In anticipation of federal government directive, military higher authorities have put in place the machinery to enforce total lockdown of the country to reduce the spread of coronavirus, a top security source told Daily Trust.
The source said military formations across the country have been put on red alert and asked to be ready for deployment of troops as may be required.
Daily Trust gathered that the signal was issued to all military formations on Tuesday.
Also yesterday, a memo purportedly issued from the headquarters of the Nigerian Army in Abuja was published by some online news platforms. The document revealed the readiness of the army to enforce the lockdown.
This is coming 72 hours after the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had told newsmen on Monday, that the Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, had recommended some tougher measures.
“We are hoping for the best in our efforts to contain the disease; but we are prepared for the worst. The truth is that things may yet get worse than they are now, hence the need for all hands to be on deck. Tougher decisions may yet be on the way to contain this disease. But whatever decision is taken will be in the best interest of Nigerians,” he said.
The source who does not want to be named also said that top commanders of the Nigerian Army have been ordered to commence relevant trainings and drills of soldiers under their supervision for the exercise.
“The exercise will be carried out in collaboration with sister security agencies to ensure full compliance on the enforcement of the lockdown order,” he said.
According to him, plans are in the offing to secure trucks and other vehicles for the evacuation of corpses in case the situation deteriorated.
Our correspondent reports that in Italy and other countries where hundreds of deaths have been recorded, the armed forces were engaged to enforce lockdown and carry out some humanitarian services such as evacuating and burying corpses of people that died from the disease.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi ordered a “complete” lockdown for India’s 1.3 billion people. He warned that “many families will be destroyed forever” if the country didn’t get to grips with its coronavirus outbreak in the next three weeks.
But a security expert, Ambrose Aisabor, yesterday opposed the move by the Nigerian Army to join in the enforcement of lockdown by the federal government in its determination to contain the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
Aisabor, a retired Inspector General of Police, told Daily Trust that the move is a displacement of priority.
He said the Army should allow other security agencies like the police to enforce the order even as he observed that nationwide lockdown was unnecessary.
According to Aisabor, the Nigerian Army already has its hand full with the war against insurgency. He noted that the army should focus on defeating the Boko Haram insurgency rather than dabbling in a civil matter.
A retired army officer who would not want to be named said military personnel have been deployed at various locations to deal with internal security threats and that troops are being motivated to higher performance.
But former Director, Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade (rtd), said it is the responsibility of military to accomplish any task assigned to it by the political leaders.
He said, “It is the responsibility of the military leadership at the time to assess and utilise the available resources and address the demand of political leaders.”
Reacting to a circular published by the media, army spokesman, Colonel Sagir Musa, said the document was not given out to anyone, therefore it is not a public document.
He said he has no comment on it because it is a private document and does not know how it was leaked out to the public.