”
Reacting to accusations that the Army is culpable in the recent Jos crisis which claimed hundreds of lives, the Army Chief said that those who are accusing the Army of taking sides in the recent crisis in Jos, Plateau State, are missing the issues as all Army personnel, by their training “has placed us above primordial sentiments”.
He said “no [Nigerian Army] soldier fired a shot. For this operation, there was no for any soldier to fire. So, soldiers have not fired a shot.”
Danbazau dismissed the accusations of genocide against the Nigerian Army during the crisis in Jos, saying that “we are too clean to do that.”
Defending the Nigerian Army stoutly from any untoward acts, Dambazau blamed the accusations against the Army on “some persons who apparently do not value peace and are hell-bent on creating disaffection between the military and the public, particularly with reference to the Jos crisis.
“Of course, we can safely assume that such persons find it impossible to commit other atrocities whenever we deploy to keep the peace, hence their frustration. Lest we forget, the military was swift and decisive in containing the Boko Haram debacle and will therefore not hesitate to equally deal decisively with any form of mayhem whenever the need arises. We want to state categorically that in the Nigerian Army, our religion is espirit de corps, while our tribe is the military profession. And our training has placed us above primordial sentiments. The barracks is not a political battlefield and our soldiers are not tools to be used for creating disunity.”
He added that accusations that the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division, Major Gen Saleh Maina, is Muslim does not mean he would move against Christians as “the Chief of Staff is Yoruba. He is responsible for organising operations. The Garrison Commander is a Yoruba and Christian. And he supervises, deploys the troops. Anyone bringing religion into this is trying to bring tension.”http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=165089