The Nigerian Army on Saturday descended heavily on the London-based news magazine, The Economist, over the magazine’s report, which described the army as “mighty on paper,” stressing that the report was crafted to denigrate, demonise and destabilise the Nigerian government.
The army, which also denied the existence of “ghost” soldiers on its payroll, insisted that it has distinguished itself as a worthy contributor to global peace and security through regional, continental, and international peacekeeping and peace support operations.
Notwithstanding the army’s message of reassurance, a disturbed Governor of Katsina State, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on the nation’s security to stem the tide of insecurity across the country.
But a former Chief of Army Staff and Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Benin, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd), has identified porous international borders, which encourage the influx of weapons and other dangerous materials, as some of the factors fuelling the insecurity.
The Economist on Saturday knocked Nigerian Army, accusing it of selling equipment to the insurgents terrorising Nigeria.
While describing the army as only strong on paper, it also described President Muhammadu Buhari-led’s administration as an inept and high-handed government that had also failed to tackle corruption.
The 178-year-old magazine said this in an editorial titled, ‘The Crime Scene at the Heart of Africa,’ which was published in its October 23, 2021, issue.
It alleged that the army had ghost workers on its payroll and often sold equipment to insurgents who destabilise the nation.
The news magazine said the Nigeria Police Force was poorly trained and underpaid hence they rob innocent citizens to augment their salaries.
“When violence erupts, the government does nothing or crack heads almost indiscriminately. Nigeria’s Army is mighty on paper. But many of its soldiers are ‘ghosts’ who exist only on the payroll, and much of its equipment is stolen and sold to insurgents. The army is also stretched thin, having been deployed to all of Nigeria’s states.
“The police are understaffed, demoralised, and poorly trained. Many supplement their low pay by robbing the public they have sworn protect.”
It called on the Department of State Services (DSS) to stop disobeying court orders and release all those being detained illegally.
It said due to Buhari’s mismanagement of the economy, food prices had soared while life had become more difficult for Nigerians.
“Economic troubles are compounded by a government that is inept and heavy-handed. Mr. Buhari, who was elected in 2015, turned an oil shock into a recession by propping up the naira and barring many imports in the hope this would spur domestic production.
“Instead, he sent annual food inflation soaring above 20 per cent. He has failed to curb corruption, which breeds resentment. Many Nigerians are furious that they see so little benefit from the country’s billions of petrodollars, much of which their rulers have squandered or stolen,” the report explained.
The Economist stated that even before COVID-19 last year, Nigeria was already witnessing unprecedented poverty.
The news magazine opined that this economic hardship was fuelling the current insecurity in the country.
“Two factors help explain Nigeria’s increasing instability: a sick economy and a bumbling government. Slow growth and two recessions have made Nigerians poorer, on average, each year since oil prices fell in 2015.
But in a swift reaction to the editorial, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, said in a statement that the report was crafted to denigrate, demonise and destabilise the Nigerian government.
It said the report also contained some “unimaginable slurs targeted at the Nigerian Military and the Nigerian Army in particular”.
The statement described the report as “one of those deliberate falsehood and noxious narratives orchestrated by a network of detractors and coven of dark forces working very hard to adorn the Nigerian Army in an unfitting garb of infamy.”
It said the report spared no effort in trying to vilify and rubbish the image, character, and reputational standing of the Nigerian Army, adding however that it failed woefully.
The statement noted that “as a professional, hard-fighting and globally respected institution that has continued to occupy deserved glorious position in the comity of global defence forces, the Nigerian Army is certainly not what the so-called report by The Economist tried to characterise it.
It accused the magazine of lending its medium for a hatchet job of an article without committing little effort to find out the real truth about the Nigerian Army.
“How is it imaginable that the Nigerian Army that has distinguished itself as a worthy contributor to global peace and security through regional, continental, and international peacekeeping and peace support operations would be characterised as “mighty on paper?
“How can the Nigerian Army that has restored democracies, brought peace to troubled lands, and stabilised the sub-region through the dint of hard work, commitment to duty, discipline, and professionalism be so denigrated?” it queried.
Responding further to the publication’s description of the army as ghost soldiers, the statement said: “Is it the ‘ghost soldiers’ of the Nigerian Army that have weathered the storm of terrorism and insurgency of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province Terrorists (ISWAP) in the North-astern part of the country and parts of the Lake Chad region?
“In case The Economist magazine and those who fed it all the lies it published do not know, the Nigerian Army working in a joint environment, has been able to stop ISWAP, a very formidable international terrorist organisation in its tracks, despite all the obstacles, including arm sale blackouts on its way”.
The army further stated that “The Economist and it’s ilk ought to have known that the Nigerian Army has long distinguished itself as a professional force that does not toy with accountability nor shirk from its statutory responsibility of defending Nigeria from external aggression or internal insurrection.
“Is it not curious that an otherwise respected international magazine could so easily be sucked in by the antics of conflict merchants and agents provocateurs who are uncomfortable with the steadfastness, patriotism, unwavering commitment, sacrifice, ruggedness, and resoluteness of the Nigerian Army in stamping out terrorism, banditry and other violent crimes assailing the country and the West African sub-region?
“How The Economist magazine failed to do simple due diligence on the said fabricated report is worth interrogating by those who are interested in distinguishing between rogue journalism and professional one.”
The statement added that the gallant officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army are undeterred, undistracted, and unfazed by the assertions contained in that silly report.
Meanwhile, miffed by the state of insecurity in the country, the Katsina State Governor, Masari, yesterday called on Buhari to declare a state of emergency on the nation’s security.
The governor added that the declaration of the state of emergency on security would tackle the security challenges, particularly banditry and insurgency besetting Katsina and other states of the federation.
Masari, who made the call at the third-quarter general meeting of the Conference of Speakers in Katsina, said that the security agencies were doing their best to bring an end to the carnage but added that more needed to be done to ward off the criminals.
The speakers’ meeting with the theme: “The Menace of Insecurity in the Country and the Role of State Assemblies to Restore Peace and Order,” was aimed at discussing and proffering solutions to the nation’s security challenges, drawn speakers from across the 36 states.
The former speaker of the House of Representatives reiterated that insecurity, disunity, and economic stagnation were some of the most critical issues afflicting the country in its quest for development.
Masari stated that given the security challenges in Katsina State, the state government had reviewed the 1975 Local Government Administration Law to enable traditional rulers and other stakeholders to participate directly in security decisions and management in the state.
He said: “In Katsina State, our major problem is the security challenges we are fencing in some parts of the state but with the support of the state House of Assembly, some legal frameworks were put in place while the existing ones were restructured to address the security challenges”.
“I wish to call on the federal government to declare an emergency on the nation’s security to bring an end to the loss of lives and property across the state.
“Security agencies are putting in their best to address the security issues across the country but more has to be done to curtail the activities of bandits, cattle rustlers, insurgents, and other criminal elements across the country”.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, Hon. Abubakar Suleiman said insecurity in the country has constituted a serious threat not only to the economic growth and development but also to the peace and unity of the nation.
He called on governors across the 36 states of the federation to grant financial autonomy to both the state legislatures and judiciaries to enhance good governance in the country.
Ejiofor Alike in Lagos, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja, and Francis Sardauna in Katsina