From UBONG UKPONG, Abuja
From the Army came an assurance yesterday that soldiers would no longer truncate democracy. Giving the promise was the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika, who described the long period of military involvement in governance as unfortunate and illegal. He disclosed that the military had resolved never again, to do anything that would undermine democracy.
Ihejirika, who stated this in Abuja during the commissioning of some Army officers and soldiers’ accommodation as well as the newly- introduced dog section to tackle Boko Haram, noted that the military was better off within the short period of democratic governance in the country than the long years of military dictatorship.
The COAS stressed that “the Nigerian Army has continued to witness tremendous progress since the return to democratic governance.
The dilapidation in infrastructure and equipment which was commented upon recently in the Press was brought about by the unfortunate long period of military involvement in governance in this country. Efforts to transform the Army commenced with the return to democracy in 1999. For those who do not know or may have chosen to forget, serious attention was never paid to welfare, while the Army hardly trained during the dark era of military dictatorship due to mutual distrust.
“For instance, the armoured vehicles were left to deteriorate as they were hardly involved in exercises for fear of their being used against the government of the day. A Commanding Officer would be queried or even arrested if he dared to warm or drive around an armoured vehicle without authorisation from AHQ (Army Headquarters). Hence, most of the equipment were allowed to deteriorate.
“In the ECOMOG days, units were hurriedly assembled and rushed into battle sometimes without knowing where they were going. Some Commanders met their troops for the first time at theatre of operation. Available records and published books described how troops wore rags in the name of uniform while allowances were never paid. All these have changed with the return of democratic governance. Several of the armoured vehicles we see today, not less than 100 have been refurbished, in-house and several ones supplied through the efforts of MOD (Ministry of Defence).
Units now observe a mandatory two months pre-induction training before being launched into operations. As I speak, divisions are being supplied with tetron uniforms. By the end of April when we would have received the Naija Camo on order, I would have purchased nothing less than 100,000 pairs for troops. We are witnessing all round improvements in training, operations and troops’ welfare since the advent of democracy,” Ihejirika stated.
Lauding the support and professionalism the military is enjoying in a democratic government, the COAS reiterated that the Army has surrendered to civil and constitutional government and had also given its “unalloyed loyalty to the President and Commander-In-Chief and absolute support for democracy and constitutional governance in this nation.”
Noting with dismay the present security challenges in the country, Ihejirika said that the military will address them, stressing that the induction of the dog section that was also commissioned, was to address this contemporary security challenges.
Among the projects commissioned by the Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, were Shehu Musa Yar’Adua’s Officers’ Quarters, Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) Quarters and the Dog Kennel at the Mambilla Barracks. Others were the soldiers’ transit camp at the Mogadishu Cantonment and officers quarters at the Camp WU Bassey Barracks, all built through direct labour by the Engineering Corps of the Army.
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