- Meets Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Benin leaders today
By Lawrence Olaoye
As the 2019 general election beckons, President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the military to shun partisanship and work hard to eliminate the threats of Boko Haram in the country.
The President gave the order yesterday in his remarks while declaring the Chief Of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference open in Maiduguri, Borno state.
The two-day COAS conference was initially billed to be held in Benin City, Edo State on Tuesday but was postponed and moved to Maiduguri, Borno State.
The President in his remarks explained that the conference was taken to Maiduguri because of the heavy casualties suffered by the military after the Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military formation in Metele last week.
He said the conference has afforded him the opportunity to commiserate with the army and the people of Borno State over the death of the soldiers.
The President also ordered the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to close ranks and cooperate with other security agencies in the country to work together with a view to improving on strategies that will defeat terrorism, militancy and other forms of criminal activities in the country.“As President of the country, I am determined to ensure that every citizen feels safe and secure in all parts of the country. To achieve this, the security agencies must rise to the challenge and curb threats to security in our country.’’
He called on the armed forces to embrace “the wind of change that is blowing across the country,” urging more cooperation at inter-service and inter-agency levels.
“To this end, the Chief of Defence Staff and Service Chiefs must work closely together as well as with other security agencies to improve on strategies that will defeat terrorism, militancy and other forms of criminal activities in our country,” he said.
The President assured the troops that he was working on how to improve the welfare of the troops fighting the dreaded terrorists in the country.
While calling on the military to leave no stone unturned in the fight against terrorism, Buhari described the war as “must win”.
“It is a must win war. I want to encourage our troops not to be distracted by speculations but remain focused and committed to the task of eliminating Boko Haram from the surface of the earth,’’ he charged.
Buhari assured the military that his administration will continue to address their needs in terms of manpower development and equipment supply, promising that their welfare and entitlements will also be improved.
“I want to reassure you that as your Commander-In-Chief, I will do everything within my power to continue empowering you by providing all the necessary equipment, force multipliers and enablers required for you to prevail on the field.
“I also want you to be aware that I am currently looking into measures to improve your entitlements and welfare generally,’’ he added. The President commended the efforts and sacrifices of the military in safeguarding the peace, security and territorial integrity of the country.
According to him, “the officers and men who are fighting against the curse of terrorism in the North East deserve all the attention our country’s leadership can give them.
Buhari, who also addressed officers and men of the Nigerian Army at the Maimalari Barrack, headquarters of Operation Lafiya-Dole, said he shared in the agony of loss of gallant soldiers.
“I have come to pay homage to the gallant soldiers lost by the nation and to console the injured ones in recent terrorist attacks. I urge you to remain focused and win the war,’’ the President said.
The President also commended Nigerian Army’s commitment to upholding democracy and urged them to remain committed to their profession.
“As we approach the 2019 General Elections, I want to urge all members of the Armed Forces to live up to their responsibilities and remain non-partisan. In addition, you must all remain vigilant throughout the electioneering period and alongside other security agencies, prevent every form of violence that could disrupt the process in line with your Rules of Engagement,’’ he said.
He urged the soldiers, who were on parade, to always show disciplined conduct. “No matter how equipped the military is, the military is of no use if it doesn’t have discipline,” he said, urging them to uphold the tenets of the constitution and ensure tight security to protect lives and property.’’
In his statement at the conference, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai said internal security had greatly improved from what it was in 2015 when President Buhari assumed office.
Buratai said a new proactive strategy would be put in place to counter the recent military losses. He said the army remains neutral and non-partisan and will carry out their constitutional duty of safeguarding the nation’s democracy.
The Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (rtd) assured the President that the military was putting in place new strategies to stabilize the country.
The President who asked for a minute’s silence in memory of the gallant soldiers also toured the wards to visit the wounded soldiers at the military hospital in Maimalari Barracks before departing Maiduguri to Abuja.
Meanwhile, Presiden Buhari, in his capacity as Chairman of the Summit of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), has convened a consultation of Heads of State and Government of the LCBC scheduled to take place in N’Djamena, Chad, today.
This meeting came on the heels of an attack on a military formation in Metele, Borno State, by the Boko Haram insurgents.
Scores of soldiers were confirmed killed by the insurgents with many others sustaining different degrees of injuries and over one hundred declared missing.
Following the deadly attack and acknowledgement of the casualties, the president had dispatched the Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali to Chad to meet with his counterpart in that country over the need to rejuvenate the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to fight-off the insurgents.
According to a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, the thee-day meeting will review the security situation in the areas affected by Boko Haram insurgency and adopt measures to enhance the capacity of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to meet the challenges of securing the areas.
The presidents of the LCBC member countries of Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and the Central African Republic have been invited to attend the meeting.
The President of Benin Republic, a troops-contributing country, has also been invited to attend.
The MNJTF and the national operations of the affected countries have appreciably degraded the capacity of Boko Haram terrorists, although the insurgents still retain the capacity to attack isolated targets in desperate search for supplies.