By Daniels Nwokike, The Sight News
ABUJA—The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), has warned Officers, Soldiers, Ratings, Airmen and Women of the Nigerian Armed Forces, not to fraternize with political parties and associations before, during and after the 2019 general elections that will hold on February 16, and March 2, 2019.
This was made known to newsmen by the acting Director Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier General John Agim during a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday.
Agim, stated that military personnel must remain neutral and exhibit exceptional professionalism before, during and after the upcoming elections and therefore, not expected to be seen wearing their military uniforms during the elections, except those on essential duties.
The Director quipped, that while it is pertinent that military personnel have the right to perform their civic duty to vote as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they must approach their polling units in mufti, devoid of any military accoutrement, adding that any military personnel who is not on essential duty that is found on military uniform on election day will be arrested and face the full wrath of military justice system.
The acting DDI, further re-affirmed the Armed Forces of Nigeria’s neutrality, impartiality and strict adherence to professional code of conduct before, during and after the general election, stating that it carries out its constitutional duties with zero tolerance to unprofessional conduct.
While fielding questions from newsmen, the Director re-assured the general public that on-going military exercises would continue, to ensure that all eligible citizens, irrespective of their religion or political inclinations, are given the opportunity to carry out their civic right to vote and be voted for in a peaceful environment devoid of violence and intimidation by criminal elements.
“The on-going Exercise EGWU EKE III (Exercise PYTHON DANCE III) and other similar exercises in various parts of the nation are not targeted at any particular set of people or groups nor is it aimed at manipulating the electoral process”, he added.
Agim, said that the exercises became necessary in view of threats from some unpatriotic individuals and dissident groups to stop people in some parts of the country from casting their votes on election days.
“Let the public be re-assured that no persons or group of persons have the right to deny or intimidate eligible voters from performing their constitutional obligations. Therefore, all efforts of the military are to assist other security agencies to ensure that no Nigerian is disenfranchised.
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to sound a note of warning to any person or group of persons that tries to constitute themselves into nuisance and disturb public peace on election days. Anyone found disrupting public peace will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land”, he remarked.
He disclosed, that all military Commanders have been tasked to ensure adequate security in their Areas of Responsibility, as they have also been further directed to ensure the adherence to code of conduct and rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties.
“These assigned tasks include arrest of anyone in military uniform who is not on essential duty on those days. Likewise, any civilian caught in military uniform will be treated as a terrorist. Already the military is inundated with the allegations of illegal importation of military equipment and uniforms into the country which is being investigated.
“We would like to caution that anyone caught, be they serving or retired military personnel, or civilians, no matter how highly placed, will be arrested and treated in accordance with the extant laws of the land.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria is prepared to support the civil authority in ensuring the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, by providing security support services when requested by appropriate civil authorities in line with our constitutional roles”, Agim said.
The acting DDI, called on the members of the public to report any suspicious person, movement or activities before, during and after the elections to security agencies for prompt actions.
The DDI was flanked by the Director of Army Public Relations, Director of Navy Information and Director of Public Relations, Nigerian Air Force.