The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Mechanized Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade, yesterday maintained that the army acted in accordance with the rules of engagement during the recent clash with members of the Shi’ite sect in Zaria.
The GOC, who received members of a Civil Society Organisation, the Human Rights Non-Violent Initiative, on a solidarity visit, said the army tried its possible best to avert the clash but was spurned by the Shi’ites.
“We took actions according to the rules of engagement as soldiers were being attacked by the militant wing of the sect known as the Hurra’s. We know what it means to preserve life because the life of a human being is sacrosanct, but we have paid the supreme price to secure this country.
“My soldier was killed in the attack and many others were injured and are presently receiving treatment in hospital. During the cordon and search operation carried out in the residence of El-Zakzaky and two other strongholds of the Shiites, we tried to get in touch with Zakzaky to stop his members from attacking us, but some people who answered my call refused to let us talk to him”, he said.
Major General Oyebade noted that after the cordon and search operation, residents of Zaria came out in their hundreds in support and praying for the army, which they said had rescued them from bondage they had been in for many years.
He, therefore, called on Nigerians who are critical of the army’s role in the clash, to visit Zaria and find out the truth about the incident.
Earlier, the president of the initiative, Muhammad Idris, had commended the army on its role in the clash, saying the military was the only remaining tool to defend democracy, peace and unity of the country.
“I, as an indigene of Borno State from the town of Maidiguri, can say that the change we have seen in our area with the coming of the present administration is more than 100 per cent and the Nigerian Army deserves a diamond medal
“What happened in Zaria is a proven testimony that the military has the adequate intelligence and more information about happenings in the country.
“We support the military authorities on any action they decide to take against any other group aiming to bridge the peace and unity in the country.
“Before Lieutenant General Tukur Buruti came, Boko Haram were everywhere, if you are a father, you would be afraid for your daughter, a husband would see his wife being taken away by members of the Boko Haram but could not stop them for fear for his life, but with the coming of the present administration, Boko Haram is gradually becoming a thing of the past and are winning the war against terrorism”, he said.
Idris said his group would ensure that it gives the general public adequate awareness on the issue with a view to correcting misconceptions about the army.