The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, on Sunday, said the Nigerian Army would embed journalists in the front line of the ongoing counterinsurgency operation in northeast Nigeria on the condition that they respect the “national interest.”.
Mr Buratai, a lieutenant-general, said this at a dinner organised in honour of the former Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Olusegun Adeniyi.
But he did not elaborate on what he meant by “national interest.”
The army has already invited applications from interested journalists to apply to the army for recruitment as war correspondents who would be embedded in the over decade-long war on the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
Mr Adeniyi, a major-general, was last week removed from his command, days after a video that later became viral featured him lamenting about Nigerian soldiers being outgunned by the Boko Haram insurgents.
In his remark at the dinner in Maiduguri, Mr Buratai said journalists would henceforth be embedded in counterinsurgency operation as part of the military renewed strategy aimed at defeating Boko Haram.
The army chief, however, said certain guidelines will be given on issues relating to national security as a condition for embedded reporting.
“And for our friends, the journalists, who have seen it all right from the beginning, we are inviting you to join us to go to the field and see what our troops are doing, ” he said.
“You are so invited so that whatever happens, you will have first-hand knowledge, but of course, with a very strong position and understanding of the implications of whatever happens here on national security. So your reports must reflect and conform to our national interest.
“Be rest assured, if you’re embedded with us, we will guide you and ensure we get the right thing across so that our country will be proud and everybody will appreciate the efforts you put in place to keep our country safe,” Mr Buratai said.
He appealed to “willing Nigerian journalists” to embed in the future operations as a way of keeping Nigerians adequately informed.
Mr Buratai, who has been in command of the army since 2015, said under the reorganised command at Operation Lafiya Dole, all strategies aimed at defeating Boko Haram would remain topmost secret.
He called on troops at Operation Lafiya Dole to brace for busy times ahead.
Addressing the new theatre commander, Farouq Yahaya, the army chief said, “we will not disclose our plans, but I’m sure that as you settle down, you will have a very busy time.
“And all the new commanders should prepare for a very busy period.”
Reiterating his confidence in the gallantry of the Nigerian soldiers, Mr Buratai said: “the insecurity can not be forever but we have to work collectively to ensure that we bring the situation under control, and effective control so that is our target, this is what we hope to achieve in the nearest future.”
Dispelling the rumor that the erstwhile theatre commander was removed because he made public the firearm inadequacy of troops on the frontline, Mr Buratai said Mr Adeniyi had performed extremely well while serving as head of the theatre.
He said what the media reported was a “misleading rumour.”
Addressing Mr Adeniyi, Mr Buratai said, “Your leaving here is not for any other reason apart from the normal routine administrative functions that we have to carry out from time to time.”
“Whatever insinuations that had been in the air are just the mere imaginations of those people who are peddling the rumor or write-ups.
“I will like to congratulate you for a very successful tenure as the theatre commander.
“We are here to honour, Maj. Gen O J Adeniyi. It is an honour that is well deserved. He has shown a very high level of understanding of the operational environment that has placed him in a very good stage to have really achieved tremendous success as the commander of Operation Lafiya Dole.
“He came at a time when things were virtually crumbling, and his leadership style turned things around to bring us to where we are today. He never led from the rear; he’s always in front. That’s the type of leadership that is required,” Mr Buratai said.
Mr Adeniyi is now to resume work at the Nigeria Army Resource Centre as a Senior Research Fellow.
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