Nigerian soldiers who revolted against their superior officers inside the dreaded Sambisa forest in December were protesting the poor treatment meted out on them by military authorities, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
PREMIUM TIMES had exclusively reported the breakdown of discipline among soldiers of the 21 Brigade of the army deployed to fight Boko Haram in Sambisa, Borno State.
The soldiers had turned against their superior officers, protesting and shooting indiscriminately.
But soon after we published the report, the army denied that the soldiers ever revolted against their superior officers.
“I want to assure that nothing like mutiny happened in Bama. Nothing happened,” he told reporters in Maiduguri on Friday. “I just came back from Bama and nothing like that happened,” said Victor Ezegwu, the General Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army 7 Division in Maimalari.
However, PREMIUM TIMES has obtained a video footage recorded just after the angry soldiers were pacified which not only showed that the revolt actually occurred but also revealed the reasons for the soldiers’ actions.
In the footage, the soldiers said they were poorly fed, lacked water to bath, were overworked and without basic equipment and vehicles for transportation.
The footage shows a superior officer, holding a swagger stick and wearing a bulletproof vest , with his back to the recording device. He was addressing a group of soldiers.
The unidentified officer asked for “any witness” of the revolt to come forward and speak on the reason for the disturbance.
Apparently, to encourage the soldiers to speak out, he told the soldiers that he understood their frustration and pain.
“For you now, I know your problem. I know your feeling. For the fact that you have been here. And you have been on this. For that alone, It is stressful. Even me, I’m stressed,” the officer said.
“So you cannot now because of that anger, you will not be able to articulate your problem. But I will give you the opportunity.Just calm down and let me know the major problem.”
One of the soldiers then stood up to speak on the unfavourable conditions troops fighting the insurgents were subjected to.
He said soldiers were sent for operations without knowing when their tour of duty was supposed to end and they usually had to protest before they were allowed to go home.
“Let me just tell you the truth. Each time when we want to go for operation they will not tell us how long we are going to stay for the operation. They will keep deceiving us, on almost all the occasions we end up fighting before we leave the operation,” he said while other soldiers noisily applauded him.
Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of the soldier’s complaint was on how they were fed.
“Now we are advancing, there is no food to eat. Every day, they give us two Indomie (sachets of instant noodles); that is what we eat. How would you survive with two Indomie?” he asked to the noisy approval of his colleagues and the sound of gunshots in the background.
“And there is no water. As I speak to you this the eighth day that I have not taken my bath, no water to drink, nothing,” the soldier added.
He also commented on the poor provision made to transport soldiers from the front, but his voice was drowned by the shouts and clapping from other soldiers.
“We were told we are going to go and hit Camp Zero, that after hitting Camp Zero that will be all for us. We went up to Chibiya and spent about six days and seven days and after everything we are supposed to go to Camp Zero and all our vehicles and equipment have developed faults.
“The army is supposed to come and take us away from that place, fix those vehicles and we are ready to fight; because as I speak to you 80 per cent of the vehicles are not good.”
The soldiers have since chased out Boko Haram from Sambisa forest in a move commended by Nigerians including President Muhammadu Buhari. The Army has said the forest will now be used as a military training ground.
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