Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Lucky Irabor has said security agencies would not succumb to pressure from politicians to compromise the 2023 general elections.
General Irabor said this Thursday at a briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
He said necessary measures were being put in place to ensure security personnel obey President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to be neutral.
He said the personnel were being trained to be more professional before, during and after the elections, stressing that a Standard Operations Practice (SOP) has been codified and distributed to security agencies across the country.
He said the Armed Forces had heightened operational engagement across the country to tackle contemporary and emerging threats, putting contingency plans to facilitate the smooth conduct of the 2023 general elections in support of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Irabor said measures were in place to safeguard critical national infrastructure, stressing that the Armed Forces were committed to meeting their constitutional obligations to ensure a safe and secure Nigeria.
Asked how prepared the military is to resist pressure to compromise elections given President Buhari’s directive for neutrality, General Irabor said: “I’m glad that you reiterated the Commander-In-Chief‘s directive to the Armed Forces. I’m afraid you say you have a worry. Rather than worry, I would rather think that trust should be anchored. Why?
“Of course, there will always be pressure from all quarters, wanting to induce security forces, not just the military, the security force the police. And that’s what criminal enterprise is all about. That is what something that is wrong is all about.
“But what makes the difference is the professional approach to dealing with those issues. And that’s what the military we are committed to doing. Now, the reason why we have ramped up our training in that regard, sensitisation, a lot of engagement across, you know, the formations and units, is being undertaken. And then, more so to now articulate code of conduct for all our personnel, which has been done and distributed.
“So what? Why should they act before, during and after the elections? These are being codified in the SOP that have been issued to them. So, it remains the duty of the commanders to ensure that the directive, as indicated and the contents of the SOP is adhered to by every personnel in the armed forces. So, please cease from worrying. Rather, trust and also engage others to trust that we will keep faith to these desires.”
Irabor further said the Armed Forces had sustained unprecedented achievements through enhanced force structure, leveraging technology, conduct of kinetic and non-kinetic operations and the procurement of new platforms to address security concerns in the country.
He said the renewed military efforts had led to neutralising 362 bandits, suffocating logistics criminals’ routes and demolishing of over 360 illegal settlements near NNPC right of way, while 289 illegal refineries were uncovered.
“Currently, there has been a ramp up of crude oil production and exports to between 1.5 and 1.6 million barrels and we hope that as we continue to interface with the NNPC, and I hope that before February, we should be able to get to our OPEC quota.
“But I want you to know that our working in synergy with the NNPC has been able to help us to arrest some of the malfeasants that had occupied that space. Equally working closely with the Customs in the light of cross border criminalities, over 82,000 bags of imported rice have been impounded in concert with the customs.
“Enhancing kinetic operations and the employment of non-kinetic measures has helped a lot and for that reason, over 362 bandits have been neutralized, we’ve recovered 156 AK-47 rifles with a great cache of ammunition also recovered,” he said.
The defence chief also told journalists that the military had addressed the issue of banditry in the North-west.
“In the North-West, we are involved in finding a solution to the insecurity that has troubled inhabitants, under the auspices of Operation ‘Hadarin Daji’ and many of those abducted and properties have been recovered.
“And of course, to be able to get to where we are within the North-West, we had to also enhance the force structure to look at the Order of Battle (OBA) and then reshape it and that has helped us to make an improvement and we also leveraged on technology and that has given us greater efficiency,” he said.
He said saboteurs in the Armed Forces risked stiffer penalties should they commit grave crimes that could attract death penalty as enshrined in the military rules.
He said the criminal activities taking place across the country were not uniform but peculiar to geo-political zones, stressing that the military was up to the task of addressing all of them.
Counsels to media
General Irabor also called on media practitioners to keep the public informed with balanced coverage on the Nigerian Armed Forces successes and contributions to national development and focus more on the common enemy of the state.
“For the men and women of the 4th Estate of the Realm, they need to understand that we also have desires for them to create and influence public opinion to support military operations.
“My appeal to you is, you need to understand who the common enemies are. The enemies because that you see as the enemy of the State is actually your enemy. So, it is for you to focus and zero-in on him so that we will be able to arrest so that we can have better quality of life.
“We can’t continue to think that the military is the enemy of the people. So, we think that the media changing that narrative, helping to bring that awareness to the people will enable us to be more potent in our actions. If there are areas that we have crossed the line, it is necessary for you to bring that to our notice and we will address it.
“It is also necessary for you to keep the public informed through a balanced coverage of our successes, not only when we have underperformed or below average that you will zero-in on. I think it is also necessary to give hope to the people by looking at what we have achieved.
“I think we need to be driven by the need to build the country because you are operating because there is a sovereign and if we lose the sovereign by virtue of our inadvertent reportage then we will be imperiled,”he said.