The mutiny last week by soldiers of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, Borno state, is symptomatic of the deep seated problems facing the army, particularly the neglect suffered by junior officers. At another level it is a pointer to why the military has not thus far succeeded in quelling the insurgency that has engulfed some states in the north-east. Although what triggered the mutiny was not so much the issue of welfare of the soldiers who have long complained of being short-changed by their superiors, the sad event reflects the seeming disconnect between the soldiers and their superiors on how to effectively execute the war against the insurgents.
Reports have it that some troops of the Division were angered by the killing of 12 of their colleagues in an ambush by Boko Haram members on their way back to Maiduguri from Kalabalge local government area where they had carried out an operation against the insurgents. The troops were said to have pleaded with their superior officers to pass the night but they were told to proceed to Maiduguri despite their plea that the journey was too risky.
A top military source disclosed further that “when the corpses of the slain soldiers were brought to Maimalari barracks in the morning, the GOC had to go there to address the troops. As soon as they spotted the vehicle of the GOC driving into the barracks, some of the vexed soldiers suddenly started shooting at the approaching vehicle; it took an extra effort by the GOC’s driver to beat a retreat and luckily helped the GOC survive by the whiskers.” The military high command has since recalled the General Officer Commanding the Division, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed to Abuja with a pledge to investigate the matter.
While we await the outcome of the investigation, a number of issues easily come up which do not require any special probe to unravel. Firstly, the fact that such an action took place whereby soldiers openly displayed their displeasure with their superiors is a clear indication of a breakdown in the chain of command – which is dangerous to the effective operation of the army. Mutiny in the military anywhere is treated very seriously and strikes at the heart of the code of the military which makes obeying a command obligatory. For soldiers to now turn around against their superiors in the manner they did seriously calls for concern.
What happened in Maiduguri should give the army high command in Abuja and, indeed, the federal government an opportunity to critically look into the operations of the army and review the war against the insurgency. One of the reasons why the war has persisted, according to many, is because the army is not well equipped to fight the insurgents who are apparently better armed. We recall that the Borno state Governor, Kashim Shettima, has repeatedly made this point but he has not been taken seriously by the Jonathan government. It is now imperative to do so to avoid the sort of devastating ambush that the troops suffered and also to urgently bring the war to an end.
We believe that an evidently ill equipped force is an ill motivated force. Reports say the soldiers fighting the war do not have basic equipment like communication gadgets and night goggles that would give them the edge over the insurgents despite the trillions of naira budgeted for the war. The National Assembly must wake up to its responsibility and probe the financing and execution of this war that is turning into a cash cow for a few individuals at the expense of the lives of many Nigerians. The lawmakers must ensure that the military is well equipped and also get to find out how and where the insurgents acquire their sophisticated weapons. Until these measures are taken, another shameful mutiny may not be too far away.