The Nigerian military is in the process of constituting a trial panel to try over 100 soldiers said to have exhibited “acts of cowardice” and “disobeyed deployment directives” in Maiduguri on Saturday, reliable military insiders have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The soldiers were among several hundred troops being deployed from the army’s 7th Division in Maiduguri to locations in Damboa and Gwoza for major operations planned to significantly rout the extremist Boko Haram sect from the areas.
“But as we were about to depart, some of the soldiers began to behave funny,” a witness said. “They were acting in ways that were delaying the movement. This was a movement that had been timed and we had to arrive locations at a time that should coincide with other operational arrangements. And then these guys were slowing us down.”
The witness said at a point, the commander of the troop became fed up with the antics of the “lazy soldiers” and he immediately ordered that they be disarmed, stripped of their uniforms and dropped from the operation.
The rest of the detachment then continued the journey, our sources said.
Other witnesses corroborated these disclosures.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, [an Air Marshall] the Chief of Army Staff, Kenneth Minimah [a Lieutenant General], as well as other service chiefs have been briefed on the development.
The military chiefs, insiders say, have since ordered the arrest, interrogation and court-martial of the erring soldiers, some of whom are said to have gone into hiding.
When contacted, the spokesperson for the Defence Headquarters, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, said he was yet to be briefed on the matter.
He however said, “Military personnel should be reminded that persons subject to military law risks death if found liable for refusing or inciting failure to perform military duties against the enemy in the course of the ongoing military operation.”
Mr. Olukolade said any soldier or officer who fails to perform military duties or deserts his duty post risks dire consequences.
“The military is a disciplined organization and we do not have room for indiscretions. Anyone who disobeys deployment directive or deserts his duty posts would be made to face due justice.
“Indeed such deserters would be considered to have done evil similar to what terrorists are doing against the nation’s security. Act of cowardice and related indiscipline will not be condoned in the Nigerian armed forces.
“While efforts are ongoing to improve on the available stock of weapons and equipment, no soldier or officer has been assigned to any duty without being duly armed.
“Any soldier who subscribes to the excuse being peddled by some indiscipline ones would have himself to blame.
“Soldiers are therefore warned that anyone who allows himself to be misled by enemies of the nation who have been trying to incite mutiny by various methods would face appropriate legal actions without any form of sentiment.”
Mr. Olukolade urged the Nigerian media and Nigerians in general not to celebrate incidences of indiscipline within the nation’s security services, saying the security of all citizens depend significantly on the stability and discipline of the agencies.
The Nigerian Army had in early July began the court–martialling of another 18 soldiers involved in an alleged mutiny in May, in which revolting troops opened fire at a car carrying the commanding general of the army’s 7 Division in Maiduguri, Borno State.
Military sources had told PREMIUM TIMES at the time that the General Officer Commanding, GOC, of the newly-created 7 Division, Ahmadu Mohammed, a Major General, was targeted by soldiers who blamed him for the deaths of their colleagues.
The attack in Maimalari cantonment, on May 14, angered the Nigerian military at a time the force came under international spotlight over the abduction of nearly 300 school girls in Chibok by the extremist Boko Haram sect.