Boko Haram: Nigerian soldiers lobby against northeast postings

Boko Haram: Nigerian soldiers lobby against northeast postings

- Nigerian soldiers have begun intense lobbying to escape deployments into the northeast region of the country

- This is due to the escalating wave of Boko Haram attacks on military formations in the region

- Also, a significant number of the soldiers presently stationed in the region are lobbying for redeployment

A report by The Punch indicates that Nigerian soldiers have begun intense lobbying to escape deployments into the northeast, following the escalating wave of Boko Haram attacks on military formations in the region.

According to the report, as part of the fallout of the Boko Haram attacks on military formations in some areas of Borno and Yobe states in November, more soldiers were now lobbying to avoid postings to the volatile northeast region.

Also, It was learnt that a significant number of the soldiers presently stationed in the northeast were lobbying for redeployment.

A Brigadier-General quoted in the report but spoke on condition of anonymity, said a significant number of personnel were influencing their posting against the northeast while some were deserting the military.

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His words: “In the military doctrine, we have what is called cowardice. Soldiers can exhibit cowardice when they hear negative reports.

“Let me tell you why we have been experiencing attacks in those Lake Chad areas. Those army deployments were intentionally made around Lake Chad to block the Boko Haram’s channels of supply.

“The Boko Haram understands why the military are blocking their channels and they therefore ensure they keep attacking those bases to open up their own channels of supply.

“There is a way some people have been glorifying the attacks and this makes the soldiers who are there to be afraid. These are very young military officers with families and they can be afraid. Most times when I as a general say I am on my way to the northeast, I get messages from friends and families to be careful. But I am going under escort.

“Now, imagine soldiers who are just deployed to actually go and fight. This is why some reports are not helpful because they are escalating these attacks, glorifying the terrorists and putting fear in our soldiers. Some of these soldiers read all these online reports and they are afraid. They are now avoiding going to the northeast like a disease.

“I just came back home and learnt that one of my cousins whom I brought into the army was redeployed. He was supposed to go to the northeast. He ran away. He is in the village in the south-south riding motorcycle, because he does not want to die.

“Now, if we have such incidences all over, what will become of our security architecture? Our worries are that while the terrorists are doing theirs, so many media reports reaching soldiers in the northeast are disturbing and pulling down their morale.”

A colonel also quoted in the report, said personnel were now increasingly influencing their postings to avoid the northeast.

He said: “Soldiers are trained to die in the course of defending the country’s territorial integrity, but not when you die because there are no adequate equipment. The terrorists know how to strike because they have informants who leak the strengths and weaknesses of the army to them.

“Since there is no specific time frame for soldiers serving in the northeast, some of them are disgruntled and they are lobbying not to be posted there. The increasing attacks in the northeast are dampening the morale of troops and this is why the military authorities usually send the service chiefs to visit and talk to them.”

Further findings also revealed that a number of the soldiers serving in troubled areas were considering the option of deserting due to the renewed attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents.

Specifically, a soldier in the Maimalari Barracks quoted in the report on condition of anonymity, said although the insurgents had yet to invade the area, their activities in neighbouring communities had raised concern over the safety of army personnel in the area.

According to the soldier, the prevalence of these fearful developments has led to a situation where more soldiers now lobby to be redeployed out of the northeast.

His words: “Honestly, I am even thinking of leaving (the military). They (insurgents) are coming close to the barracks. When I made an enquiry about my posting, I was told that I must complete four years (in Maiduguri); but I have spent two years. I do not know what to do.

“I will not make it (my quitting) official. I have made up my mind to go. But the problem I have is: what will I fall back to?”

He added: “At first, the Boko Haram (insurgents) were in the villages. But they are coming close to the town now. And whenever they capture any soldier, they do not shoot the soldier; they just slaughter the soldier with knives.

“I know some soldiers who have blocked their posting to Borno. They have godfathers. I also know many soldiers who influenced their posting after our training at the depot (in Kaduna). One of the female soldiers just told me that she was working to get posted to Lagos.”

A corporal, who served in the North-East between 2011 and 2016, also interviewed, said troops were lobbying because of inadequate weapons to defend themselves and the communities.

“You are given only AK-47 rifles to face the Boko Haram terrorists who have machine guns, GPMG, gun trucks and anti-aircraft guns. You are not going to return alive from that war. This is why some soldiers are willing to be redeployed, if it is possible.

“The terrain is not friendly. The land is desert and you need both adequate military and welfare provisions to survive. But these things are mostly not there,” he said.

Reacting, the army spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman, said there was no specific time frame for rotation of troops deployed in the northeast, noting that soldiers could get a leave or pass from the theatre, depending on their circumstances.

According to him, some personnel in the north-east theatre of war were specialists, “whose jobs are very critical to the performance of a particular unit and formation.”

“If you are talking about the duration, there is no specific time frame. However, there are provisions where soldiers are allowed to go on passes whenever the need arises. They are also allowed to go on a leave.

“The bottom line is that we are fighting a war and we are defending the territorial sovereignty of our country. I cannot speak on the longest duration anyone has stayed. It depends on the individual. It is not everyone who has duration. Military rotation has no time frame that you say, you must rotate people,” he said.

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Meanwhile, a report based on an analysis by Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) data has revealed that sectarian violence in the Middle Belt of Nigeria increased significantly in the year 2018.

According to the report, the violence is said to have eclipsed the Boko Haram conflict and almost doubled since 2017.

The NST documented 1,949 deaths through October 2018, compared to 1,041 sectarian-related deaths in all of 2017. The violence is about even with Boko Haram, in terms of the number of conflict-related victims. Deaths related to the Boko Haram conflict through October 2018 are roughly 1,900.

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