The Nigerian army says the accusation of extortion by Babagana Zulum, governor of Borno state, against soldiers can reverse the gains recorded by the troops fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east.
TheCable reported how the governor came down hard on soldiers manning Damaturu-Maiduguri road whom he accused of extorting commuters.
Zulum was on his way to Jakana, a community where Boko Haram insurgents struck on Saturday, when he ran into a long queue of vehicles at one of the checkpoints.
Reacting, Aminu Iliyasu, army operations media coordinator, in a statement said the army would investigate the allegations, but that the outburst of the governor could be counterproductive.
“In the said publication, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum was alleged to have accused soldiers of Operation LAFIYA DOLE deployed along Maiduguri – Damaturu Road of extorting commuters and causing them unnecessary hardship,” he said.
“The Nigerian Army as a professional and disciplined institution views such allegations seriously, particularly coming from a State Executive. It is on record that, whenever such allegations of troops’ misconduct were made in the past, the Nigerian Army never reneged in conducting thorough investigations to establish them and where any infractions were established against any personnel, appropriate sanctions were applied in line with extant rules and regulations as provided for in the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“Thus, the Nigerian Army wishes to assure the good people of Borno State and indeed the nation at large that any allegations of misconduct by Nigerian Army troops will be duly investigated and culprits will be dealt with accordingly.
“However, it is important to unequivocally observe that public outburst particularly by eminent personalities such as a State Executive could be counterproductive and indeed capable of reversing the gains recorded so far in the ongoing fight against insurgents and other criminal elements across the nation.”
The army said it is committed to wiping out insurgency in the north-east and other forms of criminality across the country.
It said citizens’ support and cooperation would be appreciated, and that any observed misconduct by troops could be reported directly through a toll – free code 193 for immediate remedy.
Zulum who later visited the army headquarters on Tuesday said he was pleased with the army’s decision to investigate the matter.
Isa Gusau, the governor’s spokesperson, in a statement issued after the visit, said: “Yesterday’s encounter does not and will not change the very high regard the Governor has for all the security personnel operating in Borno, particularly soldiers who give up their lives and safety in finding peace for Borno.”