Reprieve for offending soldiers

nigerian-armyTHE Nigerian Army’s reinstatement of 3,032 soldiers the other day is instructive of the institution’s commitment to justice even in the light of strict military operating rules of engagement which prescribe unquestioning obedience of orders. That move by the Army authorities is, therefore, a clear manifestation of a resolve to uphold the values of discipline, regimentation but also justice in the system with a view to bringing out only the best in officers and men.

It is equally significant to note that the soldiers who got a reprieve had shown total readiness to imbibe new orientation through retraining after which they would be re-launched into the battle against insurgency. They should also expect to have their morale boosted by the availability of more weapons (the shortage of which they pleaded for desertion and other actions), and by a new inspiring leadership in place in the military.

More important, the decision taken on all the 5,000 cases reviewed should be seen as a means to restoring dignity to and further strengthening the military institution. The soldiers were convicted by a court martial set up in 2014 for mutiny, disobedience to constituted authority and acts of cowardice. The Court Martial was authorised by the immediate past Chief of Army Staff. It is on record also that the appeal review panel was not convinced by some pleas and did not give relief therefore to those sentenced for various criminal offences. The panel’s thorough job was even underscored by its decision to apportion even stiffer penalties to those whose offences were unpardonable but were given lesser sentences in the original trial.

It is also just as well that as part of the review, soldiers who were sentenced to death and appealed also did not benefit from a reprieve as the Army authorities have to wait for the outcome of that appeal. What many of the soldiers did certainly amounted to jettisoning professionalism and compromising the nation’s security while concerned about their personal safety, contrary to the dictates of their calling.

But the benefit of the doubt for them stemmed from the belief that there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers. In this case, the blame pendulum would seem to have swung towards officers, past or present, who let their country and soldiers down in a time of great need by their alleged failure to acquire necessary and/or enough military hardware or equipment for deployment to the soldiers to confront rampaging insurgents. This was what the soldiers claimed for their unprofessional conduct, which eventually culminated in arrests, trial and punishment.

So on the perceived failure of superiors to provide adequate fighting tools, therefore, the offending soldiers seemed to have found reasonable excuse as the system truly failed them on this score. And many events later bore this out with the insurgents’ routing of the nation’s solders and gaining control of scores of local government areas at a time. Even, frantic efforts by the government then to acquire more weapons and ammunition from abroad only proved this case of guilt on the part of superior officers.

Not only that, the current investigation of some military chiefs and the regime of weapon purchases in the past as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari is a pointer that something was actually amiss which forced a Nigerian soldier to desert or complain in battle.

With firmness, the new President, no doubt, seems to be giving the military the kind of leadership needed at a critical time like now. By giving respite to the convicted soldiers, the new leadership is also scoring a good emotional point. The loss of more men to the emboldened insurgents and the hardly reparable embarrassment the country suffered in the international community when those soldiers deserted the battlefront can hardly be forgotten. But the nation has witnessed a lot of bloodshed and could ill-afford more. This recognition and the emotional stability it gives all is good for the officers and men in ways corresponding to the feelings of the citizens or mood of the nation.

Such professional derailment must, however, not happen again. The reinstated soldiers must reciprocate the gesture of the authorities with a renewed work ethic and loyalty to the nation.

It must be said that Nigeria cannot afford to fiddle with the character and efficiency of its military institution, an institution that is revered the world over. They should maintain and keep the legacy of this respected defence force which has distinguished itself in winning wars and securing peace in different parts of the world.

  • Abimbola Nurudeen

    Yes some of the soldiers have been re-instated but they are still been punished psychologically.
    some of them had their accounts frozen since last year.
    They get alert that their salary entered their accounts since last year but no access to the accounts
    The alert stopped June this year, meaning the payments of their salaries has stopped.
    Today’s date is 23/9 2015. up till today, they have not received a penny in form of salary or allowance.
    They spent days doing nothing in Kotangora.
    Nigerian Army claimed to spend N3million in feeding them everyday while they bring 4 coolers of food for over 3,000 soldiers to feed on at every meal.
    They were later moved to a barrack in Maiduguri more than a week ago.
    At the barrack, no provision of food and water. Don’t forget, for over a year, no salary.
    Nigerian Army brought new uniforms for less than 500 soldiers in the dilapidated barrack. The total number of soldiers are more than 3,000.
    A general addressed the soldiers in kotangora and said to them that they will not be paid their salaries, if they like, let them go to facebook or twitter to tell president Buhari.
    Meanwhile, the re-instated officers were paid half of their unpaid salaries at jaji.
    The point is this, there are saboteurs and great corruption in Nigerian Army. The perpetrators of these are the senior officers. There is a need to urgently fish them out of Nigerian Army. These soldiers have wives, kids, junior ones and aged parents to take care of. How will they concentrate in the war against insurgency when they remember that their families have no food to eat at home. There is an urgent need to pay them all their salary arrears and allowances and open their accounts so that they can fight vigorously.

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  • Tony Johnson

    Making decision to be a soldier is difficult for every young man and woman in this country today. If you agree with me, then those who have made this decision and acted as such should be respected and treated with extreme caution. Rule of engagement is opposite of democratic rules. It is purely regimental. This implies that when commanding officer suddenly becomes insane in battle field the entire troop may perish because of uncoordinated command and posting of men. If this eventually happen, a decisive soldier will not opt for sucide but retreat in self defence especially in the absence adequate firing power. The review panel did commendable job.

    Whether or not saboteurs in the Army, Unpaid salaries, assumed derogatory speech by that officer, family members to take care of, accommodation, feeding or uniform, etc I am convinced these did not escape the calibre of men that constituted the panel. Let us be patient and reason in the line of proffering solution to the various problems that befell men who took lifetime decision to secure our father land – Nigeria