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, PREMIUM TIMES reports.
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.
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.
The dismissal of the 203 soldiers followed a wave of court-martialling of other soldiers for mutiny for mutiny and other offences.
The convicted soldiers, apart from the four that were sentenced December 24, have been moved to Lagos to await appeal, pardon or execution.