The Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Wednesday gave Friday as deadline for officers and men of the Nigerian Army with doubtful loyalty to the Federal Government to resign from the service.
He gave the ultimatum at an expanded weekly meeting with Principal Staff Officers, PSOs, General Officers Commanding, GOCs, and some field commanders at the army headquarters in Abuja.
He said, “the foundation of military professionalism is discipline and without discipline an army cannot stand.
“One of our core values is loyalty to constituted authority. Loyalty must be hundred per cent.
“Should any officer or soldier have doubts as to his loyalty to the Nigerian State as presently constituted, such a person has up to February 22, 2019 to resign.
“There is no room for indiscipline or disobedience to lawful orders in the Nigeria army today.’’
Buratai also said that the expanded meeting was to review security strategies put in place for the Presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday.
He recalled that two weeks ago, the strategies were planned in a similar meeting until the elections were rescheduled to Saturday and March 9, from Feb. 16 and March 2.
The army chief decried some politicians’ reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari directive to security agents to deal ruthlessly with thugs involved in ballot box- snatching during the polls.
“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.
“Let me re-emphasize loud and clear, that the Nigerian Army is a professional army,’’ he stated.
Buratai, therefore, ordered commanders to deal decisively with any electoral crime or action that could be inimical to national security, and directed them to ensure that they and personnel under them did not hobnob with politicians.
“In this regard, there will be no military escort for any politician and all Nigerian army personnel are to stay clear of retired military officers, especially those who are now politicians until after the elections.
“Commanders are to conduct extensive patrols within their Area of Responsibilities (AORs).
“They must ensure that all flash points within the area are dominated.
“Commanders must, in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Force, enforce the restriction on movement within their Area of Responsibilities (AORs).
“All vehicles must be searched and suspicious persons or vehicles arrested/impounded and later handed over to the police,’’ he said.
According to Buratai, 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.
He said that such actions could also become more damaging when they are widespread, leading to destruction of lives and property.
Buratai noted that such incidents in past elections were often planned and orchestrated by politicians, but said that the army had hitherto been cautious in its approach.
“However, this time around the Nigerian army will adopt a proactive posture that ensures that similar incidents do not even arise.’’
He noted that Nigerians had generally expressed disappointment with the postponement of the elections, adding that it increased apprehension in the populace and international community.
He, however, assured that the army alongside other security agencies, would rise to the challenge of ensuring a peaceful outcome of the rescheduled elections.
Buratai said that there was need to give confidence to Nigerians and reassure the international community that all would go well in the electoral process.
He insisted that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable, “hence those who seek to undermine its democracy by interfering in its electoral process must be seen as enemies 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.’’