Molly Kilete, Abuja

The Nigerian Army has expressed dismay over comments made by the Borno State Governor, Mohammed Zulum, accusing soldiers of extortion.

The Army says the allegation coming from the Governor could be counterproductive and capable of reversing the gains recorded so far in the ongoing fight against insurgents and other criminal elements across the country.

It, however, promised to investigate the claims and punish anyone found culpable in the reported extortion.

Zulum, who was travelling along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road Monday, had stopped and accused soldiers deployed on that route for taking advantage of the insurgency operations and extorting commuters who do not have national identity cards or any form of identification, and causing them unnecessary hardship.

The Governor, who was visibly angry over the incident, condemned the act.

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The Media Coordinator in charge of army operations, Colonel Aminu Illyasu, who made this known in a statement, said:

“The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to an online publication some social media platforms. In the said publication, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum was alleged to have accused soldiers of Operation LAFIYA DOLE deployed along Maiduguri – Damaturu Road of extorting commuters and causing them unnecessary hardship.

“The Nigerian Army as a professional and disciplined institution views such allegations seriously, particularly coming from a State Executive. It is on record that, whenever such allegations of troops’ misconduct were made in the past, the Nigerian Army never reneged in conducting thorough investigations to establish them and where any infractions were established against any personnel, appropriate sanctions were applied in line with extant rules and regulations as provided for in the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

“Thus, the Nigerian Army wishes to assure the good people of Borno State and indeed the nation at large that any allegations of misconduct by Nigerian Army troops will be duly investigated and culprits will be dealt with accordingly. However, it is important to unequivocally observe that public outburst, particularly by eminent personalities such as a State Executive, could be counterproductive and indeed capable of reversing the gains recorded so far in the ongoing fight against insurgents and other criminal elements across the nation.

“The Nigerian Army wishes to emphatically reiterate its steadfastness on the protection of lives, properties of all law-abiding citizens as it is committed to wiping out insurgency in the North East and other forms of criminality across the country. Additionally, citizens’ continuous support and cooperation are highly appreciated. Any observed misconduct by troops could be reported directly through a toll – free code 193 for immediate remedy.”