War on Terror: We Must Sustain Close Military Media Relations- General Buratai
It is with great pleasure that I, on behalf of the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army, heartily welcome the editors-in-chief of the fourth estate of the realm of our great country, to this event. I must thank you all for finding time to attend this occasion despite the short notice and your tight schedules. We are indeed honoured by your esteemed presence which indicates that there is clear mutual respect and understanding between the Nigerian Army and the media.
It is also a further demonstration that we enjoy your support and you attach great importance to our activities. There is no doubt, you play a very important and critical role in security and national development through your untiring efforts of editing news reports and other materials being published or broadcast by your respective medium. I must commend your commitment and understanding of national security issues. There is no doubt, as editors, you have a very important role to play in national security and development.
This is evident through your work of editing news reports, articles and other materials that inform, educate and entertain Nigerians, which shapes national discourse and policies that affect the nation’s security and development. It is in recognition of this role and the immense support you have been giving to the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army in particular that gave rise to your invitation to this dinner and interactive session. It is our belief that the media is the reflection of our society and the voice of the people. Thus, through your reportage you stimulate and influence the thoughts of the young generation and other sections of our society. By so doing. you act as watchdog, protecting public interest against malpractice, thus strengthening our democracy. Although differences exist, in a few instances, the relationship is at an enviable height. Therefore, it is not a relationship that the Nigerian Army is going to take for granted.
The essence of this event is also about opening a new, bigger page with you, the media in Nigeria. Therefore, please take advantage of it as we would like to hear from you the Editors. We want you to be candid on what needs to be done to foster a stronger relationship between the Nigerian Army and the media. In so doing, please bear in mind that the Nigerian Army is right now deeply engaged in fighting terrorism and insurgency and ensuring security in almost all the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
Like the rest of other sectors of the country, we do not have all the resources required to do as we wish. There is no doubt, the government is doing all it could to ensure that we are well trained, equipped to carry out our duties. However, considering that we are in a state of war, there is need to further enhance the funding of the military. You should always remember that while the rest of us sleep in air conditioned rooms, with all the comfort, the soldiers are out there ensuring that nothing untoward happens to us. The institution that does this deserves the total support of the media and all Nigerians. The Nigerian Army has been involved in various Internal Security Operations in this country. This results in closer interaction with the public which in turn affects professionalism and our relationship with members of the public. We appreciate the public’s continued support, encouragement and understanding as we deal with the myriads of security challenges in this country.
I want to emphasize that you play a vital role in security and national development. While we fight with guns to protect the society, you fight with your pens to do the same. Consequently, fighting without one another can be compared to fighting with one hand tied behind your back. That is why this interactive session is organized to fashion out ways of coming together to fight against the security challenges facing our dear country. We also invited you here with the best of intention, to commend you for the wonderful role you have been playing in nurturing our nascent democracy and also solicit your support in our efforts to rid our society of daunting security challenges. We also noted that most of the security problems we are confronted with in this country are associated with misinformation. Therefore, we have a great task of educating and enlightening the members of the public on the true situations, as the more enlightened a society is, the more it understands its roles and contributes positively towards an enhanced national security and development.
We are therefore appealing to the Media to be more understanding in the discharge of their professional duties. Your support is highly required because of the immense role you play in shaping national focus and thus, national security. We want you to trust us more as we continue to defend the territorial integrity of our country. It does not augur well for national security and troops’ morale when the military is portrayed as weak and corrupt, not trusted or respected as was the case with the recent unfortunate attacks on our locations and the lopsided reports on them. The war against terrorism and insurgency need to be viewed and reported as it is; war between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and terrorists and criminals, not Nigerian Army versus the Boko Haram terrorists. We are carrying out these operations on behalf of the Nigerian State and the people. Therefore, we should enlighten the people to enable them understand, support our efforts and appreciate our sacrifices.
The Nigerian Army, like every other human system or institution, is not, and cannot be perfect. Indeed, there were instances of observed gaps. For instance, when I took over command, I realized the need for an enhanced civil-military relations, hence our concerted efforts at strengthening the Department of Civil-Military Affairs through the establishment of Human Rights desk. We have also improved on our military justice system and do not spare any officer or soldier found culpable of human rights abuses and other offenses. I have ordered the constitution of General Court Martial to try various acts of indiscipline and other offenses at Operation LAFIYA DOLE, 2 Division, 81 Division, 82 Division and Army Headquarters Garrison. We have also created new formations and training institutions to enhance operational capacity and professional efficiency. These include the establishment of 6 and 8 Divisions of the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Army Special Forces Command, 16 and 17 Brigades of the Nigerian Army, Cyberwarfare Command and the Nigerian Army Special Forces School, amongst others.
Mindful of the fact that you have been doing commendably well, I must however challenge you to consider the fact that in everything we do, the preservation of Nigeria as one indivisible and united corporate entity should be our topmost goal. Terrorists thrive in publicity. In countries like Turkey, even though the relationship between government and the media has been rather adversarial, the media helps the government and the country’s armed forces by according little or no voice to terrorists and divisive elements. This understanding exists in Pakistan and a host of other countries experiencing the scourge of terrorism and insurgency. Although, I am not in any way advocating for gagging of the media, far from it! The noble profession of journalism as a conscience of the society should partner with the Nigerian Army to ensure the enemies of the nation are kept at bay, and not in any way encouraged through our reportage to continue their dastardly acts on our citizens and residents in this country.
The world over, no Army has all its required resources; nonetheless, we are doing all we could to give the best of service to our combatants. The Nigerian Army under my leadership has made giant strides in the area of discharging our constitutional duties. My Command of the Nigerian Army is doing everything possible to ensure better welfare for the soldiers. We have constructed and renovated so many living and office accommodations for both officers and soldiers across the country and more is being done. We have also upgraded and rehabilitated various Nigerian Army Medical Services and Hospitals, created Barracks Investments Initiative Programme that also caters for the welfare of troops’ families. In the Nigerian Army nobody tampers with pay and allowances of any officer or soldier. And wherever there are proven cases of deviation from our rules of engagement or laws, appropriate disciplinary measures were always taken against such erring personnel. However, we have noticed that there are consistent unjustified attacks against the Nigerian Army over troops’ welfare, particularly on pay and allowances, as well as allegations on human rights abuses. The allegations are rather unfortunate as they are not done in good faith and were mostly based on ignorance.
At this juncture, I must clearly say that nobody loves Nigeria more than we do; therefore, we have been doing our best in the discharge of our constitutional duties, respecting extant rules. It is therefore preposterous for Non-Governmental Organizations such as Amnesty International to consistently be undermining our reputation and demoralizing our troops through consistent and unfounded allegations of human rights abuses. There is no doubt the organization cannot do what it is doing in Nigeria in many other sovereign countries. There are several instances of unprofessional and negative conducts of Amnesty International members of staff in Nigeria such as collaboration with Islamic Movement in Nigeria. I want to assure you that under my leadership, the Nigerian Army would continue to be professional and apolitical. Therefore, the Nigerian Army I command will not allow itself to be dragged into politics of any kind.
We are quite aware that the media also has its challenges of funding and competition, it is however crucial to note that at the end of the day, it is only when we have a country that we can even practice our professions. The role played by some section of the media in Rwanda is still fresh in our minds. Therefore, you have a very important role to play in ensuring the sustenance of peace and security in Nigeria and towards ensuring the survival of Nigeria as a country.
Being a remark Lt Tukur Burai , Chief of Army Staff at Interactive Session with Media Executives in Maiduguri, Borno State