A group of soldiers in Maimalari Barracks, Borno State, have defied the military authorities, refusing to fight Boko Haram militants, saying that they would not fight with obsolete weapons.
A soldier who pleaded anonymity told the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that his colleagues numbering over 30 assembled their military vehicles along the Maiduguri-Bulabiri Road, complaining about lack of equipment to attack the Boko Haram sect.
“Our colleagues were ambushed last Monday by the sect and we have no weapons for counter-attack; soldiers are dying like fowl.
“The Nigerian Army is not ready to fight Boko Haram; soldiers were not being given enough weapons and ammunition to take them on.
“Not that we disobey them (senior commanders). Boko Haram are inside the bush, everywhere and the vehicles the soldiers were expected to use were old armoured cars that were not up to the job,” he said.
“There is war equipment in Maimalari barracks but the senior commanders deny us the weapons and we can’t attack Boko Haram in Alagarmo which is not more than 8 kilometres away from the barracks without weapons,” he added.
“We joined the army to defend our country, but you cannot defend it without being equipped to do so,” he said.
The Defence spokesman, Major-Gen. Chris Olukolade, told the BBC that they did not take the situation as mutiny because it is a serious offence in the military if confirmed.
“We can’t just fall into conclusion that any decision of this kind taken by military personnel is a mutiny because it is a punishable offence.”
But the chief of army staff (COAS), Lt General Kenneth Minimah, has warned that any soldier or officer involved in mutiny would be court-martialed and sentenced to death.
He added that the army had no room for rebels, stressing that punishment for soldiers and officers involved in mutiny remained the death sentence.
Minimah, who spoke yesterday in Enugu during his familiarisation tour of military units in 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, further warned that soldiers caught sabotaging the ongoing war against insurgents in the north-east would be seriously sanctioned. He said it was an offence for any soldier to sabotage the nation’s ongoing campaign to rid Nigeria of insurgency and terrorist elements.
Minimah said, “Of course, the issue of saboteurs which we experienced in the North-East where soldiers found it necessary to conspire, connive or colloborate with the terrorist elements, we are taking charge of that and very soon we will identify them and they will go through a field court marshal and executed in the theatre.”
He used the opportunity to warn the wives of soldiers in all the military formations in the country to desist from any form of protest against postings of their husbands to any part of the country to fight insurgents.
General Minimah insisted that soldiers’ wives have no right to carry out protest on behalf of their husbands because they were not enlisted into the army.
He stated that the authorities of the Nigerian Army would not hesitate to kick the wives of soldiers that would embark on any form of protest out of the barracks.
The COAS also disclosed that they had concluded plans to buy more arms and ammunition, assuring that they would arrive in the country, even as he expressed hope that Boko Haram would soon be defeated.
Our troops are brave – DHQ
But in a swift reaction, the Defence Headquarters faulted the report and vouched for its troops that they are all brave and patriotic.
The DHQ’s director of information Major General Olukolade said all the claims are false and baseless.
“That degree of cowardice is not in the character of a real soldier of the Nigerian army. The series of lies contained in the alleged responses of the faceless person referred to as a soldier confirms the whole arrangement as another step of the mischief-makers working for terrorists.
“No soldier has been sent on any mission without being armed. Each soldier answers for his action in terms of discipline.”
Speaking further, Olukolade said, “Anyone who knows the military reward for mutiny would not join anyone to try it. The overwhelming majority of the Nigerian soldiers remain as brave and disciplined as ever. They will certainly not join any renegade, coward, deserter or those trying to incite mutiny in the military to betray the nation at a time like this, in the way that impostor told his interviewers. His claims are false.”