Soldiers operating in Baga say they have been on ground for too long.
Amidst controversy of allegations of extra-judicial killings and wanton abuse of human right on their part, Nigerian soldiers in the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in Baga have protested being kept on the mission beyond the stipulated six months for special operation.
The soldiers say they have been kept more than triple the duration required for special deployments within or outside Nigeria.
“But we have been kept here for over two years now, which is not fair to us. We have been kept here away from our families, and this is telling on us negatively,” one soldier told our reporter on condition of anonymity, as it is an offence for personnel to speak to the press.
The soldiers said most of them were deployed from three different battalion or brigade since the 27th of July, 2011, and were supposed to have been replaced by a fresh troops by January 2012.
“On the 27th of July, 2011, fresh troops of the Nigerian soldiers were deployed to Baga from the 241 Recce battalion, the 73 battalion and the 3rd Brigade Kano,” another soldier said.
Of the three units deployed, only the 241 Battalion had so far changed its troops, while the others (73 Battalion and the 3rd Brigade Kano) still kept their soldiers in Baga for 15 months after the expiration of their normal six months special operation time.
Some security operatives in Borno state have confided in our reporter that if the recent allegations of extrajudicial killings are true, then it could be partly blamed on the prolonged stay of soldiers in their deployed operational base.
“World over, there is nothing as dangerous as soldiers or troops that are tired or fed up with their operational environment,” said the security source.
The issue of troop rotation had in often cases been a problem of the Nigerian Army. Recently, some soldiers of the peacekeeping Joint Task Force in Borno state lamented their non-rotation for more than a year.
When the development was made public by the media, it compelled the Spokesman of the JTF, Lt Col Sagir Musa, to issue a statement on the 10th of February warning journalists to stay away from issues that pertain to troop rotation.
“Rotation of troops on operation is a normal military practice. It is not a rigid exercise, it is situational and circumstantial. Exigency of duty, challenges on the ground can warrant appropriate superior authority to delay or extend rotation schedule without any ifs or buts,” Lt Col Musa said.
“We don’t have civil society group(s) and there is no Fundamental Human Rights in the profession of arms – these are tendentious if the JTF/military must be effective in performing its constitutional responsibility of defending the nation from external and internal enemies. Here in JTF, rotation is continuous and is currently ongoing.
“Remember, troops are being moved to Mali, Sudan and Liberia. All the troops cannot concurrently be rotated. Journalists/media are urged to avoid or restrict giraffeing in to strategic, tactical or operational matters and military justice system,” he warned.
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