The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, has raised the alarm over plans by some politicians to employ mercenaries to carry out assassinations, infiltrate domestic staff of political opponents and use the social media for smear campaigns to disrupt the governorship and state house of assembly elections on March 9.
Buratai also disclosed how some politicians were planning to use the farmers/herders’ crisis, armed political thugs, militia groups and other activities, including bombings and spreading fake news, as strategies to destabilise the elections.
He said, unlike the presidential and National Assembly elections, the Nigerian Army this time around would be tough on those who plan to rig or disrupt the electoral process.
The COAS made the disclosure at a meeting with general officers commanding, principal staff officers, commanders, directors and other senior officers at Army Headquarters, Abuja.
Buratai, who pledged that the Nigerian Army would not allow them to succeed, said: “Recent security threat assessment and analysis of the coming elections showed that politicians have made plans to use all means available to truncate the peaceful conduct of the elections. There are indications of their intent to take advantage of and to use the farmers/herders’ crisis, armed political thugs and ethnic militias to perpetrate acts of violence, including bombings.
“Some of them also intend to infiltrate domestic staff of political opponents, employ mercenaries to carry out acts of assassination, use the social media for smear campaigns, hate speeches and spread fake news in a bid to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the elections. We must not allow them succeed.”
Buratai, while noting that the Nigerian Army ensured that the large-scale electoral malpractices and acts of thuggery aimed at disenfranchising voters as witnessed in previous elections were curbed despite the campaign of calumny orchestrated by some politicians against the service, however, noted that some level of violence was still recorded in some parts of the country, leading to the death of one officer and three soldiers during the presidential and National Assembly elections.
The army chief, who said the army would continue to protect the country, said the service would enforce all guidelines in support of the Nigeria Police Force to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections in line with its constitutional roles.
He said: “We shall not allow those who are determined to undermine our electoral process to succeed. These forthcoming gubernatorial and state assembly elections are very crucial. This is an election that touches on the interest of the people at the grassroots and could likely be volatile in nature.
“It is important to reiterate that politicians will employ and deploy all means to outwit each other to gain control of power at this level. We may recall that in the recently concluded polls, some politicians in their quest for power armed thugs and miscreants with automatic weapons, induced and coerced youth corps members and INEC ad hoc staff to perpetrate acts of electoral malpractices.
“We must, therefore, continue to support the NPF and other security agencies to prevent these malpractices from occurring again. I, therefore, urge all commanders to work assiduously and closely with the civil authorities and all law-abiding individuals as well as groups to ensure the success of the forthcoming elections.”
Continuing, Buratai said: “During the course of the recently concluded elections, troops of the Nigerian Army were able to make arrest of persons who perpetrated acts of electoral offences. These suspects are to be immediately handed over to the police for prosecution.
“I want to state and categorically warn that the Nigerian Army will not tolerate any acts that will undermine national security.
“This time around, we shall be tough on those who plan to rig or disrupt the electoral process. I, therefore, want to appeal to Nigerian youths to shun any attempt by any politician to use them to perpetrate any form of violence.
“As we mourn the death of the young officer and soldiers killed in the course of their lawful duty during the recently held election, I want to assure their families that their death will not be in vain. In line with the tradition of the Nigerian Army, they will be given heroic burial as they are indeed the heroes of our democracy. I have directed that their full entitlements be paid. Let no one be in doubt that those desperate politicians and criminals that attacked our troops in the course of carrying out their legitimate duties will be tracked down and brought to justice.
“We have all seen the advantages of the NA Situation Room for Elections Security Monitoring. This laudable innovation to security monitoring has received accolades from different quarters and is already promoting inter-agency cooperation. There is no doubt it assisted us in timely decision making and more timely response to situations.
“I want to urge all commanders to further key into the platform. As we take decisions and respond, we must have at the back of our mind that the army must remain professional and apolitical all through the electoral process.
“There have been reports of alleged compromises by some personnel during the elections. We have received complaints from some stakeholders, major political parties, governors of Bayelsa, Oyo and Ogun States of allegation of misconduct as well as unprofessional conduct by some of our personnel.”