The Federal Government and the Nigerian Army have dismissed allegations by a retired military general that security forces are conniving with deadly attackers across Nigeria, saying such calls are inflammatory and should be disregarded.
Theophilus Danjuma, a former chief of army staff, said on Saturday that Nigerians are being killed at an alarming rate but the armed forces could not curb the bloodshed because they are also involved in it.
“The armed forces are not neutral,” Mr. Danjuma said at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University in Jalingo, the state capital, on Saturday afternoon. “They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians.”
The former defence minister said the time is now for Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves from the killings.
Deadly killings have been recorded in several states across Nigeria since January 2018 alone, but the government has appeared helpless at identifying and bringing culprits to book.
Hundreds have been killed in attacks on villages in Benue, Kogi, Adamawa, Zamfara, Kaduna and Mr. Danjuma’s home state of Taraba since January.
The 2018 attacks began in Benue, where about 100 people were murdered across two local government areas on January 1.
Mr. Danjuma said unchecked violence is shifting Nigeria towards Somalia, a country that has been in a state of war since 19991. The East African country is widely seen as a failed state due to the failure of the central government to have any serious control beyond the capital, Mogadishu.
A call to anarchy — Defence Minister
“This is highly uncalled for and is invitation to anarchy and should be disregarded by well-meaning Nigerians,” Tukur Gusau, a spokesperson for the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said in a statement Saturday night.
“The efforts of the Nigerian military towards restoration of peace, security and order in Nigeria are evidently clear and Nigerians continue to show appreciation for changing the security environment from what it was before,” Mr. Gusau said, describing the statement he was condemning as having been made by an elder statesman, without mentioning Mr. Danjuma by name.
“The armed forces is well organised and highly professional in discharging its constitutional mandate.
“Therefore, if anyone has evidence of wrongdoing or dereliction of duty against our troops (the person) should please bring forward such evidence through the channel for necessary action,” Mr. Gusau, a colonel, added.
He said the military will “not be distracted” by comments like the one that came from Mr. Danjuma.
Comments uncharitable, unfortunate — Nigerian Army
The Nigerian Army also issued a separate statement on Sunday morning, describing Mr. Danjuma’s claims as unfair and sad coming at a time of intense military efforts to address the crisis.
“The public is notified that Nigerian Army personnel have had to pay the supreme price for ensuring the sustenance of security in Taraba State.
“For instance, a gallant non-commission officer of the Nigerian Army was beheaded on 16 March 2018 in Takum Taraba State by criminal elements,” Army spokesperson, Texas Chukwu, said in a statement.
Mr. Chukwu, a brigadier general, said security agencies are facing political attacks because they refused to be partisan in their operation, especially in Taraba State.
“It is noteworthy to state that at the inception” of ‘Exercise Ayem Akpatuma’ or ‘Cat Race’ in Tiv, “the Taraba State Government did not cooperate with the Nigerian Army due to the Army’s stance to remain absolutely neutral in the herdsmen-farmers crisis,” Mr. Chukwu said.
“The Nigerian Army will continue to remain as such.”
Emmanuel Bello, a spokesperson to Governor Darius Ishaku, rejected the Army’s claims, saying allegations are strange.
“We don’t understand the charge that we do not want to cooperate with the military,” Mr. Bello said in a text message to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday morning. “How have we not cooperated? This grave charge has to be explained first before we even begin to know how best to respond.”
The spokesperson said the governor works with all security agencies in the state to curb deadly attacks that had left hundred dead within its borders so far this year.
“Meanwhile, we are ready to work with all the security agencies for the safety of our people,” he said. The governor “is always ready to work with all stakeholders in the promotion of peace as the chief security officer of the state he works with all agencies.”
The statements by the Defence Ministry and the Army echoed what Defence Headquarters told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday night in response to Mr. Danjuma’s statement.