By Kingsley Omonobi
ABUJA — Following the recommendation of the committee instituted by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, to review recent disciplinary cases in the army, especially of soldiers in the defunct Operation Zaman Lafiya, the Nigerian Army has pardoned and reinstated a total of 3,032 soldiers out of the 5,000 that appeared before the committee.
The recall of the soldiers came just as the army authorities vowed that the battle against insurgency will be concluded in three months as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Addressing the media in Abuja, yesterday, Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, said: “The reinstated soldiers are those whose offences bothered on cases of discipline, regimentation and justice.
“The soldiers have shown their total readiness to be re-launched into the theatre of combat insurgency and have now commenced a re-training exercise at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontagora, Niger State.
“It must, however, be made clear that not all dismissed soldiers were granted pardon and recalled. Those with criminal cases, for instance, have their sentences upheld.”
He said the re-training of the recalled soldiers was to re-orient and prepare them for the closing stage of the operational aspect of the counter-insurgency operations with more weapons and new leadership.
On the fate of scores of soldiers condemned to death by the various military court martial during trials, the Army spokesman said: “You will recall that many of those condemned to death went on appeal with their lawyers. Those cases are still in the judicial domain, so we cannot comment on that.”
Vanguard gathered that the review committee which sat in Kaduna for a period of 10 days was headed by the GOC 1 Division, Kaduna, Major-General Adeniyi Oyebade while the Directorate of Army Legal Services headed by Brig-Gen. Shalangwa provided military experts and materials that assisted the committee meet the time scheduled for it to carry out the assignment.
It will be recalled that sometime last year, the military authorities ordered the arrest, interrogation and court-martial of over a hundred soldiers for exhibiting cowardice and disobeying deployment directives.
The erring soldiers, some of whom were said to have gone into hiding were among several hundred troops deployed from the army’s 7th Division in Maiduguri to locations in Damboa and Gwoza for major operations planned to flush out the dreaded Boko Haram sect from the areas.
War on terror’ll end in 3 months
Expatiating on the possibility of bringing the counter insurgency battle to an end in three months and whether there are still Nigerian communities under the control of Boko Haram terrorists, Col. Usman said: “Yes, we still have Boko Haram terrorists in some places in Sambisa forest and other places. But we are very confident that before the end of three months, we will eclipse the terrorists.
“We are working in concert with the Nigerian Air Force and other security agencies. A new operational command for Operation Zaman Dole with a Force Commander and headquarters in the epicentre of the battle is in place, the first of its kind since the counter insurgency started. The Multinational Joint Task Forces with seven brigades that are divided into six sectors with a Nigerian Force Commander are doing very well, blocking those escaping the barrage of military onslaught to neighbouring countries and decimating them.
“The MNJTF is interfacing with the Nigerian military. We have more equipment. We have more troops. The new mantra is that we are the ones going after the terrorists and they are the ones on the run unlike in the past. That is why we are beating our chest and saying in three months, we will defeat and clear Boko Haram off our shores.”
Earlier, Colonel Usman reading a text said: “You are aware that our troops have recaptured Gamboru-Ngala last Tuesday and are now consolidating, mopping up and preparing for the next offensive against the terrorists.
“At this point, I will like to acknowledge the commendable role the Nigerian Air Force plays in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in our great nation. We have a very close cooperation and coordination of military offensive against the terrorists between the NAF and the Nigerian Army.
“Officers and airmen of the Nigerian Air Force in the North-East have conducted themselves creditably and professionally to the admiration of the Nigerian Army. The bombardment of identified Boko Haram terrorists’ location, close air support, air surveillance and interdiction by the NAF have equally enhanced our operational efficiency and success.
“The Nigerian Air Force was equally involved in the supply of essential items, casualty evacuation, equipment and weaponry delivery in Operation Lafiya Dole. One will recall with gratitude how the Nigerian Air Force helped in the extrication and lifting of our T72 Tank when it was bogged down by Improvised Explosive Devices at Logomari, Borno State.
“They have provided water and airlift of other logistics to the war front in addition to their primary role of air reconnaissance and air support. The collaboration with the NAF is also a Force multiplier as troops are confident that they would receive quick medical attention in case any soldier needed such evacuation.”
Appreciating Nigerians for their overwhelming moral support, prayers and understanding as troops “wither through the storm of the fight against these criminal elements that goes by the appellation of Boko Haram terrorists in our country,” Usman said: “In particular, we would like to most sincerely thank all those patriotic and peace loving people that helped with information about the movement of the terrorists, their improvised explosive device making factories and supply routes. The invaluable information provided has made us to act responsively and professionally that made the terrorists to be on the run.
“It is equally gratifying to say that most of the terrorists’ group leadership has been decimated, while the foot soldiers are abandoning their masters, burying their weapons in forests and seeking solace. Such interventions have cut the terrorists supply routes, making them dejected, hungry with no capacity to launch any deadly attack.
“We would like to commend the tremendous sacrifice and gallantry of our troops in the various theatres of operations and assure them that the leadership of the Nigerian Army is solidly behind them and doing all it could to enhance their welfare, performance and general well-being.”