The conduct of military personnel (1)

August 23rd, 2019

For some time now, the Nigerian Army has been in the news for the wrong reasons. And it’s not about battlefront prowess or lack of it. Rather, it’s about the character and conduct of its personnel.

This creeping decrepitude of unwarranted events involving some personnel of the nation’s military and para-military Services, should never have to be.

Themost dominant of these is penultimate week’s killing of a civilian and threeNigeria Police officers who had arrested a wanted kidnap kingpin, Alhaji HamisuWadume, in Taraba State. Before then, Lance Corporal Sunday Awolola allegedlyraped a 300-level female student of the Adekunle Ajasin University, AkungbaAkoko on July 31 at a military check point along Akungba-Ikare road. LastWednesday, he was arraigned before an Akure Magistrate Court in Ondo State.

Lastweek Monday, the Ogun State Command of Nigeria Police announced that foursoldiers killed two residents of Isheri Olofin, a boundary community betweenLagos and Ogun over a minor disagreement between them and some youths.Unfortunately, one Damilare Adelani was hit by the soldiers’ bullets. He diedon the spot. This infuriated the people who turned on the soldiers, injuringone of them. Three other youths were injured.

Policesaid that the soldiers allegedly took their injured colleague to hospital wherethey met one of the injured civilian being attended to by a doctor. Policestated that the soldiers ordered the doctor out, dragging the patient andstabbing him to death with a Bayonet attached to the muzzle of a rifle.

In another incident, Lance Corporal Johnson Ajayi, attached tothe Forward Operations Base, Ohanze, Abia State, tragically shot dead ChimaobiNwogu, over the refusal of the motorcyclist to part with a bribe of N100 at amilitary checkpoint in the town. Ajayi reportedly trailed Nwogu, who had twochildren and a pregnant wife, to his home, where he was killed. Initially, theNigerian Army stated that Nwogu was a secret cult member who wore an Armyfatigue. But it later admitted that he was killed in a disagreement over a N100bribe. We can go on with more tales.

Some have argued that the over exposure of militarypersonnel in Internal Support Operations (ISOs) is the major reason these misdemeanours arehappening now. There is no doubt that Army personnel in the frontlinesare most times overworked, staying in trenches and open fields, in heat orcold, rain or sun, and on alert, all aimed at thwarting all intentions of theenemy of the Nigerian State. These enemies are either the Islamic State of WestAfrica Province (ISWAP)/Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs), murderous herdsmen andbandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements.

Specifically,the Nigerian military is involved in ISOs in 32 States of the Federation. Thisrepresents 89 per cent coverage of Nigeria. Their involvement in the efforts toguarantee peace and security has become so crucial and central to the survivalof Nigeria. And they have imbibed non-military traits in the process especiallyin the various check points that adorn the nation’s landscape.

Forexample, from Port Harcourt to Owerri, a journey of one hour, thirty minutes byroad, you have a total of 44 check points. It is believed that commercialdriverspart with 50 or 100 naira at each of these checkpoints. Yes, the long presenceof Army, including Navy and Air Force personnel on road blocks as a result ofthe over 10-year war against Boko Haram, its handling of the herdsmen menaceand armed banditry across the Northern part of the country and the leadershippenchant for unnecessarily throwing itself in political issues and debate haverekindled the over exposure. The effects of the battlefield experiences is anepidemic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in which personnel getinvolved in inexcusable and indefensible violations of the rights of others.

Asmore unsavoury reports continue, the Army has been losing its traditionalfriends. Strangely, Nigerians are no more surprised to hear that soldiers areinvolved in various forms of misdemeanour. Before, Nigerians would readily risein defence of the Army, citing the fact that criminals wore army uniforms toexecute violence and other criminalities. But not anymore.

Tomake the Army continue to take its pre-eminent positon as the custodian oftraditional values, a fresh orientation is required. It should also adopt freshpublic relations and publicity measures. There is no reason why the Army wouldrush into defending its personnel on duty without first conducting its owninternal investigations. Failure to do this has resulted in unnecessary institutionalrivalry as seen in the Taraba incident in which three Policemen and a civilianwere killed.

To be continued on Monday

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