Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has told a delegatiion of European Union Observers who paid a fact finding visit to Army headquarters, that the barrage of criticisms by certain persons and groups in the country against the involvement of the military in providing peaceful environment for conduct of elections is being spearheaded by those who don’t mean well for the country.
“Only those who want to benefit from the violence and insecurity that usually takes place during elections or follows after elections in Nigeria are complaining or making such allegations against military involvement, which is actually as a back up to the Nigerian Police that is the lead security agency in the elections” he said.
Speaking when he received the Deputy Chief of Mission of EU Observers in Nigeria, Mrs. Hannah Roberts, accompanied by Mrs. Rosa Mora and Mr. Dominic Howell, the COAS explained that the Nigerian constitution provides for the military to support the civil police for internal security operations when called upon.
He said, “The Nigerian Army is not strictly involved in the election process. We are on standby to help the Police in case of violence and other infractions. The Police is the lead security agency in internal security especially during this election. We are at the background to support the civil police.
” However, as international observers, you have seen what transpired during the elections in many locations. Issues of ballot box snatching, thuggery, destruction and burning of ballot papers, perpetration of violence including the killing of our soldiers who were performing their constitutional duties.
“When you also consider the issue of manpower and logistics challenges affecting the Police, which is quite enormous, you can see therefore that the involvement of the military , from all assessment, contributed a lot towards making the February 23rd presidential & national assembly elections peaceful.
Noting that all over the country, the electorate had the confidence to come out and exercise their franchise, the Army Chief pointed out a few isolated cases which if not for the presence of military personnel, would have snowballed into bigger crisis.
Going back memory lane, Lt. General Buratai said, ” One of the remote causes that led to the crisis of the civil war in the 1960s was the fallout of politics and elections. In recent past, several killings, violence and destructions occured during and after elections.
“The international community will not like to see another conflagration broke out in Nigeria which will have dire consequences. So the impression being created in some quarters that we are interfering with elections is far from it. It is coming from those who do not wish the country well.
The COAS then emphasized that the timely intervention of troops and other security agencies averted crisis in several parts of the country during the Feb. 23 election.
In her speech, the EU Deputy head of mission, Hannah Roberts said they were at Army headquarters to try to understand the Army’s involvement and challenges in the elections noting that EU observers who are in Nigeria at the invitation of INEC have participated in Nigeria’s election process since 1999.
She disclosed that EU observers participated in the February 23rd presidential and NASS elections and that they do same in Saturday’s governorship and states assembly elections pointing out that they will be in 20 locations across the country to monitor the electioneering process.
In a brief presentation, the Acting Commander, Nigerian Army Cyber Warfare Command, Brigadier General TO Unokhua told the EU team that through the Nigerian Army Situation Room for election security across the country, several cases of assault, ballot box snatching, impersonation, connivance of some security personnel, fraudulence electoral practises using fake security personnel were nipped in the bud in real time and the culprits arrested and handed over to the police.
Brig-Gen Unokhua added that the Nigerian Army deployed special tactical cameras round the country especially at flash points with a view to properly inform troops whenever violence is been instigated.