The Nigerian Army on Thursday, said it has deployed 95 per cent of its men for security duties during the elections slated for February 16, March 2.
This came on a day the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) warned that it will treat as “terrorists”” civilians caught in military uniform.
The was Army also denied insinuations that the payment of uniform allowance to officers and soldiers, was intended to compromise them in a particular direction.
Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, made disclosure in a statement on Thursday.
Usman said: “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to some insinuations on various social media platforms that the recent payment of uniform allowance to officers and soldiers was done to sway their voting towards a particular political party.
“This is not true. The payment of uniform allowance was started in 2016 to assist troops deployed on Operation Lafiya Dole as uniform upkeep and maintenance.
“The allowance was however extended to all Nigerian Army personnel because of their increasing engagement in various Internal Security Operations across the country. It is important to note that 95 per cent of Nigerian Army troops will be engaged in security duties during the forthcoming general elections. Out of this, almost 40 per cent are in the North East. Therefore, it is gross unfair and sheer mischief to associate the Nigerian Army with such mundane action.
“We therefore implore all well meaning Nigerians to dissociate themselves from such fake and unwarranted information calculated to smear the Nigerian Army.”
He went further to note that: “Although investigation is ongoing to ascertain the source of such malicious allegations, we would like to warn such unpatriotic individuals to stop this mischief forthwith. We would like to further warn all officers and soldiers to desist from acts that are inimical to Service discipline and code of conduct and reiterate the Chief of Army Staff’s warning during his conference with General Officers Commanding and Operations Commanders that, “All Nigerian Army personnel must remain neutral, non-partisan and transparent in all their actions.
“I need to reiterate that there will be zero-tolerance for any action and in-action by commanders at all levels that is deemed tilted towards giving undue advantage to any candidate, political party, ethnic or religious leanings to the detriment of the unity and integrity of Nigeria.”
“The Nigerian Army has always been professional, impartial and apolitical. We wish to state that no amount of campaign of calumny against it would change that.”
Meanwhile, the DHQ has warned persons planning to appear in military uniforms in election days to have a rethink, or risk being treated as terrorists.
The military explained that its aid position was based on allegations of importation of military equipment and uniforms.
Furthermore, the DHQ has directed commanders to ensure personnel deployed on election duties, adhered strictly to the rule of engagement, as well as code of conduct for the polls.
The Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. John Agim,gave the warning at a press conference on Thursday.
“Furthermore, all military Commanders have been tasked to ensure adequate security in their Areas of Responsibility. They have also been further directed to ensure the adherence to code of conduct and rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties.
“These assigned tasks include arrest of anyone in military uniform who is not on essential duty on those days.
“Likewise, any civilian caught in military uniform will be treated as a terrorist. Already the military is inundated with the allegations of illegal importation of military equipment and uniforms into the country which is being investigated”,Agim said.
The DDI continued: “n a few days’ time the nation will be conducting the Presidential election and elections into other key political offices in the country. It is on this note that the Armed Forces of Nigeria wishes to re-affirm its neutrality, impartiality and strict adherence to professional code of conduct before, during and after the general election. Therefore, we would like to reiterate that the Armed Forces of Nigeria will carry out its constitutional duties with zero tolerance to unprofessional conduct. No military personnel are expected to fraternize with any political parties and associations.
“While it is pertinent to state that military personnel have the right to perform their civic duty to vote as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they must approach their polling units in mufti, devoid of any military accoutrement. Any military personnel who is not on essential duty that is found on military uniform on election day will be arrested and face the full wrath of military justice system.
“Let me emphatically state that the Defence Headquarters has warned that all Officers, Soldiers, Ratings, Airmen and Women of the Nigerian Armed Forces must remain neutral and exhibit exceptional professionalism before, during and after the upcoming elections. To this end, with the exception of those on essential duties, no military personnel should be found wearing uniform on the elections’ days.”
He added: “Also, I want to re-assure the general public that the on-going Exercise Egwu Eke III (Exercise Python Dance III) and other similar exercises in various parts of the nation are not targeted at any particular set of people or groups nor is it aimed at manipulating the electoral process. The exercises are to ensure that all eligible citizens, irrespective of their religion or political inclinations, are given the opportunity to carry out their civic right to vote and be voted for in a peaceful environment devoid of violence and intimidation by criminal elements.
“These actions became necessary in view of threats from some unpatriotic individuals and dissident groups to stop people in some parts of the country from casting their votes on elections days.
” Let the public be re-assured that no persons or group of person have the right to deny or intimidate eligible voters from performing their constitutional obligations. Therefore, all efforts of the military are to assist other security agencies to ensure that no Nigerian is disenfranchised. The Defence Headquarters wishes to sound a note of warning to any persons or group of person that tries to constitute themselves into nuisance and disturb public peace on election days. Anyone found disrupting public peace will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.”
Agim continued: “Similarly, there is credible intelligence report that some people are planning to scuttle free and fair election in some parts of the country. The Defence Headquarters wishes to warn such group of people to desist from such unpatriotic act. We would like to caution that anyone caught, be they serving or retired military personnel, or civilians, no matter how highly placed will be arrested and treated in accordance with the extant laws of the land.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria is prepared to support the civil authority in ensuring the conduct of free, fair and credible elections by providing security support services when requested by appropriate civil authorities in line with our constitutional roles.
“While the Armed Forces continue to rely on the cooperation and understanding of the media and Nigerians towards sustenance of peace and security in our nation, members of the public are enjoined to report any suspicious person, movement or activities before, during and after the elections to security agencies for prompt actions.”
Stella Enenche, Abuja