By Hannah Nathan, Warri
A recent demonstration that took place along Lafia-Makurdi Road in Nasarawa State resulted in what the Nigerian Army described as an unjustified attack on troops and patrol vehicles. The army has severely condemned this action.
According to reports, the demonstrators blocked the main thoroughfare in protest of the Court of Appeal’s decision over the state’s gubernatorial election.
The army released a statement under the signature of Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations, saying, “We express our utmost concern and disappointment at the actions of the protesters, who resorted to blocking the major highway, causing tortuous traffic gridlock to motorists and attacking troops’ patrol vehicles.
“Sadly, this same set of protesters who attacked patrol vehicles conveying troops on legitimate duty had turned around to spuriously allege that the troops’ convoy rammed into the protesters.
“It is on record from available video footage and visual images of the protest that troops conducted the crowd dispersal professionally by ensuring the safety of citizens and protecting public infrastructure. Suffice it to state that the Nigerian Army recognises and respects the rights of citizens to express their grievances through peaceful protests. However, it is pertinent to emphasise that such protests must be conducted within the confines of the law, ensuring the safety and security of all parties involved.
“The resort to violence, destruction of public property, and assault on security personnel is unacceptable and goes against the principles of peaceful protest.
“Our troops were deployed to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of all citizens, including the protesters and public infrastructure.
“They were operating under strict rules of engagement with the primary objective of preventing further escalation of violence and maintaining peace.
“The action of the protesters in pelting stones at troops and attacking patrol vehicles not only endangered the lives of our personnel but also undermined the peaceful nature of the protest.”
All persons and organizations participating in protests were advised by the Army to show restraint and have productive, nonviolent communication.
The Nigerian Army issued a warning, stating that using force would only make matters worse and impede efforts to settle disputes.
“We call on community and religious leaders, as well as other stakeholders, to play their part in promoting peace and harmony in their communities.”