Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Defence chiefs warn against coup

On Monday, both the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Abdurahman Dambazau, warned military personnel not to plot a coup d'etat against President Umaru Yar'Adua, whose health condition Senators will debate today.

Dike pledged at the commissioning of the Nigerian Army Forward Operational Base in Abuja that the military under his leadership will stick to its constitutional role of defending Nigeria's territorial integrity without meddling in politics.

He said reports that the military seeks to take over governance because of Yar'Adua's poor health and incapacitation are not true.

His words: "I am compelled to remind everyone of the constitutional role of the Armed Forces, which is primarily anchored on the protection of Nigeria's territorial integrity. Meddling in political issues does not complement our constitutional role in any way, shape or form.

"I therefore warn all members of the Armed Forces to steer clear of politics. Ours is a military that is mindful of its past, conscious of its present, and hopeful of the future. The Nigerian Armed Forces will therefore not depart from their chosen path of honour.

"I urge all of you to remain focused and committed to the service of our fatherland. We must always remind ourselves that politics is better played by politicians.

"Also, I must not fail to stress that regardless of the imperfection of our political experiments, democracy remains the only acceptable form of governance. And as members of the Nigerian Armed Forces, we must defend it at all costs."

Dambazau also told military officers to beware of politicians who may want to use them to fan the embers of disunity.

"We want to state categorically that, in the Nigerian Army, our religion is espirit de corps while our tribe is the military profession, and our training has placed us above primordial sentiments. The barracks is not a political battlefield, and our soldiers are not tools to be used for creating disunity," he stressed.

He affirmed the Army's commitment to its constitutional responsibilities and to contribute meaningfully to the entrenchment of democracy.

"We have said repeatedly that, the subsisting democratic environment in the country today gives us a lot of advantage in the pursuance of professionalism.

"Let me remind all officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army to remain loyal to constituted authorities, and be wholly committed to their constitutional responsibilities, and be apolitical at all times."

Dambazau exonerated the Army from the carnage in Jos, in which soldiers are accused of genocide, and warned the sponsors of violence countrywide to have a re-think in the interest of the nation.

He warned that Nigeria should not push its luck too far as any crisis that will make the United Nations to send in peace keepers will likely spell doom for the country.

"The Nigerian Army has in recent times noted with dismay some of the unnecessary, unwarranted, and inflammatory comments, statements, and utterances in some quarters capable of creating a sense of insecurity and dragging us back to the dark days of our nation's history.

"We are equally aware of the attempt by some people to drag the Army, which has remained neutral but absolutely committed to the survival of our nascent democracy, into the political affairs of this country.

"We also noted that some persons, who apparently do not value peace, are hell bent on creating disaffection between the military and the public, particularly with reference to the Jos crisis. Of course, we can safely assume that such persons find it impossible to commit other atrocities whenever we deploy to keep the peace, hence their frustration.

"Lest we forget, the military was swift and decisive in containing the Boko Haram debacle, and will therefore not hesitate to equally deal decisively with any form of mayhem whenever the need arises."

Dambazau said it is imperative that "the trouble makers in our midst," a negligible few, are not allowed to promote anarchy and their personal interest at the expense of the collective national interest and public order.

This is most important, he added, especially because experiences in peacekeeping operation have shown that at the end of it all, it is the poor, the elderly, women, and children who are the victims of such crises.

He reiterated that the military has made a lot of sacrifices for Nigeria's peace and stability, and will continue to maintain its neutral status, despite efforts to discourage that "through the campaigns of calumny recently experienced."

He noted that the military has seen the extent to which ethnic and religious crises ravaged many countries the world over.

"We participated in post-conflict stabilisation in many of such countries, we do not pray that we reverse the position in which citizens of other countries are sent to Nigeria for peace support operations.

"The Nigerian Army urges all stakeholders in our national affairs to eschew violence and promote peace and tranquility in Nigeria. This advice is borne out of our experiences of the consequences visited on countries that have gone through crisis lately."

Danbazau maintained that soldiers deployed in Jos are not given the order to shoot at anyone but maintain the peace.

"I have not received a mandate to enforce peace in Jos but only to maintain peace. We got directives to enforce peace during the Boko Haram crisis, and that was why we had to use minimal force in quelling the uprising.

"In the case of Jos, we were not given a mandate to enforce peace, so I can tell you authoritatively that no soldier deployed in Jos has fired a single shot at anybody. We have rules of engagement and we are sticking to them religiously."

In Abuja today, Senators will meet behind closed doors to deliberate on Yar'Adua's health and his continued absence from duty, 64 days after he was flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

They are expected to decide whether to issue a deadline to Yar'Adua to comply with Section 145 of the Constitution or transmit a letter to enable Vice President Goodluck Jonathan act in his absence.

Last Friday, the Abuja Federal High Court ordered the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to "deliberate within 14 days, consider and pass a resolution in accordance with Section 144 of the Constitution, whether the President is capable of discharging the functions of his office."

Daily Independent reported on Monday that Yar'Adua's loyalists are scrambling for a strategy to skirt the order.

It was the day his National Assembly (NASS) Adviser, Mohammed Aba-Aji, denied receiving any letter from the Villa for passage to lawmakers.

However, Northern Governors Forum (NGF) Chairman, Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, has blamed the rotational arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the vacuum in Aso Rock.

He cautioned those clamouring for the implementation of the party's constitution instead of the Nigerian Constitution, and warned of danger if the PDP toys with the future of Nigerians by its failure to respect the Nigerian Constitution.

He reminded them that the Nigerian Constitution is above the PDP constitution.

Said he: "Rotation is not in the Nigerian Constitution, it is only in the constitution of the PDP, and the Nigerian Constitution is very specific in solving the immediate problem we have on our hands today, which states that when the President is not there, the Vice President should take over.

"There is no rotation of the Presidency or any elective position in Nigerian Constitution, except as contained in the constitution of the PDP, which is only a political party.

"Therefore the portion of the Nigeria Constitution which stipulates that the Vice President should take over affairs in the absence of the President should be allowed to take its course."

Daily Independent

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