Sergeant Rogers was once a member of the Strike Force and Presidential Body Guard, a term used to refer to the specialised military teams used by General Sani Abacha’s former Chief Security Officer, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha to deal with his boss’ opponents.
But he wasn’t always called Sergeant Rogers. Before he joined the Strike Force in 1994, he was simply known by his given name: Sergeant Barnabas Jabila Mshiela.
Rogers was said to be serving ordinarily in the Military when he was ordered to report to Abuja for training as a member of the Strike Force. The Israelis, who were specially invited to train the Strike Force Commandants, were so impressed with him and this endeared him to Hamza Al-Mustapha.
Shortly after Abacha died in 1998, and the Justice Oputa panel inquiry which took the testimonies of many officers of that regime interviewed Sergeant Rogers and others like I.S Umar, Frank Omenka and even Al-Mustapha. The acts he laid claim to were shocking revelations for many Nigerians. Although Rogers claimed to have been acting strictly under instructions and that he was told that the subjects of his attacks were either terrorists or awful Nigerians colluding with foreign terrorists to break Nigeria “in two”.
According to Rogers, his only successful assassination had been that of Kudirat Abiola even though he’d also been sent to take care of Alex Ibru and Abraham Adesanya. Rogers denied the exposé on him that was earlier published by TELL Magazine where he was accused of having killed more people “for Abacha”.
The Oputa Panel wasn’t the only commission Sergeant Rogers was petitioned to attend and testify before. In many of the petitions, Rogers was “alleged to have trailed his victims with uncommon viciousness, and physically assaulted and tortured them. Some of the victims like the former Chief of General Staff, Oladipo Diya openly testified against Rogers and recalled how he took active part in torturing them while in detention.”
Still, Rogers managed to paint himself as one of the good guys who only wanted to keep the nation united by carrying out all the instructions given to him. He even touted his new status as a regenerate Christian. During his testimony at the Oputa panel, Rogers managed to make the gallery laugh several times notwithstanding the horrible nature of the atrocities he was testifying about.
Later in an interview, Rogers explained that he was “under the command of the Army and under the Federal Government. I’m a servant, you know, a servant doing my service to the nation. Just like the Centurion said, if they say go, I go, come, I come; do this and I will do it; don’t do this and I don’t do it.”
Unlike Al-Mustapha, his commander, Rogers was let off shortly after the Oputa panel hearings. “Shortly after the hearing, there were reports that Rogers had been smuggled back into the Nigerian Army and that he may have been given a position similar to the one he held under Abacha which raised fears that the enemies of the then administration might be targeted.”
Although no further drama was associated with him, Sergeant Rogers did admit that he was still in the Nigerian Army, attached to the SSS headquarters.
Rogers kept a low profile until 2009 when he was involved in a nasty car crash that confined him to a wheelchair.
About the accident, Rogers recounted that he’d gone to the “farm to bring some produce and on my way back, along Kaduna-Abuja Road, the two front tyres pulled off; that was how it happened. I found myself in the hospital. I was assisted by some soldiers and policemen that were on patrol on the highway. They took me to the hospital and I was admitted and treated. I was first admitted to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital at Gwagwalada and I was also treated at the SSS hospital. I have people that come here to treat me. Since then, I have been on treatment in various hospitals and some doctors and physiotherapists come to treat me at home.”
All of these were revealed in a 2014 interview with News Express. He also claimed that “there has been no contact between [him and Al Mustapha]. I only see him on the television when he visits a mosque and goes on his charity campaign.”
Apart from Al Mustapha, Rogers may also have grudges against the Federal Government which he says reneged on promises to provide him an apartment, sponsor further trainings and other promises.
“This house I am living in is a rented apartment; I have been paying rent for a long time. They did not do anything to make good their promise. It is natural to feel used and cheated because the integrity of people that make such promises is not that of people you think will play on your intelligence.”
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