Over 2,500 soldiers asked to withdraw from service over alleged offences committed under the counter- insurgency operations code named Operation Zaman Lafiya have been recalled by the Nigerian army.
A review panel set up by the army, which began sitting in Kaduna on Monday, August 17, screened and reinstated 102 officers, who were sentenced or facing prosecution in relation to the operations in the North-East.
According to The Punch, the reinstated soldiers and officers, had commenced retraining at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontangora, Niger state.
It was learnt that the 2,500 soldiers were among the over 4,000 who responded to a memo from the army authorities inviting soldiers for a review of recent disciplinary cases, which emanated from the counter terrorism operations.
The army had said on Saturday, August 1, 2015 that the service would constitute a panel to review all recent disciplinary cases in the service.
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However, the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, cautioned that the directive to review disciplinary cases should not be mistaken for a “total reinstatement of dismissed and deserter soldiers.”
More dismissed personnel of the army might be brought back to the service as the screening panel would continue with the review of cases on Monday, August 24.
A source in the Nigerian Army who spoke under anonimity, said: “The panel has cleared 2,500 soldiers who were dismissed from their units for minor offences alleged to have been committed under Operation Zaman Lafiya."
“The review panel also cleared 102 officers who were either asked to withdraw, dismissed or facing prosecution for various offences under the operation.”
The soldiers, who were said to have been conveyed out of the NDA, Kaduna, venue of the review panel, in luxury buses on Saturday, August 22, are expected to undergo a short retraining exercise as part of the reintegration requirements into the service at the NATRAC, Kotangora.
It is gathered that after the retraining, the Army authorities would screen the affected personnel and re-activate their suspended bank accounts.
The cases of 66 soldiers who were sentenced to death by firing squad, would also be reviewed by the panel.
According to the source, not all the dismissed soldiers who turned up in Kaduna were lucky to have regained their jobs.
Some of the soldiers, said to have been dismissed about 15 years ago for various offences, were asked to leave the venue of the review panel.
The soldiers were said to have been dismissed from the Army for various offences since the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Majority of the affected soldiers were dismissed from the service for violating a law said to have forbidden the personnel of the Army from marrying foreigners.
Col. Sani Usman, the acting director, Army public relations, said those asked to leave the venue of the review panel were not eligible for the review exercise.
The army spokesman said they were dismissed from the service for various offences about 15 years ago and were not part of those whose cases were meant for review.
Usman described them as “a group of mischief-makers who should have been arrested and prosecuted for disrupting the peace of the public.”
He said, “The alleged protesting soldiers were no longer soldiers for almost 15 years now.
“They were dismissed for various offences and therefore are not part of those whose disciplinary cases are being reviewed by the committee. Consequently, they are not eligible for the ongoing review.
“They are bunch of mischief makers that need to be arrested and prosecuted for constituting a nuisance to the public. Already the relevant security agencies have been alerted on their activities.”
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On the issue of the recalled officers and men of the Army, he said that he could not give the figure of those screened and cleared.
Usman said that the exercise was ongoing and that the panel was expected to submit its report to relevant authorities.
He added.“This is an ongoing exercise; they want to ensure that justice is done. I cannot give you any figure, the authorities are waiting for the committee’s report; they will conclude sitting very soon.”
It would be recalled that about 8 months ago, 54 soldiers were sentenced to be executed by firing squad by a military tribunal after been found guilty of mutiny.
The convicted soldiers who were attached to the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, were said to have disobeyed orders to join operations against Boko Haram on Monday, August 4, 2014. The group initially consisted of two Corporals (Cpl) nine Lance Corporals (LCpl) and 49 privates soldiers, but four of the soldiers were acquitted.
This controversial case is another in a series, it follows the verdict of a military court in Abuja which found 12 out of of 18 soldiers guilty for attempted murder and mutiny in Maimalari cantonment, on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.
Reports have it that on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, the soldiers angered by the death of 12 of their colleagues in a Boko Haram ambush, opened fire on the vehicle of the General Officer Commanding (GOC), of the 7th division of the Nigerian Army, Ahmadu Mohammed.