Group decries plot to blackmail Buratai, other former service chiefs

The Nigeria First movement says a grand plot is underway to blackmail the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd) and other recently retired service chiefs.

According to the group, a well-orchestrated campaign of calumny is already in motion with a report aimed to denigrate their personalities and incredible track record while in service to the country.

Nigeria First made the revelation at a press conference on Friday in Abuja.

In his address, Secretary-General, Comrade Richard Adie Augustine said it is alarmed that such a plot could be hatched despite the tremendous sacrifices of the former service chiefs in addressing the country’s security challenges.

The group rubbished reports which claimed allowances of soldiers and officers under the Manual of Financial Administration for the Armed Forces of Nigeria 2017 (MAFA) had not been paid since 2017.

Augustine noted that Buratai, in particular, not only responded to a Freedom of Information request by a coalition of civil society organizations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT, requesting information on spending on military operations across the country but received credit from the groups.

Nigeria First, therefore, concluded that this is indeed the height of mischief that all well-meaning citizens must resist as it is tantamount to insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians.

Describing the former COAS as an “incorruptible Nigerian”, Comrade Augustine added that he and others should be regarded as heroes of our democracy for their efforts at entrenching transparency and accountability while in office.

The group, however, urged Nigerians to disregard these recent attacks for lacking in merit and yet again another puerile attempt at giving them a bad name in envy of their track records while in service.

Read the full statement below:

The Leadership of Nigeria First welcomes you all to the important press conference put together in light of the recent campaign of calumny launched by some despicable elements bent on dragging the immediate past service chiefs into a disjointed narrative all in a bid to malign their character and rubbish the numerous successes recorded by the Nigerian Military during their tenures.

Nigeria First is alarmed that such a campaign could be hatched given the tremendous sacrifices of the immediate past service chiefs in addressing the security challenges in the country during their tenures.

This, in our considered opinion, is a sad tale in the sense that it is capable of setting a dangerous precedent where those that sacrificed and devoted their time and energy in service to Nigeria would be rubbished by some disgruntled elements all in a bid to score cheap political points at the detriment of national development.

While we are not surprised by this despicable campaign, Nigeria First, as an organization devoted to promoting the ideals of good governance and the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria, is duty-bound to lend its voice by outright condemning this anomaly in the collective interest of the country.

It also suffices to add that under the immediate past service chiefs, the welfare of troops took a front burner through improved remuneration and a general improvement of the living conditions of officers and soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Nigeria First wishes to state that the report indicating that allowances of soldiers and officers under the Manual of Financial Administration for the Armed Forces of Nigeria 2017 (MAFA) had not been paid since 2017 remains a figment of the imagination of the propagators of the campaign as under no circumstances could such happen given the transparent way and manner the finances of the Nigerian Army was administered during the tenure of the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai ( Rtd).

Nigeria First consequently wonders how allowances of soldiers and officers would be left unpaid over five years, and t would go undetected given the periodic scrutiny of the expenditure of the Nigerian Army in the prosecution of the war against terrorism and other acts of criminalities across the country.

It is thus becoming evident that the promoters of the campaign of calumny did not do their homework well to realize that under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian Army indeed responded to a Freedom of Information request by a coalition of civil society organizations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT, requesting for information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.

We wish to state that not only was the request honoured, but the coalition of civil society groups also went further to commend the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, wherein it stated that “while we ascertain the level of compliance of the information provided, we welcome Mr Buratai’s demonstrated commitment to the Freedom of Information Act by responding to our request.”

Accordingly, the coalition of civil society groups went further to state that “a quick look at the documentation shows a list of several projects implemented by the Nigerian Army. Among those listed and displayed, which appeared to show certain projects the Nigerian Army said it carried out with budgeted funds, include: places where operations were carried out; renovation of barracks and military hospitals, spending to honour late soldiers; training and workshops; repairs of some old military equipment; and completion of offices and housing projects. Others are feeding of soldiers; building of new barracks and schools; acquisition of arms and ammunition and vehicles for military operations; as well as provision of welfare for soldiers.”

It is thus baffling what the promoters of the recent campaign to malign the personalities of the former service chiefs stand to benefit when the records are there for all and sundry to peruse at any given time. Nigeria First wishes to state that this is indeed the height of mischief that all well-meaning Nigerians must resist as it is tantamount to insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians.

It is also a statement that the performance of the former service chiefs while in office remains outstanding. It would be in the best interest of the promoters of the recent campaign of calumny to desist forthwith and instead accord the former service chiefs the respect they deserve for their numerous sacrifices while in office.

Nigeria First, as an organization wishes to put it on record that the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai ought to be regarded as one of the heroes of our democracy in Nigeria for his efforts at entrenching transparency and accountability while in office.

Nigeria First as a critical stakeholder in Nigeria wishes to use this medium to inform members of the general public to disregard the recent attack launched against the former service chiefs as it is dead on arrival for lacking in merit and yet, again another puerile attempt at giving them a bad name in envy of their track records while in service.

Nigeria First, as an organization, reckons with the fact that the former Chief of Army Stagg, Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai, remains an incorruptible Nigerian who would never deny anyone his rights and privileges as well as earned entitlements.

We stand by this position and wish to advise those bent on castigating him to desist from such uncharitable endeavours as a matter of urgency and necessity. This despicable campaign of calumny must stop.

We thank you all for your time and attention, and God bless.

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