The Nigerian army says a statement credited to Theophilus Danjuma, a former minister of defence, is unfortunate.
On Saturday, Danjuma, a retired general and former chief of army staff, called on Nigerians to defend themselves against killers because the army has failed to protect the citizens.
The former minister also accused the army of bias and colluding with killers to attack Nigerians.
But in a statement on Sunday, Texas Chukwu, spokesman of the army, denied such collusion and said that the military is neutral in its operation.
The army said the retired general made the statement at a time when the demilitarisation of the north-central had just commenced.
“The attention of the Nigerian army has been drawn to the unfortunate statement made by a former chief of army staff, lieutenant general Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, during the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University on Saturday 24 March 2018 in which he categorically asserted that the armed forces of Nigeria was colluding with militias and other criminal elements and was unable to provide security for the citizens of Taraba state,” the statement read.
“He further called the people of Taraba state to take up arms and defend themselves. The Nigerian army views this statement made by the former chief of army staff as most unfortunate at this critical time that the military has embarked upon demilitarisation of the north-central region of the country.
“While Nigerian army would not want to join issues with the elder statesman, however, certain facts need to be clearly stated in the interest of the Taraba people and the Nigerian public – the Nigerian Army is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria and to aid the civil authority whenever called upon to do so.
“In this light, the authorisation for the conduct of Ex AYEM AKPATUMA was authorised and troops deployed to curb menace of the herdsmen-farmers conflict and other criminal activities in the north-central region amongst others.
“It is noteworthy to state that at the inception of Ex AYEM AKPATUMA, the Taraba state government, did not cooperate with the Nigerian army due to the army’s stance to remain absolutely neutral in the herdsmen-farmers crisis.
“The Nigerian army will continue to remain as such.”
Chukwu advised Nigerians to continue to be law-abiding citizens as anyone caught with arms and ammunition would be dealt with in accordance with the laws.