By Fidelis Soriwei
|Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, on Wednesday said some soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army had been arrested for conspiring with insurgents in the ongoing face-off between the military and militants. The COAS however did not give the number of soldiers that were arrested.
Ihejirika said that the affected troops were caught while posting comments he described as “negative” and conversing with terror suspects on the Internet.
He stated, “There are some soldiers that have been found to be posting negative comments on the Internet and some conversing with insurgents.
“I want to state that any officer or soldier caught linked one way or the other will be disciplined severely, there are no two ways about it.
“So the Directorate of Military Intelligence is encouraged to continue to monitor the activities along with military police and other commanders in the field because military service is service of patriotism as I said earlier.”
Nigerian troops are currently confronting militants in the three northern states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, where President Goodluck Jonathan last week declared a state of emergency in the efforts to rout members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
The Army chief spoke at the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Army transformation and Innovation Centre on Personnel Management and Development at the Command Officers Mess, Asokoro, Abuja.
The seminar was held under the leadership of the Chief of Army Transformation and Innovation, Maj. Gen Ibrahim Sani, with the title, “Building Capacity of the Nigerian Army to meet Contemporary Challenges.”
He warned that any officers found to be involved in such unacceptable conduct would be made to face the law.
Ihejirika urged the DMI, the investigative arm of the Armed Forces, and the Military Police to put commanders and soldiers in the field of operations under watch.
The Army chief explained that a soldier who gave out information on troops’ movement to the insurgents that attacked Mali -bound soldiers at Okene, Kogi State, had been arrested and would be made to face military court-martial.
Two soldiers, a warrant Officer and Corporal were killed in the Okene attack claimed by an Islamic sect.
He said, “Again let me warn; let me also use this opportunity to warn officers and soldiers who indulge in giving out information both from the Army headquarters and other formations; certain vital information that has in one way or the other worked negatively in our operations.
“As you are aware, a soldier gave out information on the movement of our troops to Mali, movement of troops bound for Mali.
“The troops were attacked at somewhere close to Okene; the guy has been apprehended and is going to be court-martialled.”
Ihejirika also advised commanders of the various Army formations in the country to exercise caution in dismissing soldiers who had been trained in handling arms.
He said that if offences committed by the affected soldiers were so grave as to prevent the soldiers from being in the unit, a bold step should be taken to jail and to keep away the offender as a result of the security situation.
He said that the Army would not jump into dismissing people as was the case in the past because of the prevailing security situation in the country.
“The situation we are facing today is such that you cannot afford to discard any of them as was the case many years back when we had the luxury to do that.
“It is also for the reason that I have advised commanders to mellow down in dismissing soldiers who are already trained and have acquired enough knowledge of use of arms.”
The Army chief, who said that the Nigerian Army had progressed beyond the era of the nation’s intervention in the crises in Liberia and Sierra Leone, announced the establishment of a special unit whose focus is to monitor the activities of troops during operations.
He said that the Army was collaborating with the United States AFRICOM, in the quest to have a standing special operations unit which could be transformed into a special brigade.
He also said that the Army had established a standing full-fledged Army Headquarters Reserve Battalion known as 101 battalion and the new battalion would be inaugurated soon.
Ihejirika, who put the strength of the Battalion being led by a Colonel at 100, said that soldiers of the new battalion had been equipped up to 50 per cent of the basic requirement.
He explained that even though the Army might appear to be overstretched, the existence of the new reserve battalion clearly indicated the readiness and preparedness of the Army to take on more challenges.
Ihejirika emphasised the place of capacity building as a vital tool of transformation in the Army.
He said, “This question is about capacity building and it will interest you to know that since the beginning of last year, we embarked on a programme of retraining young officers starting with those who had just passed out of the Defence Academy.
“They go to our counter-terrorist school and do the whole basic counter-terrorism course and acquire the confidence required to undertake counter insurgency operation. We have all the lieutenants now; this time around we will commence with the captains.”
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