Nigerian soldiers who fought Baga battle lament ex-Army Chief’s unfulfilled promise

Seven months after former army chief, Kenneth Minimah, promised to promote Nigerian soldiers who defeated Boko Haram terrorists in Baga, Borno State, the soldiers are yet to get the raise that was to serve as a reward for their courage. 

In January, two battalions -134 and 174 Battalions – of the Nigerian Army, under the Multi National Joint Task Force headquartered in Baga, fell to Boko Haram terrorists, leaving the community under the captivity of the insurgents.

Nigerian soldiers later battled the insurgents and successfully liberated Baga, Monguno and other parts of Borno State.

On February 25, during a visit to Borno State, then army chief, Mr. Minimah, promised that the triumphant soldiers would be promoted for their feat.

Mr. Minimah told journalists in Maiduguri, after spending two hours in Baga, that all soldiers, dead or alive, who fought the Baga battle, “have been” promoted to the next rank.

“In the army’s usual a way of commending soldiers’ courage and patriotism, I have announced to them that every soldier that participated in the Baga operation, whether dead or alive, has been promoted to the next rank,” the former army chief, Mr. Minimah, had said.

Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES, however, show that the affected soldiers have yet to be promoted seven months after.

Some of the soldiers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES expressed their disappointment with the unfulfilled promise.

They said it was unbelievable that the chief’s “order” was yet to be implemented.

“When the chief said that we have all been promoted, it lifted my spirit, and my morale was very high. Then, it was good to know that my country cared for us and is interested in our welfare,” one of the soldiers said.

Reacting to the development, the army spokesperson, Sani Usman, acknowledged the pronouncement made by the retired chief, but urged patience, saying promotion is done annually in the military even though the Baga soldier’s case was exceptional.

“The fact that a pronouncement was made, it still has to follow due process. My advice to them is that they should exercise patience, people were used to things being done haphazardly in the past but now there is a procedure that has to be respected,” he said.

He said the soldiers can only complain if their names are not included in the next round of promotions.

“The promise is still valid and any moment from now when they release the promotion of soldiers for the year and if their names are not there, that is when they should complain,” Mr. Usman said.

One soldier said he was uncomfortable with the delay.

The soldier said, “We should all remember the former COAS said all those who participated, dead or alive have been promoted; he did not say will be promoted. So how will you explain the delay?” he asked.

Deceit in the military

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on the effect of the delay or non-compliance of the ex-chief’s pronouncement, a retired army colonel, Azubuike Nass, said the promise made by the ex-army chief is one of the many propaganda used by the military in the anti-terrorism operations.

“There are so many pronouncements like this one and they (military) don’t follow up,” Mr. Nass said.

“A lot of things were going wrong there (in the military), really,” he said.

He said pronouncements, as the one made by Mr. Minimah, were part of the deceit and problems in the North East operations. 

“Any big guy (is) mentioning pronouncement just to deceive the public,” he added.

Mr. Nass said the pronouncement was one of many unfulfilled promises made to relatives of soldiers and soldiers who have made great sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

“The effect of not fulfilling such promises is very obvious, you do not need to think deep to know the effects,” he said.

He said when pledges like this are made especially from “the big guy” it should be redeemed to avoid demoralizing the troops.

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