From Fred Itua, Abuja
A Civil society group, The Society for Good Governance, says contrary to the accusations against the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (Rtd) that he ran the Nigerian army like a “personal estate” while he was in charged as Chief of Army Staff, he incorporated accountability into the force, especially in the area of providing information on spending on military operations across the country.
The group in a press conference addressed by its Executive Director, Dr Gabriel Aser, in Abuja, said the “smear campaign” against Buratai was being sponsored by “unscrupulous elements” in an attempt to tarnish the image and excellent service record of the former army chief.
The Society for Good Governance pointed out that the Nigerian army recorded immense victory against insurgency and terrorism under Buratai’s watch, especially in the North East region where Boko Haram terrorist group controlled close to 16 local government areas prior to his appointment as Chief of Army Staff.
It said under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, all local government areas in North-East Nigeria hitherto under the control of the Boko Haram insurgent group were recaptured by the Nigerian Army.
The group also pointed out that under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratia, the Nigerian Army obliged a joint Freedom of Information request by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT requesting him to provide information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.
The text reads: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we welcome you all to this press conference convoked to put issues in proper perspectives with regards to the excellent service record of Ambassador Tukur Buratai while at the helms of affairs of the prestigious Nigerian Army.
It is common knowledge that before the appointment of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai as Chief of Army Staff in 2015, the country was experiencing an unprecedented level of insecurity, especially in North-East Nigeria, with the nefarious activities of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist group.
“We were all witnesses to the fact that the Boko Haram terrorist group controlled close to 16 local government areas in the North East region. The Nigerian military at the time seemed overwhelmed with the enormity of the security challenges that almost brought the country to its knees.
“We must also admit that at the time, nowhere in Nigeria was deemed safe, as evident in the numerous daring attacks on state infrastructures, public places and places of worship. This was also a period where the morale of the troops of the Nigerian military was at its lowest ebb, occasioned by a lack of proper motivation and fighting equipment.
“Thus it is instructive to mention that upon assumption of office as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai hit the ground running with strategies that paid off in record time. His passion and commitment to turning the tide against the Boko Haram terrorist group were outstanding, and it received a worldwide commendation.
“In less than a year, the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai gained ascendency over the Boko Haram insurgent group, where the Sambisa Forest, the then operational headquarters of the Boko Haram group, was captured by officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army.
“It is also on record that under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, all local government areas in North-East Nigeria hitherto under the control of the Boko Haram insurgent group were recaptured by the Nigerian Army with Lt. Gen.Tukur Buratai at the forefront of the onslaught against the terrorist and other criminal gangs in North-East Nigeria and other parts of the country.
“We wish to state that one of the pointers to the exemplary conduct of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was the conferment of the Brazilian Military Order of Merit Award, which is the highest military honour awarded to military officers that have distinguished themselves in various military endeavours. This is indeed amongst many other awards for exceptional acts of bravery in service to the country and humanity.
“The Society for Good Governance wishes to remind the generality of Nigerians that under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratia, the Nigerian Army obliged a joint Freedom of Information request by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT requesting him to provide information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.
“In response, the civil society groups indeed commended Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai’s transparency and accountability thus: “While we ascertain the compliance of the information provided, we welcome Mr Buratai’s demonstrated commitment to the Freedom of Information Act by responding to our request.”
It stated further that “the National Assembly, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ministries, agencies and departments should also learn from the good example shown by Mr Buratai by honouring and responding to FOI requests from Nigerians, NGOs and others if they are ever to contribute to the efforts to achieve a greater level of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.
“It is thus the considered opinion of the Society for Good Governance that the recent diatribe targeted at Ambassador Tukur Buratai (Lt. Gen Rtd) is the handiwork of some unscrupulous elements bent on tarnishing his hard-earned reputation and meritorious service records while he held sway as the Chief of Army Staff.
“We are constrained to add that this ignoble campaign is coming from those afraid of the recent calls by well-meaning Nigerians for Ambassador Tukur Buratai to contest the 2023 presidential elections.
“We indeed find it worrisome that such a despicable campaign of calumny can be targeted at a man who sacrificed a lot to return peace to North-East Nigeria. And also for a man under whose tenure the Nigerian Army experienced tremendous improvement in welfare and operational capacity to address the multitude of security challenges in the country.
This is also on the heels that under the tenure of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the contributions of the Nigerian Army to internal security operations were remarkable as it is on record that under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian Army displayed ingenuity by conducting several internal security operations alongside the prosecution of the war against terrorism in North-East Nigeria.
“It is thus a statement that Ambassador Tukur Buratai displayed an unalloyed level of transparency and accountability in his stewardship of the Nigerian Army. Any attempt to tarnish his reputation for political reasons would be resisted by concerned stakeholders in Nigeria.
“The Society for Good Governance believes that individuals such as Ambassador Tukur Buratai should be bestowed with national honours for exemplary leadership in service to the country. Those behind this ignoble smear campaign should have a rethink and retrace their steps.
“This is on the heels that since the call for him to participate in the 2023 presidential elections, it is on record that Ambassador Tukur Buratai has not made any statement or commitment in this regard.
“It, therefore, remains a figment of the imagination of those behind the smear campaign that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai ran the Nigerian Army as a personal estate. A word is indeed enough for the wise.
Thank you for your time and attention.”