Lagos, Federal Government on collision course over military deployment

President Goodluck Jonathan

The Lagos State government has accused the federal government of lying about the request for military deployment in Lagos state.

The Military authorities had yesterday said that, contrary to popular opinion, the order to deploy troops in Lagos had come from the state government.

However, Premium Times has obtained an exclusive copy of a letter written by the state governor, Babatunde Fashola, which strongly compels president JOnatgan to rescind his order to deploy trrops to Lagos. The Lagos state government further issued a statement today which accused the military authorities of spreading “false” and “misleading” information concerning military deployment.

The emergence of both the letter and statement contradict claims by the Defence Headquarters that it was Governor Fashola who requested and funded the deployment of the soldiers.

A strongly worded statement, signed by the state commissioner of information, Abdul-Lateef Ibirogba, further accuses the military of resorting to “spurious and bogus claims aimed at deceiving the people.”

The statement was released as  a direct response to comments made on Thursday by Mohammed Yerima, a Defence Headquarters spokesperson, who said the “soldiers seen on the streets of Lagos are still the same men of the special task force code named Operation MESA set up and sponsored by the Lagos State government.”

Mr. Ibirogba said Operation MESA has been a “long standing arrangement since the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo.” He further added that the primary brief of MESA soldiers was to aid Police work and not to occupy the streets.

In a further twist, the Defence Minister, Bello Mohammed, had on Thursday claimed that it was indeed the Federal Government who had made the order. Mr. Mohammed said that the order was in response to security reports detailing plans by some unnamed persons and groups to hide under the protests “to cause anarchy and security breach.

 

The letter

Mr. Mohammed’s statement corroborates Mr. Fashola’s stance which had led to the governor sending a letter directly to the President. In his letter, the governor makes it clear in no uncertain terms that he is unhappy with the military occupation in the state and asks the President, several times, to order their immediate withdrawal.

As the blame game continues between all parties, the activist group #Occupy Nigeria is planning a rally in Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota on Saturday. With military troops still positioned in various parts of Lagos, and no-one seemingly responsible for them,  it is not yet clear if any protests will be allowed to hold.

 

Read Lagos press statement below

 

PRESS RELEASE

LASG DEBUNKS CLAIMS THAT IT REQUESTED DEPLOYMENT OF SOLDIERS IN LAGOS

The claim by the Military authorities that the deployment of soldiers on the streets of Lagos is at the request of the Lagos State Government is not only false but misleading.

The State Government challenges the Military authorities to show proof of the request of troop deployment to the streets of Lagos State.

Instead of simply taking the honourable path by apologizing to the people of Lagos for an unpopular act, they have resorted to offering spurious and bogus claims aimed at deceiving the people.

That this claim is coming four days after the Governor’s address, which he followed with a letter to the Presidency, is an obvious afterthought. It is also inconsistent with the explanation offered by the Minister of Defence who said that they deployed the soldiers in order to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

This attempt to cover up has left the public with much confusion, as the Minister of Defence offered one reason and the Military authority has offered another. They should just take the honourable path by apologizing to the people of Lagos State and withdraw the soldiers forthwith.

In the prevailing political dispensation, the administration of Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has always been in the vanguard of democratic principles as well as civility.

In the light of the view of the Governor, it will be totally irrational to expect that the Governor would call on the Military to occupy the streets of Lagos.

Also, it would be recalled that His Excellency went on air to denounce most vehemently the deployment of the soldiers in Lagos.

In His Excellency’s continuous statements and actions, he has demonstrated that democracy is still the best form of dispensation to make Lagos State remain a Centre of Excellence that it has been. It is therefore not right for anybody to try to use the Government of Lagos State to cover up their unpopular decision.

The presence of the Police, Army and other federally controlled security agencies in Lagos does not translate to their being under the control of the State and so the inclusion of soldiers in the joint Military patrol through OP-MESA should not be used to cover up this wrong act of drafting soldiers on the streets of Lagos to quell fuel subsidy protest which the Police has contained for five days.

OP-MESSA had been a long standing arrangement since the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo. lndeed, the military men involved in OP-MESSA were deployed purposely to join the Police in fighting crime and were never at any point in time drafted to occupy the streets.

For the avoidance of doubt, OP-MESSA men are still working with the Police in the fight against crime. The men of OP-MESSA should not be confused with the soldiers deployed in the last one week to suppress a civil protest in a democracy.

 

SIGNED

ABDUL LATEEF ADEREMI IBIROGBA

COMMISIONER FOR INFORMATION AND STRATEGY

 


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