- Military removes commander, probes incident
From Mustapha Isah Kwaru, Maiduguri & Joy Baba, Abuja
Soldiers deployed for the counter-insurgency operations against the dreaded Boko Haram sect in Borno state yesterday allegedly opened fire on their General Officer Commanding (GOC) the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, with headquarters in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed.
The soldiers, our reporters learnt, also fired several gunshots into the air as a show of mutiny against the commander, for allegedly mishandling an operation, resulting the killing of their colleagues in an ambush by suspected Boko Haram militants.
Four soldiers have been confirmed killed, though other sources said the casualty figure in the ambush was “much higher”.
Also, many others were said to have been injured in the ambush, which the personnel blamed on General Mohammed.
The general however escaped unhurt after the mutinying soldiers shot at him, but the Defence headquarters has relieved him of his post as GOC of the Command, and set up an inquiry into the incident.
Details of the attack on General Mohammed were sketchy as at press time because journalists were barred from getting access to the popular Maimalari Military Barracks in Maiduguri, scene of the mutiny.
However sources hinted that serious pandemonium erupted in the barracks and the surrounding neighbourhoods following sounds of horrifying gunshots suspected to have been fired into the air by the aggrieved soldiers.
It was gathered that soldiers fired the shots after the high ranking commander had addressed troops after corpses of their colleagues killed by the insurgents in the ambush were brought to the military formation.
The GOC allegedly shouted down a soldier who expressed reservation over the manner the operation was handled, leading to the killing and wounding of scores of their colleagues.
But to the commander’s surprise, the entire troops also shouted back at him, demanding information on how their colleagues were not given superior arms to confront the Boko Haram.
Residents surrounding the Maimalari Barracks told newsmen on phone that they were thrown into intense fear following sounds of endless gunshots which emanated from the formation.
One of the residents of Shagari Low Cost Housing Estate, who declined identification, said when the gunshots intensified, they thought it was an attack on the barracks by Boko Haram insurgents.
Our correspondent reported that socio-economic activities along the barracks were suspended for several hours as people scampered for safety and stayed indoors. Similarly, all major roads leading to the area were deserted without vehicular movements.
Meanwhile, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, yesterday confirmed the removal of General Mohammed from his duty post, on telephone to one of our reporters, and also disclosed in a statement that the division would constitute a committee to probe the mutiny.
Olukolade, in the statement said: “The 7 Division of the Nigerian Army is to institute a military board of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the conduct of soldiers who fired some shots today while the General Officer Commanding was addressing troops in Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri.
“The incident occurred when the corpses of four soldiers who died in an ambush while returning from patrol duties in Chibok was being conveyed to the morgue.
“There is calm in the cantonment and all normal operations activities are ongoing “, the statement concluded.
It will be recalled that troops deployed to the state from various military formations across the country for the counter-insurgency operations had accused their superior officers of series of ill-treatments before now.
Some of the allegations leveled by the aggrieved soldiers include poor working condition, non-payment of operational allowances, illegal deductions, over-stay in the operation and lack of logistics, among others.
Similarly, just last month, some soldiers lodged a complaint over non-payment of their pension contribution deposits over three years after the National Assembly had passed a resolution to that effect.
The affected soldiers argued that non-payment of the pension funds is affecting their morale in the fight against insurgency as their families suffer serious hardships.