Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai has ruled out negotiations with the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), arguing that the government’s strategy is to first smoke them out of hiding. Gen. Buratai spoke in Abuja yesterday at the “state of the nation conference” organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Gen. Buratai, who was represented by Major General J. Hamakim, justified the ongoing onslaught against members of the NDA.
The Army chief faulted the criticism of security agencies in the handling of Monday’s protests by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Onitsha, which resulted in some deaths.
“I quite agree that dialogue is very important. But, where it is not too obvious that the adversary is ready to come out and talk, you can also force such a person.
“I think that is what the Nigerian Army is trying to do. Yes, we don’t know the group’s leaders for now. That is the only option. Possibly, we have to bring the people out to know who you can dialogue with,” Gen. Buratai said.
He said the activities of the group were affecting the nation’s oil production, which has plummeted to 1.1 million barrels per day. On the clash in Onitsha, the army chief said: “Remember that lives were lost; policemen were killed; some were thrown overboard and the military has rules of engagement.
“The question is how peaceful is the peaceful demonstration. How peaceful was the demonstration at that time? If it was that peaceful, how come we lost security agents?
“The rule of engagement is that if you feel threatened, you have the mandate to respond. What we can say is, that was not at all a demonstration that you can say was peaceful.”
Gen. Buratai noted that other security agencies had been “overwhelmed”, a situation he attributed to the constant involvement of the army in most security operations. He said the Armed Forces, which ordinarily were the last line of defence, are now engaged as the first line of defence because other security agencies have been overstretched.
The Chief of Army Staff said the army is executing three operations – Lafiya Dole (against Boko Haram in the Northeast);Sharandaji (against cattle rustlers) and Pulo Shield (against Niger Delta Avengers).
The Comptroller General of Prisons, Ahmed Ja’afaru argued that the neglect of the prison system accounts for the current “unimaginable” crime situation in the country.
Represented by Ifedi Orakwe, Ja’afaru urged the National Assembly to urgently pass the Prison Reform Bill to allow the prison system contribute effectively to the criminal justice system.
Ja’afaru, who warned against seeing the anti-corruption war as solely that of the President, argued that should the current administration fail in its efforts to curb impunity, the nation “is on a roller-coaster to cataclysim”.