The Nigerian Army has lambasted The Economist, a UK-based international newspaper, over allegations that soldiers are involved in the sale of weapons despite being beleaguered by the war against terrorism in the northern part of the country.
The army made its position known in a statement issued by Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations, on Saturday.
In its piece published on Saturday, The Economist described the Nigerian Army as only “strong on paper”.
According to the publication, the army had ghost workers on its payroll and often sold equipment to insurgents who destabilise the nation.
“When violence erupts, the government does nothing or crack heads almost indiscriminately. Nigeria’s Army is mighty on paper. But many of its soldiers are ‘ghosts’ who exist only on the payroll, and much of its equipment is stolen and sold to insurgents. The army is also stretched thin, having been deployed to all of Nigeria’s states,” the newspaper said.
It also criticised the Federal Government over its refusal to discipline soldiers and members of other security agencies in their involvement in quelling the #EndSARS protest of October 2020, especially the Lekki Toll Gate shooting.
“Soldiers and police who murder or torture should be prosecuted. That no one has been held accountable for the slaughter of perhaps 15 peaceful demonstrators against police abuses in Lagos last year is a scandal. The secret police should stop ignoring court orders to release people who are being held illegally. This would not just be morally right, but also practical: young men who see or experience state brutality are more likely to join extremist groups,” the article said.
But responding, the Army accused the newspaper of “concocting lies” and spewing “deliberate falsehood” in order to paint the military branch as a “dark” organisation.
The army insisted that it has remained a professional institution that has been instrumental to the restoration and maintenance of democracy in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region, adding that it would not be distracted from carrying out its constitutional duties.
The statement read: “Even as the real intention of the otherwise respected Economist magazine in publishing such toxic concoctions weaved up as report on Nigerian Government’s response to the multi-faceted security challenges assailing the country is yet to be unraveled, the source of the article is very clear.
“It is one of those deliberate falsehood and noxious narratives orchestrated by a network of detractors and coven of dark forces working very hard to adorn the Nigerian Army in an unfitting garb of infamy. The vile report which the Economist chose to offer its platform for publication, spared no effort in trying to vilify and rubbish the image, character and reputational standing of the Nigerian Army, but failed woefully.
“As a professional, hard-fighting and globally respected institution that has continued to occupy deserved glorious position in the comity of global defence forces, the Nigerian Army is certainly not what the so-called report by the Economist tried to characterize it. Even more ludicrous was the embellishments of the said report by the notorious unprofessional media outlets that were quick to republish the obvious falsehood.
“How is it imaginable that the Nigerian Army that has distinguished itself as a worthy contributor to global peace and security through regional, continental and international peace keeping and peace support operations would be characterized as “Mighty on paper”? How can the Nigerian Army that has restored democracies, brought peace to troubled lands and stabilized the sub-region through the dint of hard work, commitment to duty, discipline and professionalism be so denigrated?
“Is it the ‘ghost soldiers’ of the Nigerian Army that have weathered the storm of terrorism and insurgency of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province Terrorists (ISWAP) in the north eastern part of the country and parts of the Lake Chad region?”
The army added: “Is it not curious that an otherwise respected international magazine could so easily be sucked in by the antics of conflict merchants and agents provocateurs who are uncomfortable with the steadfastness, patriotism, unwavering commitment, sacrifice, ruggedness and resoluteness of the Nigerian Army in stamping out terrorism, banditry and other violent crimes assailing the country and the West African sub-region?
“How the Economist magazine failed to do simple due diligence on the said fabricated report is worth interrogating by those who are interested in distinguishing between rogue journalism and professional one.”