The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, has called on Nigerians to stop blaming the military for the insecurity in the country.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY and her sister broadcast arm, ARISE News Channel in Lagos, Buratai said those blaming the military for failing to stop insecurity were doing so out of ignorance.
He spoke just as reports emerged that no fewer than 20 people, including a family of 16, were reportedly killed by bandits in an attack on Bakali village, Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Buratai also reacted to the clamour by Nigerians, including the National Assembly, for the removal of the service chiefs, saying doing so would not end terror attacks and insurgency in the country.
According to him, it is not the primary responsibility of the military to provide internal security but that of the police.
"Who is responsible for internal security? It is the civil police. It is not the army; it is not the navy and it is not the air force. When you talk of internal security, it is the responsibility of the civil police entirely.
"The military comes in at a time when the police are overwhelmed .This is what we are doing. It is not our primary responsibility. If you lump the security architecture to include the defence, you are making a very big mistake," he stated.
He said the primary duty of the military was to secure the country from external aggression, adding that the military has been discharging this responsibility.
Although, he admitted that the constitution allowed for the military to be called out to aid civil authority in the maintenance of law and order, he explained that the primary responsibility to maintain law and order remained that of the police.
He added: "First of all, look at the role of the military, which is to secure the country. We have to defend the country, people are being killed, abducted and so on. There is insecurity and so on and it is blamed on the military. That is a wrong direction. If everything is heaped on the military, it is a wrong direction. It is wrong institution. Look at the constitution, Section 217 (1),(2),(3).to (4). The first priority is to defend our country from external aggression".
"Have we got any external aggression from any country or any force? Are we not doing it? Our deployment covers everywhere? Now the issue of protecting our sovereignty from violation, are we not doing it? I just gave you how we intervened in 2015, 2016 to stop foreign incursion. If as at 2015 we have Ghana forces , we have Argentine troops, we have Brazilian troops from different parts of the world coming as United Nations force or African Union force, then be rest assured that this thing will last for another 50 or 100 years. Nigeria will be effectively divided. This is a military responsibility if you look at the third one, we are to support the United Nations, the African Union, any agreement that we signed to promote world peace?
"We have an institution that has primary responsibility to promote law and order. This is an issue of law and order. What you said is issue of law and order and it is the issue of civil authority and it is the police that are supposed to provide law and order. You talked in general terms before you went to the issue of North-east . Law and order is the responsibility of the police.
"There is insecurity and so on and it is blamed on the military. That is a wrong direction. If everything is heaped on the military it is a wrong direction. It is wrong institution. Look at the constitution, section 217 (1),(2),(3) to (4)."
Buratai also defended the performance of the military in maintaining law and order.
He said the military had recovered arms, rescued abducted persons and undertook other operations to support law and order.
Buratai said: "Let us see it in this perspective. If we say why is it so that every aspect, even in elections, you see the military being called out. This is entirely a civil authority responsibility, the police should handle that. But you and I know that the complications, the intricacies, the scheming but you know the military institution still holds its head very high in terms of integrity and professionalism.
"We do ensure that we are not distracted but that does not say there are no few deviations. That one is natural in every society and every institution but 99 per cent, I tell you, the Nigerian military is professional. it is up to its own responsibility; it is carrying out its assigned tasks as enshrined in the constitution. Any time we come in to support the civil authority, we do it professionally."
On the calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to remove him and his colleagues to give a bite to the fight against Boko Haram, the army chief said that would not solve the problems.
Buratai, while not questioning the wisdom of the National Assembly, said the solution was not the removal of service chiefs as Buhari "knows where it pinches" and is the right arbiter.
"I am tempted not to comment on this particular issue because I am directly involved. However, I want to believe that whatever happens, the Commander-in-Chief is the right arbiter and he knows where it pinches. He knows where the problems are. I think the decision should be left to him. He should not be pushed or prompted in this regard.
"We are into a very serious issue, which should not be taken lightly. This is why when you say a particular crop of leaders in the military should be removed for whatever reason, it sounds very odd because we are not addressing the issues. I am not saying this because I am the chief of army staff and I do not want to leave. No, that is not the issue. It is beyond that because this is a national issue, an issue of national pride and national interest. Those who would cry loudly against the service chiefs are within and they are the ones who should be more vocal in the things that are not going right," he explained.
He also said contrary to the notion that Boko Haram started in 2009, the "brainwashing and indoctrination" started over 30 years ago, thereby making it difficult to totally wipe out terrorism.
But despite the challenges, he explained that the military has won the war against insurgency as Boko Haram militants do not control any territory in Nigeria.
Bandits Kill over 20 in Kaduna Community
Meanwhile, no fewer than 20 people, including a family of 16, were reportedly killed by bandits in an attack on Bakali village Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
The incident, according to a resident of the community, took place at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The source said members of the village vigilante group had mobilised to launch an attack on the bandits in their hideout in the bush.
However, the bandits were said to have attacked the vigilantes on their way to the bush.
The hoodlums were said to have killed some of the vigilantes and pursued others to a community.
He said the bandits upon arriving at the village, started shooting at people and burning house.
He said the 16 members of a family were locked in a room by the bandits who set fire on the house.
While the villagers scampered to safety, the assailants set fire on houses, vehicles, motorcycles and farm products in the village.
A community leader also told Channels Television yesterday the bandits locked up 16 members of the same family in a room and set fire on the house.
He added that many of the villagers have fled their homes for fear of repeated attacks.
Police authorities in the state have also confirmed the incident to Channels Television.The spokesman for the Kaduna State Police Command, Mr. Muhammed Jalige, however, said they were yet to ascertain the number of people killed.
He added that a team of policemen have been deployed in the area to investigate the incident.