Ex-army chief tackles northern elders over ICC trial call

•Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Army Staff

Ihejirika: Northern elders should be grateful to the army

The former Chief of Staff of the Nigerian army, Azubuike Ihejirika, on Sunday in Abuja said the call by some Northern elders for his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was “ill-conceived’’.

The retired Lt.-Gen. spoke to State House correspondents after the post-national pilgrimage church service held at the Presidential Villa’s chapel.

The Northern elders had reportedly threatened to drag Ihejirika and six others to the ICC for alleged extra-judicial killings.

They had said the killings happened during what they called the “offensive’’ operations of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) against Boko Haram insurgents in some parts of the north.

The former Chief of Army Staff said the elders might have made the call based on some misinformation.

He said rather than issue such threats the elders should be grateful to the military which had sacrificed a lot to protect the Northern region and the country at large.

“The Northern elders should be thanking the service chiefs, my officers and myself for making huge sacrifices.

“We have sacrificed, first, to see that Nigeria is safe and the north in particular, since they are the first beneficiaries of the sacrifices being made.

“There is no senatorial zone in this country that has not lost a personnel in the armed forces.

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“It is unfortunate that the same elders, if they are really elders, have not cared to send a single condolence message to the military,’’ Ihejirika said.

He said such a threat by the elders was not only unnecessary but demoralising and counter-productive.

“I think that their statement is discouraging and it impacts negatively on the counter-terrorist efforts.

“As we speak now, there are soldiers that have not had a meal since yesterday because of the peculiarity of where they are at the moment,” the former Army chief said.

Ihejirika said the fight against terrorism had been tasking but results were being achieved.

“It has been a very busy thing and I believe that, very soon, Nigerians will be very happy because we have put quite a number of structures in place.

“I want to say that with some equipment and training that were carried out in recent days, there will be little or no hiding place for the insurgents,’’ he said.

On life after retirement, Ihejirika said: “the immediate thing is to have a small vacation with my family”.

He said he would thereafter think of what next to do.