EndSARS and Military’s Professional Integrity
By Mahmud Abdulsalam
As a highly-organized security agency, the Nigerian Military, discharges its responsibilities in accordance to its extant code of conduct. As an institution, the military does not operate in a manner that depicts recklessness, and lawlessness, but professionalism and discipline.
One of the things that stretches the capacity of the Nigerian military is the frequent deployment of its troops to troubled zones within the country to help other security and para-military outfits tackle internal unrest and security breaches.
The Nigerian troops in recent times have massively been deployed to tackle bandits, pirates, kidnappers, and robbers, among other criminal elements, instead of squarely battling external aggressors, and protecting the country’s territorial integrity.
It however appears that partaking in local combat operations and other civil missions have become the military’s undoing. Sure, no one will totally exonerate the Nigerian Army and its role in the incident at Lekki during the EndSARS protest last year.
But for some social commentators and even a section of the media to fuel misconceptions and vile propaganda against the military, and its role in the Lekki event, without objectivity, and a sense of fairness, signify crass bias.
Most media organisations, with the exceptions of some that obviously have ‘vested’ interest embarked on thorough investigation as to what truly transpired at Lekki on the night of October 20, 2020.
With an unblemish reputation of dishing out exclusive, accurate, objective and factual reportage on security agencies and the Nigerian military in particular, PRNigeria, during the EndSARS event, conducted several fact-checks which convincingly and remarkably unearthed some ‘lies’, propaganda and fake news, about some of the controversial issues and happenings that defined the mass anti-police brutality protest.
The publishers of PRNigeria, which is the Image Merchants Promotions (IMPR) Limited in Abuja recently, unveiled an ‘encyclopaedic’ and best-selling book titled: “101 Fake News on EndSARS”.
Not only that, the online news medium also wrote fact-check stories and in-depth analysis, with solid arguments, that punctured some claims in the panel’s report, immediately after it (the report) went viral on social media.
Recall that a judicial panel constituted by the Lagos State Government to hear victims’ cases of police brutality, and also unravel the true picture of the Lekki Shooting saga, turned in its report.
Sadly, many, even long before the report was submitted had indicted the military, especially the Nigerian Army authorities of extra-judicial murder, which was tagged massacre.
But for the leadership of the Nigerian Armed Forces, its military troops who were key actors in the Lekki event can only be indicted whenever the Lagos government releases a white paper, confirming that violent shooting indeed took place at Lekki Tollgate on 20th October, 2020.
Morally, that should be what any interested party and the general public should also do; await the government’s white paper. Nobody should become a judge in an issue or case one has an interest.
Giving his dispassionate take on the judicial panel’s report submitted to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Lucky Irabor, in Benin City, the Edo State’s Capital, said that only a white paper from the report of the EndSARS panel’s, indicating through the social media that there were killings during the protest in Lekki, Lagos State, would confirm the alleged incidents.
He however, assured that the Nigerian Armed Forces remain committed to their professional calling of protecting the nation’s territorial integrity, just as he cautioned Nigerians against making inciting comments on what is happening across the country.
Speaking to journalists shortly after a courtesy visit on Governor Godwin Obaseki, where the later solicited the armed forces’ assistance in checking banditry and other criminalities in Edo forests and waterways, Irabor said the operations of the armed forces should not be compared to that of the police.
He added that his men and women remain professional.
Irabor who was on a familiariation visit to military formations in the state said: “I am sure those of you in the media must have seen that there is a report that was released though in my view a wrong channel that is making the rounds in the social media.
“Whether it is a true report, I can’t tell but I would like to indicate that the normal procedure is to have such a report submitted to the convening authority and then there will be a white paper based on which one can make informed comments.
“But whatever you see currently, I will like to indicate that the armed forces of Nigeria is a professional armed forces, we are peopled by Nigerians and we remain committed to constitutional mandates so we do not at this point think that Nigerians should make disparaging remarks regarding the armed forces of Nigeria in the sense that we are professional armed forces and if there are issues, of course we address them within the ambits of the provision.
“It will not be right to disparage men and women who have worked so hard to ensure that the territorial integrity of this nation is kept intact; so in the meantime until I see the full report I may not be able to… but I can assure you that the armed forces of Nigeria are well disciplined and we do not engage in any ignoble acts
“If Nigerians don’t trust us then we wouldn’t have been doing what we are doing and in any case, it is the armed forces of Nigeria and remember, we are not talking about the police, we are talking about the armed forces with emphasis armed forces so when the armed forces are called out, it is because there is a need for the armed forces; there is no one who do not require and desire to live in peace and so we need to understand that the armed forces is there to keep the peace, to provide the ambience that will enable each and every Nigerian to live up his desires in peace and harmony so let us not make inciting comments that will put the entire space on fire, that is not right.”
Earlier, Obaseki lauded the CDS for his continuous efforts at improving security in the country, appealing for the collaboration and support of the defence chief to eliminate bandits and other criminals in Edo forests.
According to him, “You are one person that we are very proud of; apart from being a well-decorated officer, in a short while, you have taken charge of the defense functions through your network.
“We have been watching with admiration the way you are coping and thriving with the very difficult challenge of stabilizing the security of this country.”
Obaseki, while calling for more collaboration with the military to improve security in Edo, said, “We have been able to record quite a lot of success about what is going on in the rest of the country. We have some challenges and we would like you to support us. We are currently experiencing problems in some of our forests.”
Away from the Edo security crisis, professionals and journalists in the Nigerian media industry must know that while are serving as the society’s watchdog and voice for the oppressed, they also must be socially, morally, and ethically responsible, while doing their job.
They will be perceived to be socially responsible and professional if they report acts of impunity, misdemeanor, and lawlessness perpetrated by men and officers in military camouflage, without hesitation and minding the oxen that will be gored.
But they must, and it’s indeed pertinent for them to always have a fast rethink before ‘carelessly’ disseminating unfounded, bias and false reportage that does not only impugn the military’s professional integrity but threaten even national security.
Mahmud Abdulsalam is an Assistant Editor with PRNigeria
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