By EZEKIEL OBI, Abuja –
The Nigerian Army has condemned an unprovoked attack on troops and patrol vehicles by protesters along Lafia-Makurdi road in Nasarawa State.
The Army spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement in Abuja dismissed as false, claims by the protesters that the troops convoy rammed into them.
Brig.-Gen. Nwachukwu said: “It is on record from available video footage and visual images of the protest, that troops conducted the crowd dispersal professionally by ensuring the safety of citizens and protecting public infrastructure.
“Suffice to state that the Nigerian Army recognises and respects the rights of citizens to express their grievances through peaceful protests.
“However, it is pertinent to emphasize that such protests must be conducted within the confines of the law, ensuring the safety and security of all parties involved.
“The resort to violence, destruction of public property, and assault on security personnel is unacceptable and goes against the principles of peaceful protest,” he said.
Nwachukwu said the protesters blocked the major highway, causing tortuous traffic gridlock to motorists and attacking troops’ patrol vehicles.
The protest was over the Court of Appeal judgment on the gubernatorial election in the state.
He said the Army Headquarters was concerned and disappointed that the same protesters who attacked patrol vehicles conveying troops on legitimate duty, have now turned around to spuriously accuse the troops to cover their actions.
Nwachukwu said the troops were deployed to maintain law and order, and ensure the safety of all citizens, including the protesters and public infrastructure.
He added that they were operating under strict rules of engagement with the primary objective of preventing further escalation of violence and maintaining peace.
The Army spokesman said by pelting stones at troops and attacking their patrol vehicles, the protesters endangered the lives of the army personnel through their violent action.
“The Nigerian Army urges all individuals and groups involved in protests to exercise restraint and engage in peaceful and constructive dialogue.
“Resorting to violence only exacerbates the situation and hampers progress towards resolving any grievances.
“We call on community and religious leaders as well as other stakeholders to play their part in promoting peace and harmony in their communities.”
He assured the public that the Nigerian Army would continue to remain apolitical and committed to the protection and safety of all citizens.