President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday defended the heavy deployment of soldiers to the restive northeast on a rare trip to the region where radical Islamist group Boko Haram is based.
The President visited the embattled city of Maiduguri, the stronghold of Boko Haram insurgency that has left hundreds of people dead, for the first time since he was elected in 2011.
At a town hall event, president Jonathan faced from Borno Elders and other leaders in the state about the large number and conduct of the soldiers deployed around the city.
Responding, Jonathan said he was “not comfortable” with the criticism, adding: “If the circumstances that brought the soldiers are no longer there, that day they will leave.”
“We always tell the soldiers to conduct themselves” professionally, Jonathan said.
He added that he would prefer to leave the job of internal security to the police, but has been compelled to deploy soldiers to certain areas “because of the calibre of weapons the militants are using.”
“Government will never sit down and wait for insurgents… to take arms and take part of the country,” Jonathan said.
In his words: “Who want to send bunkers or who want to send soldiers on the streets of Borno state? We need money for development and if the circumstances that brought soldiers are no more there; that day the soldiers would leave. They were not in Borno state 2001, 2002, 2003 and upto 2005 until this problem started in 2009.
“Let me be very frank, because the analogy that when one soldier is killed, a score of people would be killed by soldiers are not correct because we have always admonished that and we have always told the soldiers to conduct themselves within their professional ethics. And let me assure you that government would not sit down quietly for anybody to take weapon and start killing people in the name of insurgence. I don’t want to hear that one soldier is killed anywhere either in the Niger Delta or in Borno state or any part of this country, I will not preside over this country as President and allow that to happened or I will not take it lightly with anyone.
“These soldiers leave their families and sleep in the bush, and on the streets just so that you and I could have some sleep; and I would not want to hear that one of them is killed. I have given directive to that effect. We have warned the soldiers to conduct themselves, not to kill innocent civilians; but I will not celebrate the death of one soldier, and I repeat, I will not celebrate the death of one soldier.”