EXCLUSIVE: How Nigerian Army fired top anti-Boko Haram fighter without indictment, query

Nigerian Army
Nigerian Army

One of the 38 Nigerian soldiers sacked by the army in 2016 was a decorated anti-Boko Haram warrior, who once helped thwart a planned attack on the Aso Rock presidential villa, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

Mohammed Suleiman, a former colonel, infiltrated the terrorist group’s ranks and helped in arresting some of its key members, his official record says.

He was later fired without a query or an indictment.

In his letter of appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, in June 2016, Mr. Suleiman asked for justice.

“Your Excellency Sir, I want to state that I was not in any way involved in the stated issues,” he wrote. “I have not committed any offence as I was not invited to any board of inquiry for investigation nor charged or court martialled for any offence. I hereby appeal for my case to be reconsidered on the basis of wrongful retirement.”

He sent the letter two weeks after being advised by the Department of Military Secretary to go for his compulsory retirement letter that abruptly ended his career in the Nigerian Army.

He was one of 38 officers forced out of service at the time. A June 9, 2016 letter to the affected officers hinged their compulsory retirement on “provisions of Paragraph 09.02c (4) of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers 2012 (Revised)”.

The referenced section shows the officers were laid off “on disciplinary grounds i.e. serious offence(s)”.

Emphasising “service exigencies” and that the “military must remain apolitical and professional at all times”, Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, on June 10, 2016 released a statement, disclosing what could have constituted the “serious offences” which warranted the 38 officers to be compulsorily retired.

“It should be recalled that not too long ago some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 general elections,” the statement said.

“Similarly, the investigation by the Presidential Committee investigating Defence Contracts revealed a lot. Some officers have already been arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),” Mr. Usman said.

However, PREMIUM TIMES investigation revealed most of the affected officers were neither queried nor indicted by any panel before they were compulsorily dismissed, thereby, raising question of arbitrariness.

Our investigation showed only a few of the affected officers were queried, tried and indicted. Mr. Suleiman was neither accused of partisanship nor arms procurement fraud.

Even before Boko Haram gained international notoriety for extreme violence, Nigeria, starting in 2009, had relied on officers like Mr. Suleiman in dealing with the sect, his service record shows.

When terrorists were covertly building base in Bauchi, he was responsible for “discovering, penetrating and profiling” the group. In 2009, he led the joint army/police team that cleared and arrested “377 terrorists with scores killed with no casualty to own troops.”

He would then go on to initiate the creation of a Civilian Joint Task Force and control their activities in Borno State, before collaborating with the formation in the 3 Division to have Civilian JTF in Adamawa State.

His record revealed there was a suspected attempt by Boko Haram to attack the Aso Rock Villa, but Mr. Suleiman “discovered and penetrated” the cell tasked to carry out that terror action.

Subsequently, the key planner of the planned attack said to be a police sergeant, identified as Babagana, was arrested.

Mr. Suleiman was also key to the “arrest of and appropriate provision of information on the first successfully prosecuted Boko Haram pioneer spokesman, Umar Sanda Kodunga, who is about completing his 3 year jail term.”

Chad’s arrest and execution of Bana Fannaye, who was helping Boko Haram with arms supply, counted much to his credit and was said to be one of the successful operations that followed intelligence shared with neighbouring countries.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Mr. Suleiman’s deployments for assignments outside the country were repeatedly cancelled as he was key to Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operations in the North East.

For instance, he was deployed to the United Nations Mission in Darfur as Deputy Chief of Operations and then to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington as Deputy Defence Adviser in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

But on both occasions, the deployments were cancelled because of his North East involvement. In another case, he was recalled from Command and Staff College, Jaji, as directing staff, to help track “a globally and United States declared wanted terrorist, Adam Kambar.

In 2012, Mr. Suleiman made the list of national honourees, becoming a Member of the Federal Republic, MFR, in recognition his participation in several peacekeeping and internal security operations.

His efforts nonetheless, he was forced out of service without a query or indictment for any offence.

“Aside operational risks and several ambushes leading to gunshot on my left leg, I escaped 3 assassination attempts (one in Bauchi and twice in Maiduguri and several improvised explosive device attacks, including 2 being suicides.

“In the last six years, I was mainly assigned tasks and restricted to duties on counter-terrorism and Boko Haram operations, making me a high value and well sought target by terrorists,” he told Mr. Buhari in his June 23 letter, seeking redress.

Nigerian armed forces law affords officers who feel wrongly dismissed the window to appeal for redress by petitioning the president through the Chief of Defence Staff within 30 days.

Out of the 38 dismissed officers, only 22, amongst them Mr. Suleiman, explored this window. PREMIUM TIMES confirmed their appeals were delivered to the president in July last year.

Barely one year after, they are still waiting for justice, or at least a response from the Commander-in-Chief. One of them, Ojebo Baba-Ochankpa, died while awaiting justice on January 31, 2017.

While conveying the appeal to Mr. Buhari, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, vaguely mentioned “disciplinary ground” as being responsible for Mr. Suleiman’s dismissal.

The defence chief did not say what the officer’s offence was. But Mr. Suleiman told the President he had never been accused of any wrongdoing.


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  • amazing2012

    …yes because Jonathan want to war to continue !

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  • john

    God will surely vindicate you Mr. Suleiman. And you will be reinstated in Jesus Christ’s Mighty name

    • Starry

      Surely, God is Able!!! He deserves way better

  • Mentus

    With all these exploits why is Mr Suleiman wondering why he was dismissed by this inept government. He simply is a threat to the grand plan of this regime who complained that an attack on BH is an attack on the Northerners. Is it any wonder that two years after Nigerians were promised freedom from BH attacks that the same group have grown even bold enough to make incursions into Maidugri. If the decisiveness with those officers were sacked was applied to tackling BH problems, BH would have been a thing if the past.

  • Yemi

    “Your Excellency Sir, I want to state that I was not in any way involved in the stated issues,” he wrote…….Premium Times, what are the stated issues? I thought you said no reason was given. Suleiman should explain.

    • GusO

      PT should have told us what the issues were, unless they are hiding something. Was he a double agent for Boko Haram?

      • Starry

        A double agent and risk his life exposing his involvement in fighting BH??
        A double agent and risk condemnation and worse fate by coming forward??
        These are clear and factual events that can be verified.

    • Starry

      Have you not been following the thread?? Issues of partisanship and fraud of course

  • mubarak mubarak1918@live.com

    May Allah Swt give the C and C the ability and opportunity to consider your appeal, and may he give you another chance to serve your country again.

    • Starry

      Allahumma Ameen… Trials and afflictions are part of Allah’s promises to mankind. We must stand the test of time in the face of all adversities, with courage and wisdom.
      I admire Col Suleiman, as a person and patriot. He shall be vindicated in Shaa Allah.

  • Intrepid

    Dog eat dog ZOOLAND.

    • Starry

      If only you had the slightest idea how pathetic your comment sounds.

  • Double Agent Officer

    I hope Premium Times does not intend to deceive gullible Nigerians once more? Is it that so called Colonel Suleiman (Retired) infiltrated Boko Haram or the other way round? Truth is, he most probably is a bonafide Boko haram member and a mole in the Nigerian Army. And he may have been a double agent passing useful information to both the Army and the Islamic terrorists…and things got sour somewhere and the Army felt he should get a soft landing via retirement. We know how these things work. Were he a North Korean, Chinese, Russian etc, he would be 6-feeet under by now. Just like Army Tchief Burutai and the grass cutting merchant, the real sins of Suleiman must not be discussed. But I wonder why PT is focusing on just one Muslim ex-Soldier when there are 21 ex-soldiers wrongfully discharged? Or is it because 92% of the other soldiers are Christians?

    • Dr

      It was not part of Sulaiman’s duty to infiltrate the group. That is the job of the Military Intelligence. He was an Infantry Officer, he would not have been responsible for infilterating any group. This report is questionable. PM don’t slip down to the level of Linda Ikeji

      • rogers

        It’s a pity you are opening your mouth and saying what you don’t know. Ask and you shall be told.
        Col. Suleiman is a foreign trained intelligence officer.
        Please educate yourself before you polute people’s mind with your poisonous smelling mouth.

  • Edgar

    So you mean Boko Haram terrorists get only 3yrs jail term? And in the same story we are told Republic of Chad executed the Boko Haram member her troops arrested. In Nigeria Buhari gives them Amnesty for lack of evidence or gives them only 3yrs jail terms, whereas Political opponents like Pa Ajasin get 250yrs jail term plus hard labour. Oh Buhari! Your wickedness no get photocopy.

    • Hamza

      They were sentenced during Jonathan’s tenure.

    • GusO

      Good point! The Boko Haram terrorist arrested in Nigeria must have killed people before. Yet, he was not executed, while the one in Chad was executed. Sometimes, one feels that Boko Haram terrorists are treated with kid’s gloves in Nigeria.

    • Dr

      The said BH spox, Konduga was a fake. The guy was never a mouth piece of the terrorist group. The known spoke persons are; Abu Darda, Abu Qaqa and Abu Zinniri. Also, the said Konduga was sentenced to 5 yrs jail term and not 3 yrs as resorted by PT. The guy was tried and sentenced in 2013 under President Jonathan. The DSS under the stewardship of Ita Ekpeyong prosecuted him. Similarly, the court instructed that he should serve his jail term in DSS custody. This attracted serious criticism at the time. He has since been released at the end of his jail term which ran concurrently

      • Hamza

        Thank you Dr. The mischievous guy should blame the judiciary and Jonathan’s govt.

  • Eric Osazuwa

    @disqus_3mRJNLtlFz:disqus

    But why does
    Premium Times report this story without referencing the fact that there is a
    political appointee in charge of Army matters who is called MINISTER OF
    DEFENCE? That Minister is not even mentioned in the entire report. Dan Ali was
    appointed as defence minister in October 2015 and had jurisdiction to decide
    army rules as pertain dismissal and forced resignation. The Chief of Defence
    mentioned in this report is junior in political ranking to the Minister of
    Defence. Were the whole picture seen the incumbent APC government would be
    seen for what it is – a total shambles; administratively sloven, slack, vindictive
    and ignorant for the most part
    . A responsible government should stand above
    this sort of petty fray. It is a shame that Colonels and Brigadiers are petitioning
    President Buhari to complain directly, and saying no sense or logic, not even
    truth, led the recent mass sack of over 30 army officers.

    According to those
    military officers affected, the entire (vindictive) sackings were done
    first, and reasons later invented to justify the baseless actions. The APC
    government of Muhamadu Buhari is not just childish and empty-headed, it is
    petty and silly, by regarding federal revenues, as well as federal posts, as the
    property of Muhamadu Buhari – to be used and disposed at will with no gumption
    or any good sense of national responsibility to the country’s 180 million populace.
    can Nigeria ever make sense or ever move forward when all federal contracts are
    regarded by the Buhari government as monopoly of APC card-carrying members
    and financiers only, all of whom may number less than ten million people? If that
    is not a financial war against the majority of Nigerians hard done by, what else is
    this personal ownership rights over federal career and contracts?

  • Starry

    Col. Suleiman (I will always refer to him) is a hero worth honoring. This retirement was just part of a witch hunt. If he was really guilty, why complicate matters for himself by appealing rather than embracing this “grace” of retirement (compared to jail or death sentence) for such grievous crime (which by the way was not stated anywhere in his retirement letter??? Unless “disciplinary ground” is now synonymous to “treason and terrorism”…

    All the facts stated in this article are verifiable and those in doubt should feel free to do so. His honorary awards (published or otherwise) speak for him. His sacrifices will never go in vain, in Shaa Allah. Have faith, sir and do not despair. Everything happens for a reason. Your enemies shall suffer the wrath of Allah, bi’iznillah. And your name shall return to glory again in the Nigerian Army, in Shaa Allah!!!

    • mubarak mubarak1918@live.com

      In Shaa Allah

  • Dr

    If I were Col. Sulaiman I will just keep mute. He either refused to tell PM the truth or PM is being mischievous about the matter in view of the soar relationship between PM and the NA. If the truth and records of all offences Sulaiman committed in Maiduguri is to be made public, Sulaiman and others would have been outrightly dismissed and given a minimum of life imprisonment, instead of compulsorily retirement. He knows what I am talking about! The NA high command has been too liniant nt to Sulaiman and other retired officers.

    • rogers

      You either tell the world what he did or you keep your mouth shut. From the way you are talking, you sound like army paid agent. The military needs not forgive him but to constitute a military court to try him. I am sure if you provide PT with evidence of his “so called attrocities” as claimed by you (on behalf of your masters), it shall be published and given wider circulation. In the absence of that, we stand with what PT published.
      Why is the military afraid of the military court?
      I am sure, there’s more to their mischief?

    • rogers

      Dr, please note that the anti corruption mantra of this administration is zero tolerance for corruption. Sweeping the “alleged offences” of Mr Suleiman under the carpet is corruption itself. Why should the military “shoot its foot”?
      Tell the military to constitute a court and try all the 38 men if there’s no mischief.
      They are only asking for fairness.
      Meanwhile at the moment, serving soldiers are attending civil courts in uniform involving several billions while the 38 were kicked out without even a query.
      Let them be charged so nothing is hidden, Dr.