The Nigerian army says allegations of soldiers extorting motorists, as recently put forward by Borno Governor Babagana Zulum, are capable of reversing the gains the military has made in the war against insurgency in the nation’s northeast region.
Zulum slammed soldiers manning the Damaturu-Maiduguri road for demanding that motorists part with N1,000.
Zulum was on his way to Jakana, a community which Boko Haram insurgents struck on Saturday, when he ran into a long queue of vehicles at one of the checkpoints.
“I’m going to report all of you in this unit… nobody can tolerate this. Boko Haram is attacking people and you are here collecting N1000 per car,” the governor screamed at the military personnel in a fit of rage.
Aminu Iliyasu who is army operations media coordinator said in a statement that the army will investigate the allegations; while warning that the governor’s outburst could prove counterproductive.
“In the said publication, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum was alleged to have accused soldiers of Operation LAFIYA DOLE deployed along Maiduguri – Damaturu Road of extorting commuters and causing them unnecessary hardship,” said Iliyasu.
“The Nigerian Army as a professional and disciplined institution views such allegations seriously, particularly coming from a State Executive. It is on record that, whenever such allegations of troops’ misconduct were made in the past, the Nigerian Army never reneged in conducting thorough investigations to establish them and where any infractions were established against any personnel, appropriate sanctions were applied in line with extant rules and regulations as provided for in the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“Thus, the Nigerian Army wishes to assure the good people of Borno State and indeed the nation at large that any allegations of misconduct by Nigerian Army troops will be duly investigated and culprits will be dealt with accordingly.
“However, it is important to unequivocally observe that public outburst particularly by eminent personalities such as a State Executive could be counterproductive and indeed capable of reversing the gains recorded so far in the ongoing fight against insurgents and other criminal elements across the nation.”
The army also pledged that it is committed to wiping out insurgency in the north-east and other forms of criminality across the country.
The statement added that citizens’ support and cooperation will be appreciated, and that any observed misconduct by troops should be reported directly through a toll-free code (193) for immediate remedy.
Zulum who visited the army headquarters afterwards, said he is pleased with the army’s decision to investigate the matter.
Isa Gusau, the governor’s spokesperson, in a statement issued after the visit, said: “Yesterday’s encounter does not and will not change the very high regard the Governor has for all the security personnel operating in Borno, particularly soldiers who give up their lives and safety in finding peace for Borno.”