The military high command is reportedly becoming disturbed by recent misgivings in public domain over the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Okanikoro’s alleged use of soldiers to disrupt a housing project in Ilubirin, Lagos State.
One of the military chiefs, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence at the weekend, expressed dismay at the minister’s actions, saying it would serve the interest of the Armed Forces if soldiers were not being dragged into partisan politics.
The highly placed military source, who spoke in a telephone interview on Saturday, flayed the use of soldiers by Obanikoro over what he described as purely a partisan issue.
He said: “The minister’s action is indecent and inconsistent with the regimented tradition of the military. There is no reason why some politicians would want to pocket the military in the name of politics.
“By tradition, the military is bound to restrict itself to the protection of the nation’s territorial integrity, so involving soldiers in this type of exercise tends to create the wrong impression that the military is being partisan, which must not be so”.
Defending his action, which drew the ire of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the minister stated among others:
“I made an unscheduled visit to the land on the fateful day in question to take a physical assessment of the land. Perhaps, the presence of the military men attached to my convoy is what was termed ‘commando-like’ by the Lagos State Government, but one would expect that the Governor should know better if his intentions are genuine.
“Governor Fashola has objected to getting an approval from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). He does not even want the consent of the Federal Ministry of Works.
“The location of his site breaks all the laws on setback requirements for highways and roads”, adding that “as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), I expect him to know that the construction is illegal.
“He needs to stop using the name of Alhaji Femi Okunnu to legalise his illegality. It only shows the recklessness and impunity that he governs with”.
Obanikoro was also quoted in the report to have said that the Lagos State government lacked all necessary documentation for the project, stressing that “efforts to make the government do the needful had consistently been rebuffed by state officials”.
But the military source reminded the minister of the existence of relevant Federal Government ministries and agencies, whose responsibility it is to handle such matters.
The minister’s action is coming on the heels of increased military operations against the activities of Boko Haram insurgents in the northeastern part of the country as well as bloody skirmishes in some states of the federation, which the Armed Forces are still battling with.
“We still believe that it is not too late for the minister to spare the military this distraction. It is unnecessary at this critical point in the life of the nation in general and the military in particular”, the source added.
Culled from THE NATION