The Nigerian Army on Sunday warned that any citizen caught in possession of arms and ammunition would be dealt with in accordance with the law.
It, however, assured every law-abiding citizen of equal protection and security of lives and property irrespective of status.
The army gave the warning in a statement issued by its spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Texas Chukwu in reaction to accusations leveled against it by Gen. T.Y. Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff from 1976-1979.
Speaking during the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University on Saturday, Danjuma accused the Armed Forces of Nigeria of colluding with militias and other criminal elements operating in the state.
The former army chief also alleged that the armed forces were “unable to provide security for the citizens of Taraba State’’ and called on the people “to take up arms and defend themselves.’’ Chukwu said:
“The Nigerian Army views this statement made by the former Chief of Army Staff as most unfortunate at this critical time that the military has embarked upon demilitarisation of the North Central region of the country.’’
He said that although the army would not want to join issues with the elder statesman, certain facts needed to be clearly stated in the interest of the Taraba people and Nigerians in general.
Chukwu said the army is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria and to aid the civil authority whenever called upon to do so.
He said that it was in line with this that the army was authorised to conduct “Exercise Ayem Akpatuma’’ – Cat Race in six states, including Taraba.
The army spokesman explained that under the exercise, troops were deployed to curb menace of the herdsmen/farmers conflict and other criminal activities in the North central zone, amongst others.
“It is noteworthy to state that at the inception of Exercise Ayem Akpatuma, the Taraba State Government did not cooperate with the Nigerian Army due to the army’s stance to remain absolutely neutral in the herdsmen-farmers crisis.
“The Nigerian Army will continue to remain as such.
“For avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian Army advises the people of Taraba State and indeed all other Nigerians to continue in their day-to-day activities and be law abiding as anyone caught with arms and ammunition will be dealt with accordance with the laws of the land.
“Every law-abiding citizen is assured of equal protection and security of their lives and property irrespective of his/her person,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Chukwu said that the army arrested three suspected criminals in Taraba on Saturday.
He said one of them, Rapheal Yakwa was arrested while taking unauthorised and suspicious photographs in a military event.
Chukwu alleged that during preliminary investigation, it was discovered Yakwa was among some youths “being sponsored by certain individuals of Taraba State to cause uprisings in the area.’’
“He has also confessed to have participated in most nefarious activities of a group; this was further proven by series of media content discovered on his mobile phone.
“His – Yakwa, confession has led to the arrest of another suspect, Irambariye Mamman, who is said to be the youth leader as well as the leader of the group.
“Also apprehended is one Micah Audu, who has confessed to be member of the gang,’’ he said.