Source: PM News Nigeria
The Nigerian Army has disagreed with Bello Haliru Mohammed, the Minister of Defence over whose authority the controversial deployment of soldiers to Lagos was done.
While the minister of Defence told journalists last Tuesday that the military personnel were deployed by Federal Government to Lagos to safeguard lives and property in view of recently called off national strike, Colonel Mohammed Yerima told journalists in Abuja today that the soldiers were requested for and being sponsored by the Lagos State Government.
The Army spokesperson stated this in a four paragraph statement he read to journalists at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday. He noted that the soldiers were drawn from the same Operation Messa, a security arrangement of Lagos State government made up of police and military personnel.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to the unsubstantiated claims by a section of the public alleging that the Federal Government ordered the deployment of troops in Lagos to halt the protest against the fuel subsidy removal.
“While the Defence Headquarters do not wish to join issues with any individual or groups regarding the matter, we wish to state categorically, in the interest of the larger society, that there is no element of truth in those claims.
“The soldiers seen on the streets of Lagos are still the same men of the special task force code named Operation MESA set up and sponsored by the Lagos State government long before the fuel subsidy protests, for the purpose of supporting the civil police in protecting lives and property as is the case in many parts of the country.
“The men of the task force who are currently in Lagos have been there and were not brought from outside Lagos. They are members of the Lagos State Government sponsored Operation MESA and the demand for their withdrawal is therefore uncalled for”, he concluded.
But the Defence minister had said on Tuesday that Federal Government deployed the troops in response to security reports detailing plans by some unnamed persons and groups to hide under the protests “to cause anarchy and security breach”, adding that the magnitude of the havoc envisaged by the groups was akin to the upheaval currently going on in Syria and other Arab countries and that the Federal Government has the constitutional responsibility to forestall such actions.
“The deployment of soldiers was meant to forestall anarchy so government stepped in to control the situation so that people with the wrong motives can be put in check. The soldiers will be withdrawn as soon as normalcy returns to the streets of Lagos and other parts of the country where soldiers are on such duties.
“Let me emphasise that under no circumstances will government stand aloof while some misguided elements unleash violence on the Nigeria society. The administration is committed to promoting the greatest good for the greatest number of Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation”, he added.