The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, has asked military commanders to tackle looters who have been ransacking public and private property across the country.
He directed them to bring sanity to the society immediately.
Daily Trust reports that for nearly one week, hoodlums have seized the #EndSARS protests, disregarded curfews imposed by many state governors as they engaged in looting spree.
They have been looting many commodity stores, strategic reserves of federal and state governments purportedly in search of COVID-19 palliatives and also descending on shops, malls, commercial and private properties of individuals and corporate bodies.
Symbols of authority like police stations and custodial centres have not been spared by the rampaging assailants.
Observers believed that the hoodlums were emboldened by the "relaxed disposition" of security operatives especially the police who are mandated to maintain civil authority in the land.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu had on Saturday ordered the immediate deployment of operational assets and resources to bring an end to wanton violence, killings, looting, and destruction of public and private property.
He directed his officers and men to reclaim the public space from criminal elements masquerading as protesters in some parts of the country.
Four days after the directive, violence occasioned by thievery continued unabated in many states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with security experts saying something urgent must be done to stem the tide.
We'll clampdown on looters
The Chief of Army Staff had while addressing Principal Staff Officers, General Officers Commanding, and Field Commanders at a meeting held at the Nigerian Army Headquarters in Abuja, yesterday, said the army commanders and their men must restore law and order immediately.
He added that "there must be no room for disloyalty amongst all officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army" even as he denied allegations that his officers were supporting the miscreants in perpetrating arson, vandalism, and looting of public and private property going on in many cities
Rising from the meeting, the army spokesperson, Col. Sagir Musa conveyed what Buratai discussed with his men.
"The recent activities by unscrupulous elements have shown their desire to acquire arms and ammunition at all costs from security personnel. No less than 10 AK-47 rifles have been lost to these miscreants in the past two weeks across the country with attendant loss of lives of the personnel," Musa quoted the COAS to have said during the meeting.
Buratai said commanding officers and field commanders must reiterate to all their subordinates that the Nigerian Army was determined to ensure democratic stability in the country as the only panacea for development and progress.
He directed them to stop lawlessness at all cost, and further directed them to warn their troops on internal security or guard duties outside the barracks to be at "maximum alert at all times and to also deal decisively with any attack on their duty locations."
There's plot to destabilise Nigeria
Buratai also said yesterday that there were elaborate plans by some people to destabilise Nigeria.
He, however, did not mention any name or group but reiterated that they would not allow subversive elements to destabilise peace and stability in the country.
He said the Nigerian Army had continued to exercise restraint and applied all the principles of internal security operations and fully abided by the internationally recognised rules of engagement.
"The best system of governance is democracy and we must all ensure that Nigeria's democracy remains stable and steady. We will not allow any force, elements, or destabilising agents in or outside our country to set our beloved country on fire.
"We remain resolute in doing everything possible to ensure that subversive elements, detractors and other enemies of this great nation do not achieve their aims and objectives of destabilisation.
"We will not allow any force, elements, or destabilising agents in or outside our country to set our beloved country on fire.
"We remain resolute in doing everything possible to ensure that subversive elements, detractors and other enemies of this great nation do not achieve their aims and objectives of destabilisation," he said.
Buratai said the detractors wanted to achieve this through massive propaganda to discredit the military and the government.
He added that their ultimate goal was to incite the people against the army in the event the president directed them to come out and aid civil authorities in restoring peace and order.
Daily Trust recalled the army was on Tuesday last week accused of "shooting" at #EndSARS protesters at a toll gate in Lekki, Lagos, a claim the army denied.
Though still a contentious issue, the alleged Lekki saga had drawn local and international condemnation.
Buratai did not mention Lekki yesterday but during the briefing by the army spokesman, the COAS said the army was aware of a plan to drag the military establishment in the mud of controversy.
He said it was based on that that the army issued an initial warning through a press release on October 14 of their resolve to secure and safeguard a united Nigeria.
"Now the detractors alongside their local and international collaborators have mischievously and deliberately misrepresented troops' efforts to ensure compliance with the curfew imposed by legitimate civil authorities in Lagos and other states.
"These agitators are falsely accusing the army of being responsible for the activities of the miscreants in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary.
"They have continually threatened to report the army to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.
"Thankfully, however, a large percentage of Nigerians and the international community have started seeing through the smokescreen of falsehood, and deliberate misrepresentation of facts being orchestrated by enemies of Nigeria and have retracted their earlier false publications," he said.
Military should be circumspect
A Security Risk Management and Intelligence Specialist, Kabir Adamu said it was a good decision to deploy the military to quell the on -going hooliganism in the country.
He stated: "The decision by the army to roll out personnel to tackle the so-called hoodlums is frankly not unexpected. Let me start by saying that the military has become an integral part of our internal security architecture; whether that is right or wrong, it is not important at this point in time.
"At the last count, the military was involved in about 32 states in one internal security or the other, and there are a lot of operations going on in the country.
"The fact that these hoodlums carried out their activities without being challenged or resistance by security agencies including the lead in internal security agency - the police... We saw what happened in Lagos, Osun and many other places, I think it makes it absolutely necessary and mandatory for the military to come on board at this point in time to prevent a total breakdown of law and order.
"I think the pronouncement by the COAS is timely, and of course it is in line with the directive given by the Mr President when the National Security Control met two days ago where he ordered security agents to bring sanity to public spaces," he said.
The Managing Director of Strict Guard Security, Dr Bone Efuzie, said there was distrust between the government and the governed, hence the anger in some quarters over the deployment of soldiers.
According to him, "If Nigeria is a place where there is trust, whatever the COAS says is in the interest of the people. When he says troops should go after the hoodlums, people should be clapping.
"But unfortunately, because of that gap, that lack of trust between the government and the governed, any instruction given by anybody within the security environment, it is considered as anti-people, and originally it shouldn't be so."
Efuzie, who advised security agencies to use diplomatic means by liaising with the community, religious leaders, and other stakeholders to solve some issues noted that government officials were not helping matters by thinking all security challenges can be solved with guns.
Also reacting, a security analyst, Senator Iroegbu said it was not acceptable to deploy many soldiers to the streets in situations of civil unrest in a democracy.
He said the military already had a lot of security challenges and was facing asymmetric war in the North East, adding that the North West was also facing challenges.
"We should endeavour not to militarise our country and security architecture. These are police duties and that is why urgent police reforms are needed," he said.
"I don't know if the Nigerian Police have ever complained that they were overwhelmed because Nigerians haven't heard such that would warrant deployment of soldiers to quell civil unrest. By training the military is not equipped to handle such situations," he added.