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Military Authorised To Make Arrests And Interrogate Civilians, Says Nigeria’s Defence Chief Musa 

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa,  in an interview with ARISE News on Wednesday, addressed the accusations by the residents of Niger Delta communities including Okuama, that the military is overstepping its authority by investigating civilians, as the constitution and Armed Forces Act mandate police handling of such matters, not the military.

Misa stated that the army is not acting unlawfully or taking matters into its own hands, because it is legally deployed and authorised to make arrests and to interrogate.

“We are happy that the Commander in Chief has given us a mandate to recover the arms to arrest the perpetrators. A lot of comments have been made by different kinds of people, some from lack of understanding. 

“When you have a Joint Task Force, Joint Task Force involves members of the armed forces, that is the army, navy airforce, we have the police, the DSS, every other security agency is part of it. So when we have arrests, we have a joint investigation team, it is not like the army is taking laws into their hands. Once we are deployed on operation, we have the right and the mandate to arrest all acts of criminality within that area.

“They were legally deployed and with their mandate, they are authorised to make arrests, they are authorised to interrogate, because we have a joint interrogation center that works together as a team under the Joint Task Force.”

Musa made it clear that criminal actions against security personnel are taken very seriously.

“Let me just appreciate Nigerians and Nigeria for standing by the military. People have commiserated with us for the death of our colleagues. The military is established as the authority of the government to protect Nigeria and to protect Nigerians. That is why we take it very seriously when criminals take laws into their hands against members of the armed forces or any security agency or any citizen of the country.”

Musa said the attack on the soldiers was made because of their efforts to eliminate illegal activities like pipeline vandalisation and oil theft from the area, adding that the soldiers weren’t able to defend themselves from the attackers because they went to the Okuama community unarmed.

“The Okuama attack was premeditated, just because they are a group of criminals, cultists, militants that because they make a lot of money from crude oil theft, believe they are above board. And they did this deliberately. 

“Just because the commanding officer and his team were ensuring that any acts of pipeline vandalisation, crude oil theft, illegal refineries were completely eradicated from that region.

“So they were there deployed legally, they were doing a legal operation and it was because the commanding officer felt the threat was not that high, that was why he went there and felt he could discuss with the individual. He did not go armed. If he had gone armed, he would erase everybody in that place, but he felt these were people he knew, these are Nigerians that he could talk to. And when he stepped up to talk to them with his team, they were rounded up and all shot, and not only shot, their body parts were cut, their hearts and private parts were removed.”

The Chief of Defence Staff also said that the military is conducting thorough search operations to recover ots weapons and apprehend those responsible for the attack, urging those who have been declared wanted to submit themselves for investigation.

“It was a measured operation, it was a measured response. We are conducting cordon and search operations to thoroughly search for our weapons and to arrest those that carried out this dastardly act.

“I’m sure you’re watching what’s ongoing in Ukraine-Russia, you’re watching what’s ongoing with Hamas and Israel. We’re not doing that. We’ll try to do things differently this time around. 

“The aftermath definitely will be that gradually, when we finish the cordon and search operations, and cordon and search operation means we are searching every nook and cranny within the community, because we know they have a lot of illegal money from crude oil theft, they have bought a lot of weapons.

“During the disarmament exercise that was conducted, a lot of them didn’t hand over all they had. And because it is in the riverine area close to other countries, they have ways that they also bring in weapons. It was because they had weapons they were able to perpetrate this.

“So, it is for us to thoroughly clean this community and ensure that no weapons, no explosives, nothing is left there, and that none of them is hiding.

“I’m happy with the traditional ruler that submitted himself, which is the best thing. I wish all those other ones that were in the pictures will also equally do the same. 

“We are not animals. We are not barbaric… If they had not touched our armed forces, nobody would have been there. We have lived peacefully with them, we have encouraged them, we conduct civil military relationships. If you go to most of the communities, we provide amenities for them, just to show them that we are not an occupational army, we are the Nigerian Armed Forces. And we are here for Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria is peaceful.”

Melissa Enoch

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