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JONATHAN CAUTIONS ARMY AGAINST ETHNIC, RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY

By NBF News

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday cautioned the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army to shun all forms of ethnic and religious sentiments in the discharge of their duties. Speaking at the Nigerian Army Day celebration held at the Eagle Square, Abuja, he warned that ethnic and religious bigotry in the nation's army could compromise its integrity and virtues, and endanger the nation's democracy.

'In defending the peace today, we are faced with new challenges as exemplified in skirmishes within the nation.

We must remember that some of the greatest dangers to our democracy and freedom are shrouded in the perils of ethnicity and religious intolerance. These evils threaten our very existence as one sovereign and indivisible nation,' Jonathan stated.

The president, therefore, urged the leadership of the Nigerian army to 'discourage such sentiments and encourage our men to see one another as brothers in the pursuit of a common destiny.'

He commended the Nigerian Army for its loyalty and subordination to civil authority, while pledging that his administration would do more to improve on the welfare of its officers and men.

President Jonathan also enjoined the nation's Armed Forces in general to continue to maintain the high level of professionalism, which had earned Nigeria a good name and enhanced status in the international community.

He said with the high expectation from African nations in peacekeeping, Nigeria remained committed to international security and would continue to work in close collaboration with these nations to promote peace, stability and development on the African continent and the globe.

While urging the Armed Forces to forestall any breach of the nation's territorial integrity at all times, Jonathan said it must be vigilant and alert to support the police in maintaining peace when called upon.

He added that government on its part would build on the peace efforts of the late President Yar'Adua in the Niger Delta region by providing infrastructural development, but called on the Armed Forces to 'guard against economic saboteurs and their international collaborators who constantly plot to deny the nation of her resources and heritage.'

President Jonathan presented 14 Distinguished Post Service Medals to deserving awardees, comprising seven retired and seven serving soldiers amongst who were the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, the Primate of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria, Primate Nicholas Okoh, and Major General Ishola Williams (retd). He also commissioned the Nigerian Army Headquarters Command Officers' Mess in Asokoro District.

In his remarks, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Abdurahman Dambazau, thanked President Jonathan for his 'deep commitment' to the efficiency and professionalism of the Nigerian Army and the Armed Forces in general, and pledged the army's unalloyed loyalty to him and the Nigerian people.

The occasion witnessed colourful parades and regimental displays by battalions of the Nigerian Army as well as the presentation of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Commendation Award to six officers and nine soldiers.