by Kolapo Olapoju
For allegedly disobeying a direct order from their commanding officer, 203 soldiers have been reportedly dismissed by the Nigerian Army during a clandestine court martial.
One of the sacked soldiers, who spoke anonymously to Premium Times, revealed that the soldiers were dismissed for requesting for support equipment, for an operation in Bama and Gwoza, in Borno.
The said soldier is originally of the 19th Battalion in Okitipupa in Ondo State, but was attached to the 7th division in Maiduguri.
He revealed that the army detained them for over 90 days before dismissing them after a mid-night trial, adding that they are owed up to five months in unpaid salaries.
Giving his account of the events that led to their dismissal, the soldier said his unit reconvened in Maiduguri in August 2014, after they were dislodged by the insurgents in Damboa in an operation where their commanding officer and several other soldiers were killed.
He claimed they were given two weeks pass and after the expiration of their pass, they were issued new uniforms, boots and 30 rounds of bullets each as opposed to the statutory 60 rounds.
He added that they were going to be conveyed in a tipper lorry to Gwoza and Bama for an operation against the insurgents, when majority of the soldiers requested for support equipment.
“So we asked for support weapons. No support weapon was provided. Our Commanding Officer, CO, said he would discuss with the General Officer Commanding, GOC, of the 7 Division at the headquarters. When he came back, he said we should stand down. We thought all was well.”
However, their request would prove to be their undoing, when on the morning of the next day, their commanding officer, Lieutenant colonel, A. Mohammed, from 195 battalion, Agenebode, ordered them to submit their weapons and uniforms or be charged with mutiny.
“On the morning of 16 of August, after the GOC briefing, our commander started calling our names and he said anyone whose name is called should submit his uniform and weapon. He added that anyone who failed to do that would be charged for mutiny. We were surprised at what was happening.”
“He started from the most senior soldier among us, a warrant officer who had served for almost 30 years. They asked us to go back to the barrack. It is a war zone and our weapons had been taken from us. Staying around was of no use, so we left Maiduguri and went back home.”