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That shooting scare at Maiduguri Airport

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That shooting scare at Maiduguri Airport

The recent protest at the Maiduguri Airport by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole prosecuting the fight against insurgency in Borno State and the North-East is one reaction that should hardly be wished away by the Federal Government, nay the nation’s military high command.

 

The aggrieved soldiers who were part of the special force deployed to provide air defence and enhance security at the airport claimed they had overstayed and were resisting redeployment to Marte, one of the towns liberated by the military from the control of Boko Haram terrorists.

 

The troops barricaded some sections of the airport and fired shots in the air, causing pandemonium, as hundreds of pilgrims waiting to be airlifted for Hajj, scampered for safety. Instructively, one of the protesting soldiers said the planned deployment was against the directives of the Army Headquarters.

 

We found it very curious and unsettling that the troops’ reaction came less than two months after some operatives of the Police Mobile Force (PMF) on special duty in Borno State carried out similar protests laced with war songs in the same Maiduguri and had to be calmed down by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Damian Chukwu.

 

In view of the fact that the troops are often redeployed mandatorily from the warfronts to their bases after spending stipulated time in the theatre of operation and that these very ones have spent over three years in the North-East and deserved to be transferred out of the region to their bases and not within, we strongly believe that the Nigerian Army should take a serious look at the legitimate complaints.

 

By merely describing the two-hour incident by the troops as ‘unscrupulous” reaction, the military high command is merely begging the issue and might be compelling or coercing the dedicated troops to return to the warfront disgruntled and suffering in silence with an internal resolve to perform below expectations – an insidious counter-reaction, which will be dangerous to the high fighting spirit expected of them for the success of the entire military operation.

 

We take good cognizance of the fact that the recent redeployment was as a sequel to an assessment of the security situation by the theatre command, but if it was discovered that the troops misunderstood the development and erroneously assumed it would negatively affect their rotations, the military owes it a duty to effectively communicate with its troops from time to time to avoid misinformation and or disinformation.

 

We acknowledge that in the last three years of this administration, the Defence Headquarters had carried out regular replacement of Theatre Commanders of Operation Lafiya Dole, which had seen the transfer of top officers from the region. The troops were aware of the replacement recently of the Theatre Commander, Major General Rogers Nicholas, by Major General Abubakar Dikko. The new theatre commander is being assisted by Brig.-Gen. A.O Abdullahi as Acting Commander Sector 2 and Brig.-Gen. U.U. Bassey as Acting Commander Sector 3 of the Operation. Interestingly, Rogers spent about nine months as commander whereas some of these troops have been at the battle front for not less than three years and were drained by war fatigue.

 

 

It was obvious therefore that in clear negation of the norm within the military, the troops and junior officers who suffer war fatigue would found their retention in the region unjust and inconsiderate, especially viewed from the prism that they must take orders from commanders who are fresh from the DHQ or their brigades, nay divisions.

 

However, we found, rather reckless, the agitation by the troops, especially the firing of gunshots, albeit into the air at the airport to register their complaints at a period where airfield was heavily populated by civilians. That, to us, must have created not a little panic and an atmosphere of insecurity to those men and women boarding or disembarking from their flights. The troops should have adopted a more civil and result-oriented measure to register this legitimate complaint. Discipline is the bedrock of military service and must be sustained at all times.

 

However, we are quick to suggest that describing these special forces as mutineers and subjecting them to court-martial as stated recently by Major General Dikko, might be an action taken too far merely because by their action, these troops seem to have acted in manner contrary to their oath of recruitment.

 

We recognise the vital role the military are playing in protecting the nation’s territorial integrity, in addition to assisting the police and other civil forces in ensuring internal security. In the process, scores of these troops, men and women have paid and are still paying the supreme price, sometimes in very dehumanising manners. It is on record that today, the soldiers are present in about 32 states of the federation, fighting or suppressing various security threats. We salute their courage.

 

Of great importance, therefore, is the fact that adequate attention must be paid to the welfare, medical and other entitlements of these officers and men who are carrying out these arduous operations. Prompt payment of such allowances is essential to enable them meet obligations to their family from whom they are separated for this essential national service.

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