This certainly not the best of times for Nigerian soldiers attached to the 152TF Battalion. They are calling on the Federal Government and the Army high command to urgently come to their aid.
The troops who are fighting insurgencies on the front line say some of the pressing issues disturbing them centre around alleged neglect and inhuman conditions which they are made to undergo.
An operative of the battalion, who prefers not to be named told The News Chronicle, that they were enlisted into the Nigerian Army on August 3, 2013.
That after their Passing Out Parade (POP) on December 13, 2013 while all their other regulars (mates) were posted to their various units, 200 of them were left in the Nigeria Army Depot, Zaria, Kaduna State
After a week of their passing out, the troops were allegedly conveyed to the Nigerian Army school of infantry, Jaji, Kaduna where they underwent a one month basic training on counter- terrorism.
At the end of their training in Jaji, on March 10, 2014, our source said they were conveyed again to Maiduguri, Borno State. When they arrived Maimalari barracks in Maiduguri, they were allegedly taken to the headquarters the 7 Division, Nigerian Army, where the then General Officer Commanding (GOC) Major General A. Mohammed informed them that they were going to be there for a six-month assignment after which, they will be posted out to various units.
Their trouble was said to have started when they were deployed to various sectors in Maiduguri with majority of them taken to the bush; ever since then we had been in the theatre of Operation Lafia Dole, moving from one bush to the other
The soldier said they have been going through hell in the operation. “Presently we are in the bush between Nigeria and Kumshe, Cameroon attached to 152TF Battalion fighting Boko Haram both day and night.
”It appears the Nigerian Army is not ready to help us. With tears and pain in our hearts, we are calling on the federal government, the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole and the GOC 7Division to please, help us.
“We have tried. Even God in heaven knows that we have tried. Many of our colleagues whom we came together have lost their lives. We are five years now in this theatre with no hope of changes or rotating us. Nobody is talking about us. We are not the only soldiers in Nigeria. Let others come and have a taste of it.
“We are soldiers not slaves. Many people came to this theatre and meet us and many of them have gone back to their various units and meet their families, leaving us in the operation.
“Please, let the Nigerian army help us let them change us and post us to other places outside north east. We are not the only soldiers in Nigerian army. All our mates are laughing at us that we haven’t experienced life in the army since we pass out from depot all we know is moving from one bush to the other. Let the Nigerian army help us.
“We have not by any means committed any crime by coming into the Nigerian army and we are not the only soldiers in Nigerian army. Let them change us please we have tried and we are tired. Please we are begging whoever is in the right position to help us should please help us out of this predicament.
“We are the 200 13NA soldiers with no unit.
“The point now is they have removed us from the Maiduguri but now kept us in Jaji instead of posting us to various places. All we need now is for them to just post us. We don’t like the way they are keeping us here after all we have suffered in northeast. For now we are not under lafiya dole again but under ICC infantry coup center”, the officer explained.
Some aggrieved soldiers from the Operation Lafiya Dole theatre had protested that they had overstayed and were resisting redeployment to Marte, one of the towns liberated by the military several years ago from the control of Boko Haram terrorists.
The protesters were part of the special force deployed to provide air defence and enhance security at the airport.
The troops barricaded some section of the airport and fired shots in the air, causing pandemonium, as hundreds of pilgrims waiting to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, scampered for safety.
However, the army authorities reacted to the protesters in a statement signed by Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Command saying the protest by the few “unscrupulous troops” happened while the command was conducting a redeployment of soldiers at the Maiduguri Airport, following a directive to review troops’ deployment in Maiduguri metropolis, to reinvigorate the security architecture of the city.
“The redeployment became expedient after a recent assessment of the security situation by the Theatre Command. Regrettably however, a few of the troops who had misunderstood the development and erroneously assumed it was going to negatively affect their rotation from the theatre of operation became agitated and reacted by firing into the air.
“Calm has however been restored, as the Theatre Commander, Major General Abba Dikko has promptly taken charge of the situation after addressing and admonishing the troops~”, Nwachukwu said.
As at the time of filing this report, calls and sms sent to the Director, Army Public Relations, Texas Chukwu were neither picked nor replied.