The Nigerian Army has denied allegations that it is promoting criminality in Abia state and involved in the release of kidnap suspects in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of the state.
This is as the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, tagged the allegations as false.
A member representing Isuikwuato state constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Barrister Emeka Okoroafor had alleged that the Nigerian military especially is playing in the rising cases of insecurity especially kidnapping in the LGA.
The State Assembly member specifically alleged that when security agents arrested suspected kidnappers of Abia State University (ABSU) lecturers, a certain call came from a high military formation ordering the release of the arrested suspects despite strong evidence linking them with the said crime.
But, the Army in a statement on Tuesday signed by its spokesperson, Brigadier-General Onyeama Nwachukwu, dismissed the allegations as false, adding that the Nigerian Army is not abetting criminality in the state.
The statement read in part, “Much as we do not want to join issues with the insinuators, it is crucial to set the record straight. If truly the claims in the said report emanated from the lawmaker, then we must state without mincing words that they are not only unfounded but a travesty of facts and reality. The claim is completely devoid of truth. It is most unfair for anyone at that height of the social ladder to sponsor a smear campaign against the Nigerian Army for whatever reason; particularly knowing that he has access to the leadership of the military.
“Contrary to the narrative being peddled in the said report, it took the gallantry of our men on patrol to rescue the victims of the said kidnap incident before handing them over to the police. How then could the same Army that was instrumental to the rescue of the victims, turn around to order the release of the suspects. Evidently, this is illogical and a blatant lie.
“The Nigerian Army therefore, wishes to state that the misguided report is actually an abysmally failed attempt at blackmailing the NA for denying unscrupulous elements the freedom of action to foist lawlessness and violence on the good people and government of Abia state.
“The honourable lawmaker should have abinitio, sought clarifications from the Army before resorting to media trial.
“We therefore appeal to members of the public to approach the Army on any issue requiring clarification rather than resorting to blackmail.
“The Nigeria Army is firmly committed to the fight against banditry and criminality in the country. Nigerians, including residents of Abia state are assured of their security as we relentlessly continue to discharge our constitutional responsibilities.”
‘Hunt for kidnap victims ongoing’
In the same vein, Ihejirika who is from Isuikwuato LGA i that he was briefed by the Nigerian Army authorities of the true situation of things.
According to him, the lawmaker released the false story, adding that the Commanding Officer of 143 Battalion, the Brigade Commander 14 Brigade Ohafia, the Police Area Commander and some of the victims that were rescued are within reach.
“It is sad that this falsehood is circulating while the Army along with the Police and other security agencies are busy going after the bandits/kidnappers that struck a few days ago,” he said.
The former Army boss said he expected the chairman of the LGA and other officials to enlighten members of the public on the security situation in their domain.
Also, a military source who also denied the allegations has said the hunt for the kidnap suspects is ongoing.
He informed that the kidnap incident occurred on 19 Aug 21 at about 1725hrs.
He said, “I received information, I dispatched my team from ABSU that swiftly moved to the scene, pursued them through the hour of darkness and rescued some women while kidnappers escaped with some victims. I called Area Commander but could not reach him, however, I called Hon Chima, the Chairman, Isuikwato LGC who was able to reach Area Commander and informed him of the incident.
“He led his team to the scene, took over rescued victims, vehicles and moved them to Uturu police station. On 20 August, at about 0600hrs, I organized joint search and rescue operations in conjunction with police and vigilantes that combed forest from Nkwanta ABSU general area but no contact was made.
‘On 21 August at about 0400hrs, my Platoon team rescued one Mr Afunike Christian, ABSU Lecturer from Umuobiala village, who gave me details on the movement and likely location of the kidnappers around Lekpokwu/ Lokpanta forest. He said kidnappers are composed of Fulanis, Igbos and a Calabar man. I mobilized my men and led the search and rescue operations in conjunction with Area Comd team and Lekpokwu community vigilante where we combed the forest but there was no contact.
“I suspected that they knew their position was given out and could have changed direction. It is pertinent to inform you sir, that the search continues while I made arrangements with Lekpokwu and Uturu vigilante to assist in the searching of their forest. The information contained in the report is baseless and calculate plan to tarnish good work the unit is doing and the image of Nigerian Army as a whole, “ he said.