As the 2019 elections draw nearer, the Chief of Army Staff, Yusuf Buratai on Tuesday disclosed that he has constituted a special standing court martial to try officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army found to be hobnobbing with politicians, reminding personnel of the fate of the 38 officers who were retired from the Army.
Speaking in an opening address during the Chief of Army Staff first Quarter Conference in Abuja on Tuesday, Buratai called on any officer or soldier who wishes to be sympathetic to a political, religious or ethnic group to voluntarily retire from the Nigerian Army, insisting that personnel must refrain from any act of political, religious or ethnic patronisation.
Below is the full text of his speech…
- It is my honour and privilege to welcome you all to Abuja for the COAS First Quarter Conference 2018. Let me start by using this opportunity to thank you all for commiserating with me and the entire Buratai family on the demise of our beloved father, Alhaji Yusuf Buratai, who died on the 9 February 2018. I pray that Almighty Allah grant him eternal rest.
- The COAS Quarterly Conferences serve as a pedestal for the hierarchy of the NA to appraise and discuss its doctrinal, operational and administrative matters as well as other security issues that are crucial to the stability of our country. This is with a view to fashioning out better ways through which the NA can implement the Federal Government’s defence and security policies towards ensuring peace and development of our nation.
- In this era of political and social transformation, the NA remains steadfast in carrying out its constitutional roles as well as providing aid to civil authority. My vision for the NA which is “To Have a Professionally Responsive Nigerian Army in the Discharge of its Constitutional Roles” is geared towards ensuring a safer environment for development and socio-economic activities to thrive in the country. We must ensure that we conduct ourselves professionally and respond adequately to threats against our nation in accordance with our constitutional roles.
- The NA would continue to chart progressive paths towards tackling the security challenges confronting the nation. To this end, I have instructed that attention must be given to ongoing NA operations in various parts of the country to ensure that security threats are dealt with decisively. Training must also be given due attention so that we can outperform the achievements of the previous years. Furthermore, research and development must be sufficiently pursued and funded to promote and attain the desired transformation and innovation drive in the NA.
- The successes achieved by troops in the ongoing operations, particularly Op LAFIYA DOLE, has placed the NA on a good stead and the momentum must be sustained and consolidated. However, in conjunction with other services and security agencies, the NA must also deal decisively with other security challenges such as farmers-herdsmen clashes, armed banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, militant activities among other violent crimes.
- Operations DEEP PUNCH II in the North East and Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA in the North Central have achieved tremendous successes leading to the arrest of key suspects as well as recovery of arms and ammunition in Benue, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger and Taraba States. The conduct of Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA has been extended in Taraba State till 30 May 18 based on the prevailing security situation in the state. While paying tribute to the officers and men in the field, I urge you all not to relent on your efforts at ensuring a safer Nigeria.
- The need to review the conduct of NA operations across the country has become imperative in view of lapses recently observed among commanders. Some of the lapses observed can be partly attributed to indecisiveness when faced with obvious challenges. Hence, the attitude of commanders in the field must change especially towards decision making and taking appropriate action in line with the Rules of Engagements. In this regard, issues of murder, arson and other serious crimes perpetrated by ethnic and local militias, criminals and miscreants must be dealt with decisively. Commanders would be held responsible for any lapses arising from their actions or inactions. I have directed the CTOP (A) to set up a high powered team to review all our operations especially where lapses have been observed in order to bring to book all those involved in such cases.
- Very recently, concerns have been raised by individuals and groups alike about the actions carried out by some units and formations in the course of operations. This has led to very strong comments and criticisms against the Nigerian Army. Some of the strongest comments have come from key citizens in Taraba State. In this regard, I have set up a panel to investigate some of the allegations that have been made, particularly with regards to operations in Taraba State. The panel was tasked to ascertain the veracity of the statements made and the true situation of things in the State. Nonetheless, we must put in more effort to improve our relations with civilians and the citizenry at large through better narratives and media operations.
- Let me state emphatically here that the unity and integrity of Nigeria lies on the military and the NA in particular. Therefore, any act inimical to the unity and integrity of this country by personnel of the NA will be decisively dealt with. The NA must remain apolitical and professionally responsive in the discharge of its constitutional roles. GOCs and Field Commanders at all levels are, therefore, warned that anyone that runs foul of his professional ethics will be appropriately dealt with. You are all enjoined to continue to remind officers and soldiers under command to remain non-partisan and be guided by the stipulated code of conduct and rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties particularly in the coming 2019 General Elections. Furthermore, NA personnel in any capacity who receives any form of inducement from politicians, public or private entities, knowingly or unknowingly will be severely punished. Both the giver and taker of such inducement will be investigated and appropriately sanctioned.
- I have directed for a Special Standing Court Martial to be set up in preparation for the coming 2019 elections. I must warn that any NA personnel found hobnobbing with politicians or being partisan will be investigated and sent to the Special Standing Court Martial. I must state clearly that any officer or soldier who wishes to be sympathetic to a political, religious or ethnic group should voluntarily retire from the NA. Furthermore, all are reminded on the ban on any form of worship outside the barracks except those permitted for wedding and other social functions. Therefore, officers and soldiers must restrain themselves from any act of political, religious or ethnic patronisation as these would attract severe consequences. The fate of the 38 officers who were retired is still fresh in our memories.
- I am quite aware of the logistics constraints affecting the sustainability of our operations across the country particularly Op LAFIYA DOLE. I want to assure you that a robust and comprehensive procurement plan is in place in the Year 2018 Budget. However, the effective implementation of the procurement plan is subject to budget releases. I, therefore, want to emphasize that personal clothing, protective gears, additional equipment/platforms, accommodation, welfare and other logistics provisions would be my top priority in the procurement plan this year.
- In line with the Federal Government’s drive to boost local content and patronage, the NA is collaborating with indigenous companies in the local production of vehicles, weapon and equipment spares as well as combat materiel. The companies include Innoson Vehicle Motors, Proforce Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Machine Tools amongst others. This is aimed at boosting local production and enhancing our growing military industrial complex.
- In the First Quarter of 2018, I directed the procurement and supply of weapons, UAVs, vehicles, tyres, protective gears and spares to the Theatre for enhanced operations. Commanders at all levels are, therefore, enjoined to ensure judicious use and periodic maintenance of the items under their command. I believe this can be achieved if commanders at all levels imbibe and practice purposeful leadership in the efficient and effective management of men and materiel.
- Leadership remains a cardinal point in the command and administration of the NA at tactical, operational and strategic levels. This underscores the need for us to give leadership training the pride of place in our exercises and training. In this regard, I am pleased with the outcome of Lieutenant – Captain Promotion Examinations held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State which recorded 93 percent pass. Similarly, the final list of officers nominated to attend NDC 27/NIPSS SEC 41 and equivalent foreign courses for 2018/2019 as well as the AWCN Course 2/2018 have been released. It is gratifying to note that the AWCN programmes would be conducted at the newly constructed permanent site of the College here in Abuja. Presently, the modification and harmonization of the course curriculum with other services war colleges is ongoing. This is with a view to having a harmonized course content, coordinated approach to war fighting and cohesive decision making process.
- The NA Resource Centre has also embarked on some strategic level partnership and collaboration with some renowned think-tank institutions across the world such as Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Boston, USA and the United Services Institution of India. This is with a view to conducting international seminars, conferences and symposia for the benefit of NA personnel, other para-military and security agencies, the executive branch and the academia. Recently, I directed a team of officers led by the DG NARC to embark on a working visit to the Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Studies to fashion out modalities for partnership. This is with a view to developing our capacity building and other leadership training programmes. It is hoped that on completion of the negotiations with Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), the NARC would begin to run some of HKS programmes based on needs assessment and memorandum of understanding. So far, 22 officers have been trained at the HKS. Officers at strategic levels are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to develop and further enhance their capacity.
- The exigency of duty necessitated the regular posting of officers and soldiers in formations and units across the country as well as outside the shores of Nigeria. This brings to fore the need for NA personnel to acquire sufficient knowledge and skills to aid communication and the discharge of their duties. Accordingly, knowledge of the 3 major Nigerian languages will ensure that NA personnel are able to fit in wherever they may be deployed. To this effect, I have approved the establishment of a language department in all NA training schools to enhance the communication skills of personnel. You are, therefore, enjoined to sensitize officers and soldiers to acquire basic knowledge of more Nigerian languages as well as major international languages, wherever they may be deployed.
- In the past, our relationship with civil society groups was often marred by petitions and allegations of human rights abuses and other violations. However, since the establishment of the Human Rights Desk within the Army Headquarters and across formations, we have seen a sharp decline in the number of allegations against the NA. In addition, the desk has also helped in investigating human rights violations against serving personnel. I enjoin all to give the Human Rights Desk the required cooperation to enable them carry out their assigned tasks.
- In recognition of the competence and capacity of the female soldier and also in line with global best practices, the NA is to establish Corps for women, which is aimed at developing professionally responsive female officers and soldiers that can be employed to support the NA in all its operational engagements and other commitments within and outside the country. The Corps will give the Nigerian Army an opportunity to reorganize the women in order to derive the maximum benefit from their contribution to the defence and security of our nation.
- As part of efforts to complement the defence and security arrangements put in place to checkmate the security challenges in the Country, I directed the promulgation of the Establishment Order as well as the operationalization of 17 Bde Katsina. This became expedient due to the planned relocation of 8 TF Div Monguno (Op LAFIYA DOLE) to its permanent headquarters in Sokoto State as provided in the NA ORBAT 2016. Let me reiterate that the Nigerian Army will continue to remain neutral in ensuring the safety of Nigerians wherever troops are deployed for operations within the country. It is also important to recognise NA personnel who have paid the supreme sacrifice during various operations. Their sacrifices have contributed immensely to the stability which the country currently enjoys.
- At this juncture, I want to appreciate the media and the general public for their understanding and positive change of perception regarding the NA. I will also emphasize the need for enhanced and continued collaboration in tackling our security challenges by conscious media reportage. The NA has always enjoyed the support of sister Services and other security agencies in the discharge of its duties. The NA would continue to look forward to more support and collaboration towards making our dear country Nigeria safe for all.
- Finally, it is with a high sense of responsibility and respect that I humbly express the NA’s profound gratitude to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammad Buhari GCFR, for his invaluable support to the NA. On behalf of officers and soldiers of the NA, I once more pledge our total commitment to the defence of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Thank you and God bless.