PREMIUM TIMES has received report of yet another Nigerian Army soldier who opened fire at a military facility in Abuja on Sunday, killing one colleague and injuring another before fatally ripping apart his own mouth with the rifle.
Coming within a few days after another suicide by a soldier in Borno State, the tragic end of the officer, identified as Markus Yusuf, appears to fit a disturbing pattern of such tragic incidents across military formations — one which military authorities are reluctant to publicly acknowledge.
Mr Yusuf’s death occurred in Giri, a suburb of Abuja where the Army Headquarters Garrison runs a farm settlement, military sources said.
He was in the company of his colleagues on an open concrete used for physical exercise when he started shooting, forcing most of them to flee.
His bullets, however, hit two fellow soldiers, instantly killing one and severely injuring the other. The injured soldier was identified as Monday Gwakar, a corporal. He was promptly taken to the Defence Headquarters Medical Centre in Abuja.
Mr Yusuf was said to be under the influence of alcohol prior to the lethal rage, but it was not immediately clear whether there were other underlining factors.
A spokesperson for the Nigerian Army did not immediately return requests for comments about the development.
The latest incident happened a few days after Adegor Okpako, a staff sergeant killed himself after killing a sergeant colleague and wounding four others on September 19.
Mr Okpako was attached to 192 Battalion in Gwoza, a former Boko Haram stronghold nearly 1,000 kilometres from Abuja, when he committed suicide at about 2:50 p.m.
The incident came only two days after he returned from a short break for undisclosed reasons.
Both cases came as Nigerian soldiers are witnessing a increasingly difficult phase in their battle against the extremist Boko Haram sect and other violent criminals.
Over 100 soldiers have been killed and as many feared missing in Boko Haram attacks since mid-July. Some families have not been notified several weeks after their children were killed in action, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Nigerian soldiers are said to be on active deployment in over 30 of the country’s 36 states, combating crimes from insurgents in the north-east to oil racketeers in the Niger-Delta.
In November 2017, a soldier on deployment in Nigeria’s restive north-east opened fire on a captain, killing him before turning the gun on himself.
In June, an Army captain on active deployment in Boko Haram war committed suicide as he underwent psychiatric evaluation in Borno State.
The frequent denials and absolute silence in some cases have made it difficult to understand whether the Nigerian Army has a policy on suicide deaths, or how individual cases are investigated and resolved, said military analyst Emeka Nwosu.
“It was only last week that I read on PREMIUM TIMES that another soldier has committed suicide, this is now a national emergency that President Muhammadu Buhari should immediately take steps to address and prevent more unfortunate cases,” Mr Nwosu said. “A presidential intervention is needed to end this trend because the military leaders are no longer capable.”
“What we have on our hands is a brutal case of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a common disaster for military across the world,” Mr Nwosu said Monday morning. “It is the attitude of our military towards it that is worsening the crisis here.”
“It is time they stop denying, release the statistics and let Nigerians know how the big the problem is so that there will be a general commitment towards a solution,” he added.
Experts identify inadequate weapons and welfare for the troops as primarily responsible for misfortunes of soldiers on the battlefront, and also linked to mental health disaster.
These findings, also widely acknowledged, are often rejected by military chiefs, and they instead accuse independent media and analysts as sympathetic to Boko Haram or working to demoralise troops.
The chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, had paid unscheduled visits to the war front at least two times within the past six weeks to promise troops of better working condition in a bid to boost morale against violent criminals.
But as improved welfare remained elusive despite frequent reassurances, analysts fear suicide cases and other consequences of mental health crises may remain a challenge for some time.