Find the runaway soldiers

Nigeria Military SchoolProfessor Sam Leonard-Fwa, Vice-Chancellor of Bingham University, a private tertiary institution of learning, at Keffi, Nasarawa state, recently made a startling revelation cum allegation. Speaking at the 2nd induction of the Chartered Institute of Human Capital Development that held in Abuja, the vice-chancellor whose specialization is security, said that 700 out of 1000 young soldiers trained at the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria, failed to show up on graduation day (Peoples Daily, May 26). He alleged that nobody, not even the military authorities, had bothered to ask why and how.

Prof. Leonard-Fwa said he was disturbed by the disappearances, particularly at a time that Nigeria is experiencing its worst security crisis since the Civil War. He asked, “Don’t they have homes? Don’t they have families that wrote undertakings? And we’re keeping quiet in this country; nobody remembers anything; they are talking about Boko Haram, and women are carrying placards…Absence from military school for days (on end)attracts a search and punishment as well, but this serious and sensitive issue seems to have eluded the federal government’s attention”.

It has been five days since Prof. Leonard-Fwa made that revelation. Neither the authorities at NMS, Zaria nor Defence headquarters, Abuja has contradicted him nor has there been any explanation, if indeed the soldiers disappeared after receiving full military training. Did they disappear with their uniform and arms? Did they leave the school singly or in groups? Was it under cover of night or in broad day light?

We fear that one of two things or both may happen to these young deserters if they are not found fast: either they will turn to crime, using their specialized skills and arms they have stolen to attack innocent tax payers whose money was used to train them or they will be enticed by Boko Haram insurgents, who obviously have a lot of money to throw around, to join their ranks. Either scenario will be extremely harmful to national security which is already badly breached.

We demand an investigation of what happened at NMS, Zaria, which has confirmed us as a very unserious nation. Those staff of the school in whose care the young men were placed must be made to account for their action or lack of it. Their parents or guardians who vouched for them should be asked questions too.

We do not recall anything close to this happening before now. This is why measures must be taken to find the lost soldiers before they fall into wrong hands. The dragnet should be spread far and wide. Thereafter, the authorities must take steps to ensure there will be no repeat.

In the longer term, we suggest that the requirements for admission into the NMS and all other military training institutions be made more stringent so that only those confirmed to be genuine patriots are offered places. We do not want those with criminal intents to receive specialized training at the expense of the tax payer and the fatherland.

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