The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has said that those who seek to undermine the country’s democracy by interfering in the electoral process must be seen as “enemies of Nigeria and dealt with appropriately.”
The Army chief also said that though the military is mandated to defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity, it is also constitutionally accorded the power to “act in aid of civil authority when called upon to do so.”
Buratai said this in his opening remarks at the expanded weekly meeting with principal staff officers, general officers commanding, and directors held at the Army Headquarters Conference Room, Abuja, on Wednesday.
The meeting had in attendance Principal Staff Officers and Directors, GOCs and selected field commanders.
Reiterating national cohesiveness, Buratai said, “I wish to first remind all of you that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. Hence, those who seek to undermine our democracy by interfering in our electoral process must be seen as enemies of Nigeria and dealt with appropriately.
“Our role is aptly captured in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and we must defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity as well as act in aid of civil authority when called upon to do so.
“Therefore, commanders must work with all stakeholders, interest groups and agencies to avert any act by any individual, groups or entities that seek to undermine our democratic process.”
Noting that the postponement of elections had also generated apprehension in the populace and the international community with regard to safety of voters and the electoral materials, the Army General said it was “vital that the Nigerian Army, alongside other security agencies, rise up to the challenge of ensuring a peaceful outcome to this general election so as to give confidence to Nigerian citizens and to reassure the international community about our electoral process.”
While warning that the Army remains apolitical to ensure that aspersions are not cast on it as a result of the elections, Buratai berated politicians who, he said, incite soldiers to disobedience.
“It is unfortunate to hear persons who are aspiring to rule this country again inciting the Army to disobedience.
“We have consistently stated our position in the political dispensation to remain neutral and apolitical.
“However, direct and public incitement of the Nigerian military against democracy and constituted civil authority will not be tolerated. I request such persons to withdraw this inciting statement,” Buratai said.
Condemning electoral malpractices, Buratai warned, “I want to remind all here present that the act of electoral thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of elections materials and similar crimes are intended to mar an election and create deliberate avenues for post-election violence and mayhem.
“Such actions can also become more damaging when they are widespread, leading to destruction of lives and properties.
“Incidences of this nature in previous elections are often planned and orchestrated by politicians and the Nigerian Army has hitherto been very cautious in its approach.
“However, this time around, the Nigerian Army will adopt a proactive posture that ensures that similar incidences do not even arise.”
Noting that “these are delicate times,” the Army chief urged the soldiers to “support Nigeria’s march towards enduring democracy;” adding that “the Nigerian Army must remain totally committed to the defense of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“Remember that the Nigerian Army must continue to remain apolitical, professional and responsive in the discharge of its constitutional roles,” he emphasised.