The Nigerian Army spokesperson, Col. Mohammed Yerima has broken his silence over the heavy presence of military men on Lagos streets, saying it was requested and actively sponsored by the Lagos state government.
Although, the minister of Defence, Bello Haliru Mohammed, told newsmen on Tuesday that the military personnel were deployed by Federal Government to Lagos to safeguard lives and property in view of recently protests and national strike.
Yerima stated this in a four paragraph statement he read to journalists at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday. He noted that the soldiers were drawn from the same Operation MESSA, a security arrangement of Lagos State government made up of police and military personnel.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to the unsubstantiated claims by a section of the public alleging that the Federal Government ordered the deployment of troops in Lagos to halt the protest against the fuel subsidy removal.
“While the Defence Headquarters do not wish to join issues with any individual or groups regarding the matter, we wish to state categorically, in the interest of the larger society, that there is no element of truth in those claims.
“The soldiers seen on the streets of Lagos are still the same men of the special task force code named Operation MESSA set up and sponsored by the Lagos State government long before the fuel subsidy protests, for the purpose of supporting the civil police in protecting lives and property as is the case in many parts of the country.
“The men of the task force who are currently in Lagos have been there and were not brought from outside Lagos. They are members of the Lagos State Government sponsored Operation MESA and the demand for their withdrawal is therefore uncalled for”, he concluded.
But in a swift reaction, the Honourable Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba, said the claim by the Nigerian Army was a blatant lie and there was no iota of truth.
He enjoined Nigerian Army to show the entire populace the proof that the Lagos State Government has a hand in the mass deployment of soldiers.
Ibirogba said the state government has nothing to gain in victimising its citizens, because they have constitutional right to protest without destruction of lives and properties, which was not obtainable during the 6-day industrial action in the state.