By Comrade Oladimeji Odeyemi
His ethical and professional display throughout his reign as the Chief of Army Staff even earned him an Ambassadorial position, after retirement, where he has fostered a cordial relationship between the Republic of Benin and Nigeria, and was also able to secure the once porous Nigerian/ Benin Republic border.
Buratai has a sterling reputation as a military officer and his dedication and role in the fight against terrorism and insurgency are well-documented in the history of Nigeria. Under his watch, Nigeria conducted a successful 2019 general election with voters in the northeastern part of the country fully participating in the exercise. He decimated, degraded and technically defeated Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Nigeria and made the northeast a safer zone for the residents.
Despite his achievements in ensuring that Nigeria remains an indissoluble entity, some unscrupulous individuals are determined to smear his reputation at all costs. And they have found a reliable ally in an unreliable, unethical and rogue online platform like Sahara Reporters.
Sahara Reporters is reputable in blackmailing and spreading falsehood against eminent Nigerians and General Buratai happens to be one of them.
Since 2018, this unprofessional platform has been working tirelessly to smear the reputation of General Buratai with one corrupt allegation or another but to no avail. Their latest antics of linking the former Army Chief to the arrest, detention and trial of Major General UM Mohammed.
The hallmark of journalism is the presentation of facts and balancing of stories before going to press, but the latest antics is an indication that Sahara Reporters would never change in promoting misinformation and spreading falsehood.
Their allegation against Buratai is laughable because it lacks facts and that is why the report has failed to fly as they anticipated. The Sahara Reporters should be aware of how many falsehoods they have previously said to advance their brand of reporting. Nigerians have realized that the news platform only sells fake news after previously believing them to be a hub of information for discussing events.
The title of their recent article “How Ex-Army Chief Buratai Used a Nigerian Army Property Firm to Obtain Saudi Citizenship; Major General in Charge Secretly Detained for One Year to Cover Up His Money Laundering Schemes.”
Contrary to the claim that Buratai influenced the arrest of Mohammed, who is a former Group Managing Director of Nigerian Army Properties Limited (NAPL), the Nigerian Army charged the senior officer following a military police investigation over misconduct. The online platform also claimed that the ongoing court-martial is trying Mohammed secretly since September 2022.
But a recent release by the Nigerian Army and signed by Brigadier Onyeama Chukwu said, “It has noted yet another ill-conceived report by Sahara Reporters on a sub-judice and ongoing court martial process of Major General UM Mohammed, the erstwhile Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian Army Properties Limited (NAPL), who was indicted by a military police investigation and recommended for trial.
“It is expedient to clear the air on the despicably false report and calculated attempt to cast aspersion on the ongoing Court Martial, which has already progressed to an advanced stage as the prosecution has put forward the evidence against General Mohammed and closed its case.
“The accused senior officer has opened his defence and is testifying as Defence Witness One (DW1).
For the avoidance of doubt, without being sub-judicial, the former GMD of NAPL is facing trial in relation to alleged offences of theft of various sums of money belonging to NAPL and forgery. These are all acts declared as offences punishable under the provisions of various extant penal laws in Nigeria.
“To set the records straight, upon investigation and indictment of the accused senior officer by military police investigations, the Army Headquarters convened a Special Court Martial to try the senior officer as a procedure to legally recover the sums of money he allegedly fraudulently acquired from the coffers of NAPL during his tenure as GMD.
“The details of the outcome of the court martial will be provided at the end of the court martial proceedings. It is instructive to point out that court martial trials are lawfully provided in the Armed Forces Act (AFA) as one of the disciplinary tools in the Armed Forces.
“The Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have in multiple instances validated the procedures, findings, and sentences of the court martial. Court martial, like all other criminal trials, are held in the open. The trial of Major General UM Mohammed is taking place at the Army Headquarters Command Officers’ Mess, Asokoro Abuja, and is not shrouded in secrecy as was wrongly insinuated.”
With the statement from Brigadier Chukwu, it is obvious that the military followed due process and the rule of law in the trial of Major General Mohammed to ensure that justice is administered in a fair and unbiased way.
Sahara Reporters need to focus on developmental journalism that will ensure the development of the country rather than publishing unfounded and unverifiable reports against accomplished Nigerians like Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
Comrade Oladimeji Odeyemi, is the convener of the Coalition of Civil Society Groups Against Terrorism in Nigeria.