The Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) wednesday said it would punish or dismiss soldiers found culpable in the alleged raped of some women in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the North-east where the military is fighting the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Director of Defence Information, Defence Headquarters, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, told THISDAY yesterday in Abuja that the military was not taking such alleged cases of rape lightly.
He explained the DHQ was ready to swing into action to deal decisively with any soldier involved in the ugly incident.
Abubakar said: “On soldiers arrested for raping IDPs; we have said that if there is any case of sexual harassment and abuse, it will definitely attract the attention of the DHQ. Our position is that such cases must be investigated and those officers involved must be thoroughly dealt with.
“Like what happened in Maiduguri, Borno State, three weeks ago, a serving senior non-commissioned officer assaulted a 10-year-old girl. He was given three years imprisonment in addition to his dismissal from the force. These are therefore offences that we do not tolerate.”
He added that “in the Rules of Engagement (RE), there are the dos and the don’ts which are spelt out. The don’ts are the molestation, sexual exploitation and other abuses.
“The DHQ has an internal administrative mechanism to deal with such cases. After investigations are concluded and the soldiers are found culpable, appropriate punishments including dismissal will be meted out,” the director maintained.
On the reports about the recent militarisation of the South-east and Operation Python Dance being targeted at the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOD), Abubakar stated: “We do not have to politicise the issue of security. Whatever the military does is with all sincerity and purpose. It is nationalistic and we do not conduct our operations targeting anybody or any group.
“For example, in the North-west, we did an operation, all these are operations as ways of trainings. The whole military job is about training and it is only when you trained that you become acquainted with your area of operation. The Navy also had Eagle Eye. They are aimed to train personnel to test their capabilities, strengths and others.
“In the course of training, there could be some identified security threatened areas and which definitely must attract the attention of the military, but that is an addendum to what we want to achieve.
“There is a need to come out with proactive measures that will checkmate the activities of kidnappers, robbers, herdsmen, farmers’ clash and others. This is what we are tryng to achieve in the region.
“People are just speculating that it is targeted at IPOB or any other group. The operation is an exercise, what we called Command Post Exercise. It is just an exercise. It is not to threaten or harass any one. The operations are an exercise which are command exercises. The insinuations are wrong. The esscence of the training is to remind officers what is expected of them.”
He further assured Nigerians that the Boko Haram sects are now restricted only within the Sambisa forest.
Abubakar observed that, “equally important is the free movement now of commercial vehicles. People can now do their businesses and without fear.
“The economic aspect of the area has also bounced back. However, we are always on the watch as terrorists are never tired. They have ways of disguising and carrying out isolated ambushes and attacks. We understand all their antics and their modus of operandi.
On the issue of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs0 planted on the roads to impede the movements of the troops is also under consideration and we have made progress on that. We have procured relevant platforms to contain that.
“By and large, the operations there have significantly reached a good level and we will soon eliminate all of them as we have restricted them to the enclave of Sambisa and if you have been following, this Christmas will witness the launching of the last batch of operations.
“There could be a connectivity. Where the Boko Haram are being disturbed, generally they have to seek a leeway by way of movement and find new places. So, the possibility cannot be ruled out.
“But what the military are saying is that their movement would be extremely hard. I do not see them progressing beyond the North East.”
On porous borders, Abubakar stressed that “geographically, there is no smoke without fire. Why I say so is that we have borders that are lacking in some certain levels of security presence. We have porous borders.
“We have smuggling in of small arms, medium arms, transborder crimes and so on. Armed robberies, profliglacy and others. All these accumulate from issues having do to with porous borders.
He also downplayed the decision of some western countries not to sell Nigeria arms to fight insurgency, stating that, “let us not paint a wrong scenario. The issue of fighting insurgency transcends beyond a country. Even the most developed countires enter alliances to defeat insurgency. We have seen this in Syria, Iraq where countries come together to fight ISIS and other groups.