*Commends Military for keeping nation together at Army Day Celebration
“We have seen an unprecedented ramping up of the deployment of military personnel – multi-agency intervention squads like Operation Whirlstroke, the training and deployment of Special Forces, new Forward Operating Bases, and so on – to the flashpoints, in the last eighteen months.”
“Several bandits’ hideouts and camps have been destroyed, and hundreds of arrests have been made, and it is now up to our judicial systems to ensure that justice is meted out not just comprehensively but also in a timely manner.” – Osinbajo
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, ON THE OCCASION OF THE NIGERIAN ARMY DAY CELEBRATION 2019, ON THE 6TH OF JULY, 2019.
I am delighted to be in your midst today on this special occasion of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration 2019, an annual event that affords the Nigerian Army an opportunity to showcase its rich history, values and achievements; and to demonstrate its commitment to being a professionally responsive force in the discharge of its constitutional roles.
This year’s theme, I am told, is ‘Professionally Responsive Soldiering: A Panacea for successful Military Operations.’
A year ago, I joined you in the town of Monguno in Borno State, for the military equipment exhibition event held as part of the 2018 celebrations. There is, I must say, a reassuring feeling that comes from knowing that, year in year out, the Nigerian Army will always be here, growing from strength to strength, and fulfilling its primary responsibility of securing the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This has been true for the last 156 years, and I am confident it will remain true for the next 156 and beyond.
I am told that this year’s celebration, taking place here in Lagos, is holding simultaneously with the Combat Support Arms Training Week, which provides the combat support arms of the Nigerian Army with a platform to re-appraise their performance.
It is gratifying that this year’s celebration has again provided the Nigerian Army with another opportunity to celebrate and honour deserving personnel who excelled in the fight against insurgents and other criminal elements.
Let me use this opportunity to reiterate our absolute determination to achieve success in our fight against insurgency and other forms of criminality in the country.
You, the members of the Nigerian Armed Forces, have continued to put in your best on behalf of our country; several of your colleagues have indeed paid the supreme price in order to keep us safe and secure. We acknowledge and appreciate these sacrifices, and pray for the repose of the souls of the deceased. Our hearts are with their families and loved ones.
It is our responsibility as Government and as political leaders to ensure that they did not die in vain. We have a duty to continue to make available to you, our Armed Forces, all the moral and material support that you require.
Let me again assure you, on behalf of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic, that we will faithfully discharge all our obligations to you.
We also must and will continue to demonstrate the political will and determination towards ensuring that our land is rid of insurgency and that criminality is kept to the barest minimum.
During the first term of the Buhari administration, we worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for a Nigeria that works for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or partisan affiliation. Our priorities were – and remain – Security, the Economy and the fight against Corruption.
The challenges we faced were grave, but we faced the task resolutely. We rolled back the footprints of Boko Haram; where once they controlled 17 local government areas in Northeast Nigeria in early 2015, today they control no Nigerian territory. Independent observers have reported a drastic decline in the fatalities caused by Boko Haram, and the various factions of the group that exist today are no more than shadows of what existed when we came to office.
We are surrounded by evidence of the progress we have made in the fight against the insurgency. As you all know, Monguno, where you held the Military Equipment Exhibition and Mini Trade Fair last year, was once a stronghold of Boko Haram. Sambisa Forest, once the spiritual heartland of the insurgents, hosted the 2017 Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship.
More than a hundred of our Chibok girls, abducted in April 2014, have been rescued and reunited with their families, in addition to the Dapchi girls, and tens of thousands of other Boko Haram hostages and victims freed across the northeast
Let me use this opportunity to reassure the affected families and friends that the Buhari administration will not relent in our efforts to see that all the remaining girls, including Leah Sharibu, are freed and reunited with their families.
But even as we have seen a curtailing of the threat represented by Boko Haram, we have seen other threats emerging. Islamic State West Africa ISWAP and other in the Lake Chad islands and parts of Southern Borno. Radical Islamist Terrorism is an evil that must be seen as the common enemy of all faiths, including Islam.
As the President said and I paraphrase, “anyone who says Allahu Akbar and goes on to kill is either insane or dangerously ignorant of the tenets of Islam.” The likes of Boko Haram, ISIS, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and many Salafist-Jihadist ideologies are expansionist ideologies that feed purely on hate, hatred of any person or group that does not belong to their particular sect. They have no redressible grievances so there are no terms of reference for peace. Fanatics committed to a twisted creed. They exploit the ignorance of the tenets of Islam, poverty and exclusion, recruit men and women and use children to perpetuate the most heinous atrocities.
They are motivated by a satanic desire to control communities by murder and terror. Whether it is in Iraq, Borno or Syria their victims are men, women and children, Muslim or Christians so long as they do not share their sick ideology, they target churches, mosques markets and motor parks where people gather, using children as human bombs to kill randomly, regardless of tribe or faith.
The challenge for us is to recognize this extremism for what it is. To form alliances across faiths and ethnicities to destroy an evil that confronts us all. Fulani herder and farmer conflicts, random killings banditry and kidnapping some attributed to Fulani bandits, in different parts of the country are extant challenges that the army has had to intervene in on several occasions.
I want to reassure all Nigerians that these issues are being seriously tackled by the Federal Government, working with the States, through a multi-pronged approach. Nobody will be allowed to maim, kill or commit other crimes and escape. It is our duty to apprehend and punish these criminals and we are doing and will continue to do so.
You will be hearing a lot more about these solutions in the weeks and months ahead. Law enforcement is, of course, an important element of the response. We have seen an unprecedented ramping up of the deployment of military personnel – multi-agency intervention squads like Operation Whirlstroke, the training and deployment of Special Forces, new Forward Operating Bases, and so on – to the flashpoints, in the last eighteen months.
Several bandits’ hideouts and camps have been destroyed, and hundreds of arrests have been made, and it is now up to our judicial systems to ensure that justice is meted out not just comprehensively but also in a timely manner.
The Nigerian Army through the years has exemplified the ideals of a united country regardless of ethnicity or religion. You have fought side by side with your brothers and sisters of different faiths and ethnicities and you have seen many fall by your side as they paid the supreme sacrifice in battle.
Enemy fire does not distinguish one tribe from the other, nor does it distinguish one faith from another, the blood of so many and the abounding grace of God has kept this nation together. This is why we must never let the self-serving ethnic and religious jingoists, whoever they may be, create the circumstances for strife and bloodshed.
This is also an opportunity to remind all Nigerians of the need to live in peace with one another; the importance of choosing unity and tolerance over the impulse to be sectional, vengeful or violent in any way.
In this second term, the primary focus of the Buhari administration is to build on the foundation we have laid over the last four years, and correct the lapses observed. One of the priorities of the Next Level is the welfare of serving and retired personnel. You have already seen demonstrations of our commitment in this regard, in recent years. We will not relent.
On this unique day of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration, let me again join millions of Nigerians to thank our Armed Forces, Police and other law enforcement agencies, all working diligently to protect us, at great cost to personal comfort and survival.
We must commend and congratulate the Chief of Army Staff for his dedication, patriotism, loyalty and doggedness in leading the Nigerian Army in the fight against terrorism and other security challenges.
To today’s award recipients, let me make it clear that you are our heroes, and we are very proud of you. I congratulate you all on the honour coming your way today, in recognition of your selfless and exceptional contributions to the successes recorded by the Nigerian Army in the last 12 months. To the awardees in the ranks of veterans of the Second World War, the veterans of the civil war and members of the Nigerian Legion, our nation remains indebted to you for your service, congratulations.
To our gallant serving men and women of the army, I implore you all to continue to discharge your duties according to existing Rules of Engagement and in line with constitutional provisions.
But perhaps the most impressive feature of today’s celebrations is the demonstration of our local capacity to manufacture armoured vehicles.
We have seen the what DiCON in collaboration with Command Engineering Depot of the Nigerian Army has done with the manufacture of infantry patrol vehicles, tactical patrol vehicles, sophisticated mine clearance systems and other equipment of warfare.
Proforce, a local vehicle company has also displayed its Mine resistant anti-ambush protected vehicles, these are designed 100% at Proforce, in collaboration with the Nigerian army.
Already some African countries have purchased armoured vehicles from this company. Nigeria, will in another decade, manufacture most of its military hardware.
Once again, I congratulate you all on witnessing yet another Nigerian Army Day Celebration. God bless you all.
Long live the Nigerian Army.
Long Live the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity
Office of the Vice President