Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has denied personal ownership of property in Dubai, saying his family made investment in the Middle East city long before his appointment.
Mr. Buratai, a lieutenant-general, made the statement on Thursday in a BBC HARDtalk interview with Stephen Sackur. It was a rehash of his claim last year following evidence linking him to property in Dubai.
The army chief had been enmeshed in an asset declaration scandal after evidence of the property emerged, with critics insinuating abuse of office against him.
Mr. Buratai initially controverted the evidence but later said his family invested in the property in 2013 when he was not yet the chief of army staff.
“Substantial property is just an investment, my family do their own private business they should afford to have such property in Dubai,” Mr. Buratai said.
Pressed by Mr. Sackur to describe the type of property, Mr. Buratai retorted: “The type of property you are talking about is not the ones people are talking about.
“The property I invested was far back as 2013 before I became the chief of army staff, I never dreamt of becoming the chief of army staff and people are accusing me as if it is today,” he added.
The army spokesperson, Sani Usman, last year acknowledged that Mr. Buratai’s family owned two property in Dubai, stressing that the acquired property was paid for in installments by the family through personal savings three years earlier.
“This, along with other personal asset have consistently been declared by General Buratai in his Asset Declaration Form as Commander Multinational Joint Task Force and as Chief of Army Staff,” Mr. Usman, a brigadier-general, had said.
In the BBC interview, Mr. Buratai also said the exchange of Boko Haram prisoners that led to the release of the second badge of over 82 Chibok abducted school girls was the decision of the political authorities and was not that of the military.
“As far as I am concerned, we performed our own role for the save passage of the abducted Chibok girls.
“The Boko Haram terrorists’ swap for the Chibok School girls was a political decision not a military decision. It is in the best interest of the nation and based on circumstances, the government felt it was the best course.
“Personally, I think it has its own advantages; the message is to rescue the Chibok girls,” Mr. Buratai said.
The army chief was also confronted with the allegations of Amnesty International of alleged cases of human rights abuse by the Nigerian military in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations.
But in his reaction, the army chief denied the allegations. He also refuted reports that the Nigerian Army had been exploiting children as young as 12 years.
“If you ask me directly in my capacity, it is not true. You don’t employ underage boys into civilian JTF”
“There is no way Nigerian Army will pick a child and get him serve anywhere,” Mr. Buratai said.