The Nigerian Army has allegedly dismissed 80 soldiers from service over disobedience to a standing order. The dismissed soldiers were part of the security personnel deployed to the 159 Battalion at Baga in Borno State. One of the affected soldiers who confirmed the dismissal to Sahara Reporters said they were dismissed for withdrawing from the war front after running out of ammunition during a fight with Boko Haram terrorists but without an order telling them to do so.
He, however, described the punishment meted out to him and his colleagues as not right, arguing that they left the battlefield when their commander was taken off. The soldier denied the claim by the army authorities that the soldiers abandoned their duties and ran away. According to him, sufficient arms and ammunition were not provided for them to fight terrorists and so they soon ran out of ammunition and couldn’t hold back the terrorists.
He asserted that the secret of the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in North-East Nigeria can only be told by soldiers fighting there or those who have fought there before, and not the high-ranking officers, whom he said have been given the government wrong impression.
According to him, soldiers in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, sleep in fear, but they are afraid to speak out while in service for fear of being tried by court-martial. According to his words; “We were posted to an operation in Maiduguri from our different barracks, where we were deployed to 159 Operation Battalion in Baga. From Baga, we were taken to Kukawa.
“We are 300 in number, in Kukawa we were divided into two parts. One hundred and fifty soldiers advanced to Gudunbale while the other 150 remained at Kukawa as a defence team. In advance team, another group was created for reserve, which was to respond when the power was much.
“Entering Kukawa after three days on the road, the terrorists in the town sighted us and ran away. So we met empty ground there. On the second day, around 6AM they came back in large numbers and we started the fight that lasted for two to three hours.
“At around 10AM, we started experiencing a shortage of ammunition, and we immediately started communicating our challenges. By then we pinned them down, such that they could not move forward and we could not go there either. We called the operation headquarters for backup but they didn’t answer us.
“We fought for almost three hours while being pinned down. Even in our presence, the Commander, Col A.O. Bello called the air components several times for re-enforcement of air control but there was no response. When there were no arms available again and the terrorists, who were loaded with sophisticated weapons were coming towards us, for prevention, we had to withdraw.
“Before we withdrew, the Commander, gunners and drivers had already taken off and gone to Multinational Joint Task Force while we lost over 70 soldiers before the rest of us withdrew. When we got to the gate, they gave an order that the gate should be closed, that they should not allow us to enter because our withdrawal should follow an order. But in a situation where we didn’t have ammunition again and our commander had taken off already, what should we do?
“Col. Bello was initially also locked outside but later allowed in with his boys, while we faced sanctions for not holding the terrorists down till the arrival of re-enforcement.”
“The real secret of North-East fight against Boko Haram can only be told by any soldier who is fighting there or who has fought there before but not what the high-ranking officers are telling the government. Every soldier in Maiduguri sleeps with fear and we are afraid to speak out while in service for fear of being tried by court-martial,” he added.
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