…Army denies colluding with herdsmen
…President plans to meet with media chiefs
By Ayo Fadimu
Two different anti-government statements by two influential men against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari are causing tension in the presidency, Nigerian NewsDirect has learnt.
Gates, who was a special guest at the expanded national economic council presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday, said the execution process of the economic and recovery growth plan (ERGP) of President Muhammadu Buhari did not reflect the needs of Nigerians.
The ERGP is a medium-term document launched by the Buhari administration in 2017 to restore the nation’s economic status after it was hit by its worst recession in 29 years.
Gates who spoke on the theme, “Human Capital Investment in Supporting Pro-poor and Economic Growth Agenda”, said;
“The Nigerian government’s economic recovery and growth plan identifies investing in our people as one of three strategic objectives. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital.
“To anchor the economy over the long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people.
“People without roads, ports, and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”
He said if the government did not invest in people’s health, education and opportunities, there would be a sharp limit to how the country could grow.
On health, he said Nigeria “is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.
The two days later, a former Defence Minister, Theophilus Danjuma, accused the Nigerian armed forces of aiding the ongoing killings in Nigeria, especially the deadly attacks in Taraba, his home State.
“The armed forces are not neutral,” Danjuma said at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University in Jalingo, the state capital, on Saturday afternoon. “They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians.”
Danjuma, a retired lieutenant-general and civil war veteran, called Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves against ongoing attacks that have left hundreds of people dead within the last few months.
“If you wait for the armed forces to stop the killing, you all die one-by-one,” Danjuma retorted, adding that people must resist the killings.
“The ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State and other parts of Nigeria’ otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s place. I urge all of you to be on the alert and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state,” he said.
Somalia has remained plagued by wars since 1999. Analysts widely consider the country a failed state. “You have nowhere else to go,” Danjuma added.
Danjuma was the chief of army staff from 1975 to 1979. He was the Minister of Defence from 1999-2003. He was also a key player in the 1966 counter coup, and fought in Nigeria’s civil war that ended in 1970.
Both John Agim and Texas Chukwu, Spokesmen of Defence headquarters and Nigerian Army respectively denied the allegation levelled by Danjuma.
Agim said “General Danjuma is someone we all hold in highest esteem because he served the military with impeccable record,” Agim said “But we reject the allegation completely.”
According to him, “the military as an institution will never sanction attacks on the civilians and we respectfully disagree with General Danjuma.”
He added, “The Nigerian military as a professional organisation will mete out the strongest punishment to any officer caught to have colluded with attackers,”
On his part, the Nigerian Army which described the speech by Danjuma as “unfortunate” said operation Ex Ayem Akpatuma was authorised and troops deployed to curb menace of the herdsmen-farmers conflict and other criminal activities in the North Central Region among others.
Chukwu, a Brigadier General alleged that since the inception of Ex Ayem Akpatuma, the Taraba State Government, did not cooperate with the Nigerian Army due to the Army’s stance to remain absolutely neutral in the herdsmen-farmers crisis, he vowed that the Nigerian Army would continue to remain as such.
He assured that army would continue to protect all law abiding Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, religious and political affiliation.
However, Nigerian NewsDirect gathered that the Presidency was jolted by the damning statements from the two eminent personalities within the spate of 48 hours. While Gates statement was made in the seat of power, Danjuma’s speech was beamed live on AIT and livestream worldwide, the two recorded wide media coverage.
Sources close to the Presidency informed Nigerian NewsDirect that the President was planning to personally reach out to many powerful and influential Nigerians as he plans to form his re-election campaign team very soon.
“The President has won and lost elections in the past, he knows the implications of unfavourable media coverage and will likely meet personally with media chiefs to tell them the achievements of his government and also how the government is tackling the menace of marauding Fulani herdsmen.
Efforts to get reaction of the Spokesman of the President, Femi Adesina proved abortive as text messages sent to his phone were not responded to until press time.