The Nigerian Army has debunked the claim by former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, that it was culpable of supporting bandits in the spate of killings across the country.
It described the claim as unfortunate, particularly at a time when it said the demilitarisation of the north-central had just started.
Speaking at the 10th anniversary of Taraba State University, Jalingo, on Saturday, Danjuma who reigned as Chief of Army Staff between 1976-1979, stressed the need for Nigerians to defend themselves.
According to him, it was pointless depending on the armed forces for safety.
“You must rise to protect yourselves from these people. If you depend on the armed forces for protection, you will all die one by one.
“The ethnic cleansing must stop now, otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s play. I ask everyone of you to be on the alert and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state because you have nowhere else to go.
“The armed forces are not neutral. They are conniving with the armed bandits that are killing people.”
But in its reaction to the allegation by Danjuma, the Nigerian Army in a statement issued by its spokesman, Texas Chukwu, on Sunday, said it had remained neutral, especially in the herdsmen-farmers clash and would continue to be.
“The Nigerian army will continue to remain as such,” he said.
He warned all Nigerians to be law abiding, stressing that anyone caught with arms would be dealt with.
The statement reads in part:
“The attention of the Nigerian army has been drawn to the unfortunate statement made by a former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, during the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University on Saturday 24 March 2018 in which he categorically asserted that the Armed Forces of Nigeria was colluding with militias and other criminal elements and was unable to provide security for the citizens of Taraba State.
“He further called the people of Taraba State to take up arms and defend themselves. The Nigerian Army views this statement made by the former Chief of Army Staff as most unfortunate at this critical time that the military has embarked upon demilitarisation of the north-central region of the country.
“While Nigerian army would not want to join issues with the elder statesman, however, certain facts need to be clearly stated in the interest of the Taraba people and the Nigerian public – the Nigerian Army is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria and to aid the civil authority whenever called upon to do so.
“In this light, the authorisation for the conduct of Ex AYEM AKPATUMA was authorised and troops deployed to curb menace of the herdsmen-farmers conflict and other criminal activities in the north-central region amongst others.
“It is noteworthy to state that at the inception of Ex AYEM AKPATUMA, 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.
“The Nigerian army will continue to remain as such.”