How We Were Dismissed Without Benefits- Nigerian Soldier Narrates

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Culled from Premium Times
The Nigerian Army has dismissed 203 soldiers after a secret
court martial held in the dead of the night, for allegedly disobeying a direct
order from their commanding officer.
One of the sacked soldiers, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said the soldiers were dismissed for asking for support equipment,
following the army’s plan to convey them in a tipper for an operation in Bama
and Gwoza, two strongholds of Boko Haram insurgents.

The soldier, who is originally of the 19th Battalion in
Okitipupa in Ondo State, but attached to the 7th division in Maiduguri, said
the army detained them for over 90 days before dismissing them after a midnight
trial. He said they are owed up to five months in unpaid salaries.
Narrating the event that led to their dismissal, the soldier
said his unit reconvened in Maiduguri last August, after they were dislodged by
the insurgents in Damboa in an operation where their commanding officer and
several other soldiers were killed.
He said they were given two weeks pass and that at the
expiration of their pass, they were issued new uniforms, boots and 30 rounds of
bullets each as opposed to the statutory 60 rounds. And were going to be
conveyed in a tipper lorry to Gwoza and Bama for an operation.
He said having engaged the insurgents in several past
battles, majority of the soldiers argued that the operation would be fierce,
and therefore requested support equipment.
“So we asked for support weapons. No support weapon was
provided. Our CO (Commanding Officer) said he would discuss with the GOC
(General Officer Commanding) of the 7 Division at the headquarters. When he
came back, he said we should stand down. We thought all was well,” our source
said.
But the request made by the soldiers fetched them more than
they bargained for.
The next day their new CO, Mohammed A, a lieutenant colonel
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 their 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 back home.”
The next order from the army hierarchy was for the soldiers
to report to the 4th Brigade headquarters in Benin where they were detained for
three months.
“They kept us in the fenced field at the officers’ mess in
4th battalion headquarters. When we first arrived at Benin they took statements
from us and took it to Maiduguri. The original charge against us was for
deserting but after our statements were taken they changed the charge to
disobedient to particular order. They said we disobeyed the CO’s order. They
seized our phones, we couldn’t communicate with our families for the 90 days we
were kept in detention,” our source said.
After they were released on December 24, they were conveyed
to their various units. The soldier said on getting to their units, a court
martial was set up at about 11.30 p.m. where they were tried and dismissed. He
said the next morning, they were evicted from the barrack with their families.
“It was dismissal without benefits. After 17 years in
service. Even people that served for 30 years were dismissed without benefits.
We had no legal representation.”
Army spokesperson, Olajide Laleye, a Brigadier General,
could not be reached for comments on Thursday. Calls and messages to his
telephone were not answered or returned

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