The Nigerian Army has dismissed eight soldiers accused of abandoning their duty post during the Boko Haram insurgents’ fierce attack on 157 Task Force Battalion, Metele village, in the Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State.
Several soldiers including army commander, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba, died in the attack, which occurred in November 2018.
The eight soldiers were discovered to be absent during a headcount at the base. Some of them were said to have resurfaced a month after the incident.
On April 19, 2019, the Acting Commanding Officer, 157 Task Force Battalion, Major UI Lezuya, ordered a regimental inquiry to ascertain the circumstances that led to their AWOL and subsequent reappearance.
Multiple military sources said the terms of reference which guided the regimental inquiry included when the soldiers left the battalion; reasons for leaving; when they rejoined the unit; days absent from the unit; and what they were doing during the period of absence.
Others were the whereabouts of their rifles while absent; if they returned with their rifles to the unit; and whether the unit took action against them including apportioning of blame and recommending appropriate punishments when necessary.
A highly-placed military source said that at the end of the inquiry, the five-member panel comprising a chairman, three members and a secretary, found the soldiers culpable. They were subsequently dismissed from service.
The source who refused to give the names of the affected soldiers described the punishment as harsh.
He noted that the soldiers gave reasons for their absence during the trial and should have been punished in other ways.
He said, “It was glaring that the soldiers are ready to continue to defend their fatherland with their remorseful manner during the trial. They should have been de-ranked, imprisoned or handed high labour. Their dismissal is too harsh. I urge the army authorities to look into the matter.’’
It was further gathered that there had yet been a signal regarding the decision neither to the units of the dismissed soldiers nor to the army headquarters.
The ranks of the affected soldiers ranged from private, lance corporal to corporal with their length of service between five and 11 years.
The acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, could not be reached for comment as his mobile telephone was switched off as of press time on Saturday. He had also yet to reply to a text message sent on the matter.
The acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, also was not available for comments.
Meanwhile, a source at the army headquarters told one of our correspondents that there were official channels of complaints if the affected soldiers were not satisfied.
The source said, “They can appeal the court-martial. They can get a lawyer to write to the Nigerian Army headquarters on their behalf. There are also desks where such communication is referred. If indeed they feel it was a kangaroo trial, they know where to go, certainly.”
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