Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, says the army has made “giant strides” in the last one year in combating security challenges. He also said the security outlook of the country “is very positive.”
His speech comes days after about 100 people were killed in Plateau State by suspected armed herdsmen.
Speaking for the first time on the Plateau massacre that has generated massive public outcry across the country, he said the latest killings and similar ones were triggered by external and internal factors.
Mr Buratai, a lieutenant-general, described the killings as senseless, but assured that the Nigerian military and sister security agencies were taking steps to avert the recurrence.
He was addressing journalists at a press conference organised in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to commemorate the flag off of the 2018 Army Day celebration. He said the Nigerian Army “will continue to work for the common good of the country while professionally carrying out its constitutional responsibilities.”
“We are aware of the many security challenges that have bedeviled this country in the last decade or so. However I am pleased to state that the Nigerian Army has made giant strides in this regard particularly in the last one year.
“Our security architecture as a country is one with a very positive outlook. We have not only consolidated on the gains established in the fight against insurgency in the North-east but have progressed to the post stabilisation phase where all efforts are geared towards ensuring displaced persons return to their biological homes which are now safe.
“The current crisis in Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Zamfara states are both induced internally and externally,” Mr. Buratai said without elaborating on the internal and external factors.
“So many forces are against Nigeria. The target is the corporate existence of Nigeria as a country. The blame game along ethnic and religious fault lines is not the solution. Nigerians must unite to solve this serious challenge.
“The Nigerian Army is not sleeping. We are continuously exploiting all the linkages and leads towards addressing the security challenges we shall get to the roots of all the crisis militarily.
“Therefore, we must be tolerant of one another and give peace a chance. Let us also remember that no nation can develop or be economically vibrant without peace.
“I therefore want to use this medium to solicit with us all to be our brothers’ keepers. We assure all Nigerians that the Nigerian Army is for you and will continue to work for the common good of the country while professionally carrying out its constitutional responsibilities.”
The army chief also called on Nigerians to consider the ongoing conflicts across the country including the Boko Haram insurgency as a national challenge that must not be celebrated by Nigerians especially in the social media.
He alleged that some Nigerians celebrate the “Boko Haram propaganda in the social media”.
“If we can get a hundred per cent cooperation of Nigerians, especially those that engage in the negative publicity about the security challenges, I think we will be able to reduce the conflict drastically as well as contain the Boko Haram propaganda.
“As far as I am concerned, the security challenges and Boko Haram propaganda which wittingly or unwittingly being spread so many persons in the social media, if we are patriotic enough we should all see it as a national challenge which we must all work towards resolving. If we eschew such propaganda by Boko Haram and all other individuals who have the interest to destabilize the country , then I can assure you we have find the solution to the insecurity in this country.
“If we celebrate insecurity we will continue to live with insecurity. So it is better for all of us to look at the challenges facing us dispassionately and see how we can bring it to an end.”
The army chief said the 2018 Nigeria Army day celebration is a week-long event annually organised to commemorate dark date of July 6, 1967 when the nation slipped into the civil war that lasted for 30 months.
Mr Buratai said “the unfortunate 30-months long Nigerian Civil War was announced by a shot that was fired on the 6th of July 1967 at Garkem which is in present day Cross River State.
“The Nigerian Civil war was fought to keep Nigeria one and a lot of soldiers paid the supreme price in that process. The Nigerian Army Day Celebration is therefore a constant reminder of the sacrifices paid by troops most of whom as I said laid down their lives to ensure we remain united as a nation.
He said the 2018 NADCEL is also designed to review Nigerian Army personnel and equipment as well as showcase the combat capability of the Nigerian Army.
“Furthermore, the celebration affords us the opportunity to celebrate our evolution, achievements and also to showcase our transformational strides in the area of innovation, research and development, civil military relations and technological advances.
“This is in addition to projecting the Nigerian Army as an instrument of national unity, integration and development. This year, the Nigerian Army will be marking 155 years of its existence, dating back to its inception in 1863.
Degrading Boko Haram
The army chief said having degraded Boko Haram substantially with troops pushing the ranks of the insurgents to the fringes of the Lake chad, troops are expected to mop us remnant of the insurgent through the recently launched Operation Last-Hold.
“That is why I directed that an operation code-named Operation LAST HOLD be conducted in the fringes of the Lake Chad waters and Northern Borno,” he said.
“This operation is a humanitarian one in which we seek to return the Internally Displaced Persons and also provide the much needed security and guarantee for them to return back to their economic lives of farming, fishing and trading. With the defeat of the insurgents, it is time to encourage our people to return to their ancestral home.”
This year’s Army Day Celebration themed “The Nigerian Army and National Security: A Panacea for Nigeria’s Economic Development” will be flaged off with Jumua’at prayers at the Prayer Ground in Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri and across all army formations in Nigeria.
It will be followed up with an Interdenominational Church Service at the All Saints Military Church, Maimalari Barracks as well as across all formations in the country on July 1.
Other activities lined up for the week-long celebration include a Sanitation Exercise and Medical Outreach to be undertaken at selected locations across Borno State and other parts of the country by all Nigerian Army Formations and units between 2 – 6 July.
There will also be local and International Military Equipment Manufacturers Exhibition; Mini Trade Fair; Static Display of Nigerian Army’s Equipment Capability; Airborne/Paratroopers Demonstration; Fire Power Demonstration among others.
The The climax of the 2018 NADCEL will take place on July 7 at Monguno, during which President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to be the Special Guest of Honour.