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Buratai lied, profile shows army chief travelled to Canada at 40

Keen on downplaying the impact of a potential travel ban, Mr. Buratai said he never stepped out of Nigeria until he turned 50 and a general.

• October 27, 2020
Photo of Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (Photo Credit: @HQNigerianArmy) Twitter

Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai lied to Nigerians when he claimed on Monday that he never travelled out of the county until he was already over 50 and a general.

At a meeting of senior military commanders on Monday, Mr. Buratai sought to inflame sentiments of his loyalty to Nigeria and carpet unpatriotic elements pushing to hold him accountable for grievous human rights abuses against civilians.

“The first time I travelled outside of this country, I was already 50 years and a general, so I don’t mind if I live the rest of my life here,” Mr. Buratai said to dismiss Deji Adeyanju and other activists who proposed a visa ban against him and other military chiefs.

But an examination of Mr. Buratai’s profile showed he travelled out of Nigeria long before he clocked 50 in 2010. Mr. Buratai was born in 1960. His profile seen by Peoples Gazette showed he travelled to Canada in 2000 for a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration course at Cornwallis Park, Nova Scotia.

He was also in India and Bangladesh for a national defence course and United Nations programme, amongst others, his profile said.

Between October 1, 1986 and August 30, 1987, Mr. Buratai, served as an observer at the United Nations Verification Mission II in Angola, his profile showed. The trip came when he was 26-27 years old.

Mr. Buratai, now a lieutenant-general and Chief of Army Staff since 2015, also served as a senior assistant to the principal staff officer of late Sani Abacha between 1995 and 1998, during which military sources said he made several trips abroad.

Mr. Buratai’s misinformation came as Nigerian Army was enduring the collective rage of Nigerians and international groups and figures for its unprovoked massacre of civilians at a protest on October 20 in Lagos.

At least nine protesters were killed while yet unconfirmed number sustained grave injuries after a contingent of troops opened live rounds to quell the demonstration, which was largely a sit-in of citizens unfurling the national flag and chorusing the national anthem.

The Nigerian Army initially denied involvement in the massacre, falsely claiming its personnel were not even anywhere near the scene to begin with. But military chiefs have since walked back their claims after being overwhelmed with evidence, including an Instagram livestream of the attack by a Lagos-based DJ.

Mr. Buratai was also the military chief at the heart of the Shiite massacre of December 2015, which analysts said had set him up for potential trial at the International Criminal Court when added to his supervision of the Lekki massacre last week.

Fatou Bensouda, top prosecutor who has been handling the Zaria massacre investigation, said she had been closely monitoring development after receiving materials relating to the military violence in Lagos. 

Mr. Buratai argued the military had committed no wrongdoing, saying its actions in Lagos and elsewhere in the country were protected under the Constitution. 

He, however, failed to cite the constitutional provision that allowed soldiers to shoot at unarmed citizens carrying out a protest, which Section 40 of the Constitution permits as a civic exercise.

Authorities in Lagos have vowed to hold the Nigerian military accountable for the massacre and since constituted a judicial panel over the attack, which President Muhammadu Buhari has neither publicly acknowledged nor indicated interest to pore over one week on.

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