The Nigerian Army has said that 95 per cent of its personnel will be deployed for security duties during the February 16 and March 2 elections. This was as the Army denied insinuations in some quarters that the payment of uniform allowance to officers and soldiers, was intended to compromise them in a particular direction. Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, said the explanation became compelling, to set the records straight.
“The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to some insinuations on various social media platforms that the recent payment of uniform allowance to officers and soldiers was done to sway their voting towards a particular political party. “This is not true. The payment of uniform allowance was started in 2016 to assist troops deployed on Operation Lafiya Dole as uniform upkeep and maintenance.
“The allowance was, however, extended to all Nigerian Army personnel because of their increasing engagement in various internal security operations across the country. “It is important to note that 95 per cent of Nigerian Army troops will be engaged in security duties during the forthcoming general elections. Out of this, almost 40 per cent are in the North- East. Therefore, it is gross unfair and sheer mischief to associate the Nigerian Army with such mundane action.
“I need to reiterate that there will be zero-tolerance for any action and inaction by commanders at all levels that is deemed tilted towards giving undue advantage to any candidate, political party, ethnic or religious leanings to the detriment of the unity and integrity of Nigeria. “The Nigerian Army has always been professional, impartial and apolitical.” Meanwhile, the general elections, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has warned that “any civilian caught in military uniform will be treated as a terrorist.”
The DHQ said its warning followed allegations of importation of military equipment and uniforms. This was as it further directed military commanders across the country to ensure that officers and personnel deployed on election duties, adhered strictly to the rule of engagement, as well as code of conduct for the polls. Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. John Agim, handed down the warning at a press briefing on the forthcoming elections scheduled for February 16 and March 2. Agim, however, assured that the military, as part of constitutional mandate in aid of civil authority, would ensure secure environment, for a peaceful, free and fair elections. The press conference was attended by spokesmen from the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force. “All military commanders have been tasked to ensure adequate security in their Areas of Responsibility.
They have also been further directed to ensure the adherence to code of conduct and rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties. “These assigned tasks include arrest of anyone in military uniform who is not on essential duty on those days.
“Likewise, any civilian caught in military uniform will be treated as a terrorist. “Already, the military is inundated with the allegations of illegal importation of military equipment and uniforms into the country which is being investigated,” Agim said. According to the DDI, “In a few days’ time, the nation will be conducting the Presidential election and elections into other key political offices in the country. It is on this note that the Armed Forces of Nigeria wishes to re-affirm its neutrality, impartiality and strict adherence to professional code of conduct before, during and after the general elections.
Therefore, we would like to reiterate that the Armed Forces of Nigeria would carry out its constitutional duties with zero tolerance to unprofessional conduct. No military personnel are expected to fraternize with any political parties and associations. “While it is pertinent to state that military personnel have the right to perform their civic duty to vote as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they must approach their polling units in mufti, devoid of any military accouterment. Any military personnel who is not on essential duty that is found on military uniform on election day will be arrested and face the full wrath of military justice system. “Let me emphatically state that the Defence Headquarters has warned that all officers, soldiers, ratings, air men and women of the Nigerian Armed Forces must remain neutral and exhibit exceptional professionalism before, during and after the upcoming elections. To this end, with the exception of those on essential duties, no military personnel should be found wearing uniform on the election days.”
He assured that ongoing military operations, especially Exercise Egwu Eke III, were not targeted at certain groups or individuals. Agim said: “Also, I want to re-assure the general public that the on-going Exercise Egwu Eke III (Exercise Pyrhon Dance III) and other similar exercises in various parts of the nation are not targeted at any particular set of people or groups, nor is it aimed at manipulating the electoral process.
The exercises are to ensure that all eligible citizens, irrespective of their religion or political inclinations, are given the opportunity to carry out their civic right to vote and be voted for in a peaceful environment devoid of violence and intimidation by criminal elements.
“These actions became necessary in view of threats from some unpatriotic individuals and dissident groups to stop people in some parts of the country from casting their votes on elections days. “Let the public be reassured that no persons or group of persons have the right to deny or intimidate eligible voters from performing their constitutional obligations. Therefore, all efforts of the military are to assist other security agencies to ensure that no Nigerian is disenfranchised.
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to sound a note of warning to any persons or group of persons that try to constitute themselves into nuisance and disturb public peace on election days. Anyone found disrupting public peace would be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.” While insisting on intelligence report of alleged disruption plots, Agim stated: “Similarly, there is credible intelligence report that some people are planning to scuttle free and fair election in some parts of the country. The Defence Headquarters wishes to warn such group of people to desist from such unpatriotic act.
We would like to caution that anyone caught, be they serving or retired military personnel, or civilians, no matter how highly placed, will be arrested and treated in accordance with the extant laws of the land. “The Armed Forces of Nigeria is prepared to support the civil authority in ensuring the conduct of free, fair and credible elections by providing security support services when requested by appropriate civil authorities in line with our constitutional roles.” In the meantime, the Nigerian Army has said that 95 per cent of its personnel will be deployed for election security duties.