President Muhammadu Buhari on Moday said the army was soft on Biafrans during the civil war because of the instructions by the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon.
Buhari said this inside the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja after his investiture as Grand Patron of the Nigerian Red Cross Society.
The president recalled that Gowon instructed all commanders to exercise restraint and remember that they were not fighting enemies, but brothers.
He said he knew how much sacrifice members of the Nigerian Red And their international counterparts made during the civil war “both in the real front of operations and at the rear on both sides. I think it is a lot of sacrifices because anything can happen to you in the operational areas.
“The risks they faced were real and I admire their courage and commitment to helping people who were in distress and were virtually in millions. Those photographs of people from the Biafra enclave spoke a lot.
“I remember with nostalgia the performance of the Commander-in-Chief, General Gowon. Every commander was given a copy of the Commander-in-Chief’s instructions that we were not fighting enemies but that we were fighting our brothers. And thus, people were constrained to show a lot of restraint.
“The international observer teams were allowed to go as far as possible within and outside the front and I think this was generous and very considerate of General Gowon. He is a highly committed Nigerian.”
He commended the Nigerian Red Cross Society for its support to the country during the civil war and other emergency situations, especially to the internally displaced persons in the northeast.
The president promised to help the society secure a permanent office accommodation in Abuja.
“I have taken note of your logistics especially your request for office here in Abuja.I assure you that the government will do its best when you decide to build such facilities in terms of securing an area here within the Federal Capital Territory and we hope you will not do the Nigerian ways of doing things.
“To use the words of famous Nigerian Minister, I hope you will not build an elephantine headquarters which is going to be functional because we have seen your activities throughout the country,’’ he said.
Earlier, the national president of the society, Mr Bolaji Anani, had, among other things, called for a review of the Nigerian Red Cross Society Act which, he said, had not been reviewed since 1960.
“A review is long overdue. We note with pleasure that the current National Assembly is in the process of doing that. In fact, the revision has already undergone public hearing. We hope when the revised Bill is passed by the national assembly it will be to begraciously assented to by Mr President,” he said.