By Taye Obateru, Kingsley Omonobi & NDAHI MARAMA
Jos: The Nigerian Army yesterday arraigned one of its generals, Brigadier-General Muraina Raji, former Commander, 33 Artillery Brigade, Bauchi before a Special Court Martial over the escape of two suspected members of Islamic sect, Boko Haram from the Brigade’s detention facilities.
It was gathered that the detainees were arrested last year following an onslaught in Bauchi which led to loss of several lives and property.
Special Court Martial
Inaugurating the six-member Special Court Martial at the Maxwell Khobe Cantonment yesterday, General Officer Commanding (GOC), Three Armoured Division of the army, Major-General Sunday Idoko said General Raji was indicted for complicity by a military investigation report, noting that the arraignment was in line with service regulations.
He said the constitutional role of the military requires the highest standard of discipline and professionalism which no officer wishing to succeed as a professional could afford to lack.
According to him, “It is the duty of superiors to observe, correct and instantly deal with negligence or any misconduct on the part of subordinates. When there is any breach, it is expected that appropriate disciplinary measures are taken by commanders to forestall future occurrence.”
Idoko explained that appropriate disciplinary action was necessary in the Nigerian Army so that the institution would continue to play its constitutional role and sustain its place as the pride of the nation.
He said he was inaugurating the panel with a heavy heart being the third in less than one year of his assumption of office in the division, adding “if this division has been witnessing one court martial after the other, this is because I want to sustain high level of professionalism required for confronting the mounting security challenges in our area of operation.”
He urged the Special Court Martial to ensure that no effort is spared to achieve the three-way traffic of the justice system and to uphold the tenets of fairness and impartiality in its proceedings.
He also appealed to parties in the proceedings to discharge their duties expeditiously and with commitment to enable the accused officer know his fate on time.
The GOC noted that the existing Court in the Division’s Headquarters lacked jurisdiction to try Raji by virtue of his rank, necessitating the inauguration of another Court.
Idoko implored the Court to ensure that no effort was spared to achieve justice for the accused, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian State, adding that fairness and impartiality should be upheld in the proceedings and the dispensation of justice.
Raji protests panel membership
When Raji was arraigned before the Court, he objected to the membership of a member of the panel, Brig.-Gen Agbo Robinson, who took over from him as the Commander of the Brigade.
“He took over the Brigade after me and in the circumstances of the case, it will be prejudicial for him to be on the panel. Besides, all those appointed to testify against me are from his Command.”
Raji also objected to the membership of the Judge Advocate, Lt. Col Bernard Okorie, whom he said participated in filing the case against him. According to him, “his position will make it difficult for him to do his job as freely as he should.”
The Court later adjourned to consult over Raji’s objection.
Army deploys more soldiers to Borno
Meanwhile the Nigerian Army has deployed more of its personnel to Borno apparently to boost the operations of the Joint Task Force (JTF) established by the Federal Government to restore order in the troubled state.
This is coming barely 24 hours after a suicide bomber was shot dead when he attempted to bomb the Borno State Police Headquarters in Maiduguri.
The deployment of additional troops and military operational facilities came barely a month after a group of elders under the auspices of Borno Elders Forum and some residents clamoured for the removal of the JTF personnel from the streets of Maiduguri . It was alleged that rather than alleviating the security situation in the state, the presence of the troops worsened the situation.
By Tuesday afternoon, a convoy of military vehicles with soldiers from defence headquarters arrieved Maiduguri . The convoy was made up of about five patrol vehicles (Garrison), two military trucks, a military fuel tanker and an ambulance for the medical corp.
Reacting, the JTF spokesman, Lt Colonel Hassan Ifijeh Mohammed said the soldiers that came into the town on Tuesday afternoon were JTF men. “No, they are not additional soldiers per se but they have been part of us,” he said. When asked where the soldiers were coming from, he refused to give detail, insisting that the troops and the military facilities “are part of our operations.”
However, military sources maintained that the defence headquarters actually deployed more troops. “They are additional troops and have never been part of JTF contrary to what the taskforce spokesman said. In fact, the JTF is supposed to have fire fighting equipment too in addition to the fuel tanker, mobile workshop and ambulance you saw,” an air force officer told our correspondent.
US, Europe concerned about Boko Haram’s violent activities – General Carter
In a related development, the United States yesterday disclosed that the violent activities of the Boko Haram members in the country was of great concern to Europe, America and the International community especially as it concerns linkages with other extremist organizations in Africa, Middle East and other places.
Speaking when he paid a visit to the Minister of Defence, Bello Haliru Mohammed, Commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), General Carter Ham noted that economic and security ties between Nigeria and the US were so strong that any threat to Nigeria’s economy, was like a challenge to America hence the US decision to collaborate to find a solution to the threat.
“There are several security issues that are shared between the two countries. First is the economic ties which is very strong; So any threat to that economic ties, is a challenge to us. For example, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is an interest that we share together”.
“And currently, the present violence of the extremist organization “BOKO HARAM’ particularly in the North-Eastern part of the country is a concern not only to Nigeria, but regionally and internationally. We are also very concerned about the linkages between Boko Haram and all other extremist organizations in Africa, Middle East and other places and so we will find way to collaborate to address this”.
According to General Carter, “Our visit here is to strengthen what is already a long and successful partnership. What will make that relationship strong is to specifically look for opportunity to help in the area of maritime security, in curbing violence, and to seek ways in which we can consolidate Nigeria ’s role in regional security”.
“So the visit had been one of useful discussion and I have come out with a key appreciation of the diversity and the complexity that Nigeria face and I also came out with a very strong sense that there are security challenges and very costly ones in which we can collaborate to tackle together”.
He added that “The security challenges that Nigeria face are exactly the same security challenges that the United State faces, so the purpose of my visit is to share our common view and to find ways that the armed forces of the United State and the armed forces of Nigeria can increase our cooperation and synchronization to address our shared issues by exploiting the possibilities of strengthening what is already a very good partnership”.
Responding, Minister of State Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada who represented Dr. Bello Mohammed, commended the US government for the donation of a warship, NNS Thunder to the Nigerian Navy to assist in policing the Gulf of Guinea, fight piracy and other maritime threats, hoping that very soon it will be in Nigeria.
“We appreciate your cooperation for the security of the Gulf of Guinea and also the area of counter terrorism to bring the menace to the lowest level and totally eradicate it in the African sub region, not only Nigeria. We appreciate all the help you can give us. Of course, for training requirements, whatever you can do to train our people in counter terrorism, intelligence analysis, will be greatly welcome”.
“ Nigeria is indeed very grateful for your for the past roles and we are hopeful for a greater cooperation in the future being more or less the policeman of the world. We are hoping that in the area of counter terrorism we will be able work with you to bring this to zero level so that we can have peace because the most important thing we are looking for is peace. We want peace in our country Nigeria and you want peace in your country in America and we need to work together to ensure that this happens”.