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.
According to an online journal, Premium Times, 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 mid-night 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 Commanding Officer, CO, said he would discuss with the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 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.
“On the morning of 16 of August, after the GOC briefing, our commander started calling our names and he said anyone whose name is called should submit his uniform and weapon. He added that anyone who failed to do that would be charged for mutiny. We were surprised at what was happening.
“He started from the most senior soldier among us, a warrant officer who had served for almost 30 years. They asked us to go back to the barrack. It is a war zone and our weapons had been taken from us. Staying around was of no use, so we left Maiduguri and went back home.”
“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.”
203 Nigerian soldiers dismissed after secret night trial