Maiduguri Airport Mutiny: Army Captain, 70 Others Detained For Trial

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Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai
Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai

A captain and no fewer than 70 men of the Nigerian Army have been arrested and detained by the military High Command for contravening the military rules of engagement.

Two weeks ago, the men of the Nigerian Army were said to have carried out the mutiny at the Maiduguri Airport, an action seen as embarrassing.

This is even as Amnesty International Sunday commended the Federal Government over the trial of suspected Boko Haram terrorists, describing the ongoing trial as ”good progress for the justice sector”.

The captain (names withheld) led others who refused to be redeployed to Gamboru Ngala, a border town in Borno State with Niger Republic, which is known as the stronghold of the Boko Haram insurgents.

The arrest and detention of the suspects, according to competent military sources, followed the order by Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, that the suspects be arrested and subjected to severe military disciplinary action.

Vanguard learnt that following the directive by the COAS, the suspects had since been moved into two unknown locations in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, with a view to subjecting them to a court martial.

It was found that most of the suspects due for trial were drawn from the MST 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army and was the fourth platoon to reject being deployed to the Boko Haram stronghold in recent months.

According to competent sources, the suspects rejected their posting to the area because of war fatigue as most of them had been fighting Boko Haram insurgents for years without rotation.

It was gathered that the soldiers particularly loathed the idea of being sent to the war front, given the fact that many of their colleagues who were earlier sent there were either killed or badly wounded and their equipment taken away by the rampaging insurgents due to the bad weather and insufficient platforms.

“We became afraid when we discovered that no fewer than 30 soldiers who were sent there were killed within three days due to the heavy rainfall, which has further worsened the terrain mastered by the insurgents.

“We do not know why the Nigerian Army suddenly changed its mind and decided to deploy troops to the dreaded area after it had announced that it had pulled out of Gamboru, where Boko Haram appears be operating from after being pushed away from the Sambisa Forest.

“The main problem is that most of these soldiers who protested against being moved to Gamburu Ngala have been in their war theatre for too long and have not seen their family members for years whereas those who are highly connected with big men in the Army are regularly pulled out and sent on courses within and outside Nigeria.

”The other main challenge is the rainy season, which has worsened the terrain in Gamboru Ngala, coupled with poor facilities and operating platforms that have emboldened the insurgents to ambush our troops with a high degree of success,” one of the sources said.

But the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai, Sunday, described the action of the soldiers as strange and unacceptable.

Speaking for the first time since the incident in Maiduguri two weeks ago, Buratai said: “The incident at the Maiduguri airport that happened just about two weeks ago is an issue, which ordinarily is unimaginable, that disciplined troops, soldiers will behave in that way.

“But we have our procedures and this issue has been thoroughly investigated and those that have been found to be involved will face military justice. This sort of affairs will never be tolerated no matter the person or persons involved.

“There was a directive I gave that there should be a general reorganisation, redeployment of troops to various locations for us to consolidate on the operational efforts in the North-East to prevent the unnecessary attacks on our own troops and civilians across this nation.

“It is part of the overall plans to secure the North-East and they were directed to execute that plan and if for whatever reason, they resisted it, then it’s unfortunate and we are going to deal with them accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has commended the Federal Government over the trial of suspected Boko Haram terrorists, describing the ongoing trial as ”good progress for the justice sector”.

The commendation was contained in a letter addressed to Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), by Osai Ojigho, Country Director, Amnesty International Nigeria.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in a statement Sunday in Abuja said that a copy of the letter was made available to his office by the AGF.

The minister said Amnesty International Nigeria said its delegates, who were invited to observe the proceedings at the third phase of the trial at Wawa Military Cantonment, Kainji, New Bussa, Niger State, from July 8 to July 11, ”were treated with respect and decorum”.

”Amnesty International has repeatedly and unequivocally condemned the
attacks by members of Boko Haram.

“We have repeatedly urged the Nigerian government to conduct thorough and independent investigations into the alleged human rights violations and abuses.

“This is with a view to bringing suspected perpetrators to justice in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty and this, indeed, is a good progress for the justice sector,” the minister quoted the global rights campaigner’s letter.

He said Amnesty International Nigeria expressed the hope that it would also be
invited to observe future trials.

Commenting on the letter, Malami said it was a ”clear demonstration of the strategic role of the Federal Ministry of Justice and its commitment in adjudicating terrorism cases, implementing the Criminal Justice Act, and promoting the rule of law and human rights.”