This Day (Lagos)

7 December 2012

Nigeria: Jaji Bombings - Army Says Redeployment of Commandants Not Religious

The Nigerian Army has maintained that the redeployment of the former Commandant of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Kaduna State, Air Vice Marshal Abdullahi Kure, and the Corps Commander, Infantry, Jaji, Major Gen. Muhammad D. Isa, over the recent twin-bomb attack on a church in the cantonment was not motivated by ethno-religious considerations.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, stated this Thursday at a press conference in Abuja in response to recent accusations by some sections of the country that the replacement of two commanding officers was based on religion.

But the Northern social-cultural organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum has aligned itself with the umbrella organisation of Northern Muslims over the removal of the two military officers in Jaji.

Ihejirika, who was represented by the Director of Military Intelligence, Maj-Gen. Ahmed Tijani Yusuf, explained that their redeployment was not new as it has a precedence that followed long-held military practice.

He wondered why such issues should be raised when previously there had been such redeployments that also affected officers of Christian faith from the Headquarters 1 Division, Kaduna.

He described the recent remarks by the umbrella Muslim organisation in the North, the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) linking the recent appointments by the Defence Headquarters with ethno-religious considerations, as a "disservice" to the country.

"It is, however, surprising that a section of the public is insinuating that the changes in command at the AFCSC and Infantry Corps and Center (ICC) have religious connotations.

"For the avoidance of doubt, there was no religious consideration in the changes made in the aftermath of the November 25, 2012 terrorist attack at Jaji.

"It will, therefore, be a great disservice to the nation for anyone to make statements or utterances linking the activities of the military with ethno-religious considerations," he said.

He noted that if JNI had contacted the military on the issue "before making public pronouncements, adequate explanations would have been given concerning the changes."

Ihejirika said: "It must be pointed out that earlier attacks on military barracks prompted review of policies, measures and standards to be adopted in all military locations to prevent reoccurrence.

"Commanders at all levels were directed to adopt these measures in securing their areas of responsibilities. It is in this regard that when Headquarters 1 Division was attacked on February 7 this year, the General Officer Commanding was redeployed."

He insisted that the change was not a punishment but part of measures to enable new hands tackle lapses, shortcomings and limitations that would be identified in the course of investigations.

"It is worthy to note that the GOC removed, Major General J.O Shoboiki, is a Christian and was replaced by a Muslim, Major General Garba Abdulwahab. Nobody, then, raised the issue of religious sentiments," he said.

COAS' response confirmed THISDAY's exclusive story yesterday of the anger within the military ranks over the accusation by JNI, which military sources warned could jeopardise and polarise the military profession.

Also, the army yesterday revealed that new measures that have been adopted to forestall future bomb attacks in military barracks, especially through the porous borders of the Jaji cantonment.

Ihejirika said that the army was reviewing some measures it currently has in place, while revealing that several arrests had been made in connection with the Jaji bombings.

"Some of the measures put in place to forestall future recurrence is the Board of Inquiry we set up, which is to do its investigation," he said.

He said the army had also put in place static and mobile control mechanisms as well as surveillance devices, adding, "we have put measures to insulate our barracks from the surrounding villages in Jaji."

However, the ACF yesterday backed the organisation of Northern Muslims over the removal of the two military officers in Jaji, in the wake of the bombings in the cantonment.

The ACF, in a statement in Kaduna, maintained that the military authorities should have waited for the investigative report before taking action.

While calling for a thorough investigation into the incident, ACF criticised the military authorities for taking a hasty decision on an incident, which is still under probe, stressing that the action would jeopardize the panel's outcome.

The forum, in a communique issued at the end of its meeting in Kaduna, however, condemned the attacks on security formations, saying it should not be allowed.

The communique signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, read in part: "The meeting appealed to Federal Government to thoroughly investigate the incident at Jaji and no blames should be apportioned before the conclusion of the investigation.

"ACF is concerned that the authorities appear to be taking different actions for events that are identical in nature. Such actions are liable to different interpretations, including the likelihood of injustice and victimisation of officers involved.

"The forum also noted the disturbing trend of bomb explosions in the nation's security establishments most recent of which happened at the Jaji military cantonment. Such trend should not be allowed to continue.

"It deliberated mainly on matters bordering on security challenges created by acts of terrorism, armed robbery, kidnappings and militant activism in different parts of the country and by Boko Haram in the North."

The JNI had in a statement on Tuesday criticised the military authorities for removing the AFCSC and Infantry commandants.

The religious body had wondered why Kure and Isa, both of them Muslims, were removed and replaced with non-Muslims before proper investigations into the matter.

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