The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, says the need to confront criminal elements with superior fire power informed the continuous involvement of troops in internal security operations.
Buratai gave the explanation while presenting a paper: “Civil-military Relations: A New Paradigm of Military Engagement in Nigeria.”
The army chief spoke on Tuesday in Abuja at a two-day Capacity Building/Retreat by House of Representatives Committee on Defence in Abuja.
It was organised by the committee in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre and Centre for Strategic Research and Studies of the National Defence College.
Represented by Major General Usman Mohmammed, the Chief of Civil Military Affairs, Buratai said the army continued to conduct internal operations in response to threats to peace and security.
He said the army was performing a secondary responsibility, adding that the police, supported by Department of State Services was suppose to be the lead agency on internal security.
According to him, the reasons for army’s continuous involvement include the perceived challenges associated with the police, which possess limited firepower, comparable to those of criminals.
Buratai added: “Secondly, the aforementioned reason has further led to loss of confidence in the police to decisively restore law and order, especially during insurgency and banditry activities, hence the concerted calls for the involvement of the military in internal security operations.
“Thirdly, the imperative to be proactive in order to save lives and property has compelled the military to become more involved in internal security operations and avoid further degeneration of crises situations.
“Lastly, the changing nature of conflicts from inter-state to intra-state as well as the fact that military is part of the community and participating in internal security operations is a secondary role.”
Buratai said the insurgency in the North East and banditry in the North West were the most potent threats to security of the country at the moment.
Those threats, he said, though internal, had necessitated a substantial deployment of the military to quell them.
According to him, the attendant effects of these threats include humanitarian crises, displacement leading to influx of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, large number of fatalities, food shortages and inadequate medicare among others.
“These crises have inadvertently stretched the capacity of the Nigerian Army in terms of adequate manpower to decisively support the lead agencies on internal security to deal with these threats,” he said.
The army chief said the primary responsibilities of the military, according to the constitution, were to defend Nigeria from external aggression, maintain its territorial integrity and secure its borders from violation.
He explained that the need for Civil Military Relations was further strengthened by the continuous involvement of the army in internal operations vis-a-vis other humanitarian services.
According to him, the army, having been involved in statecraft and political control of the country for over 30 years, has also faced great challenges as regards professionalism.
He said: “The participation of military in governance resulted in wrong perception of the military as members of the armed forces were viewed by the civil populace with lots of suspicion and disdain even after a democratically elected government came into power in 1999.
“Therefore, the need to build trust, confidence and erase the negative perception of the military necessitated the establishment of a directorate which later transformed into the department of Civil Military Affairs.
“This is in line with international standard and best practices vis-a-vis the Nigerian Army effort aimed at correcting the mistakes of the past as well as bridging the existing gaps with the civil populace in order to foster a peaceful co-existence.”