Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Darfur Operations - Nigerian Soldiers Threaten Mutiny - Ask to Be Airlifted Home

Nigerian soldiers serving in the United Nations African Union Hybrid Missions in Darfur, Sudan have threatened to go on rampage if they are not paid their allowances and airlifted back to Nigeria on or before July 3, 2012.

Radio France International Hausa Service report monitored last night in Abuja said the soldiers handed the Federal Government an eight-day ultimatum to meet their demands or they "create a scenario in Sudan which will deter the on-going peace process in Darfur."

The soldiers, whose duty tour expired on May 26 after the mandatory six months, are from battalions NIBATTSS 30, 31, 32 and 33 deployed in November 26, 2011 and January 12, 2012.

Director Army Public Relations Brig. Gen. Mobolaji Koleoso who spoke to Radio France on the matter yesterday, however, said he did not believe that any soldier in his right senses would contemplate such action.

"I do not believe that any of my soldiers in his right senses will say that he will disrupt the peace in Dafur. If they are not airlifted, they know why, and if their airlifting is delayed, they know why, but airlifting operations will resume soon. I know they will soon be returned home," he said.

A senior officer at the army headquarters who would not want to be named told Daily Trust reporter last night that the airlifting of the soldiers were affected by the recent Dana plane crash.

"The troop's transportation exercise begun three weeks ago through special arrangement but it was stalled by the recent Dana plane crash. The airlift exercise is continuous and the military authorities are making arrangement to see that all the soldiers in Dafur were transported back home and others replaced them," he said.

He doubted reports indicating that the soldiers will mutiny pointing out that "they know the implication of such action."

"They can be court-marshalled just like what happened to some soldiers in Akure few years ago, when they return to Nigeria. That action is illegal."

Our reporter sighted a UN plane, a McDonnell aircraft, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Saturday, 23rd June, and on inquiry, a source at the airport said it made a technical landing to refuel.

The source, however, said the UN plane with capacity to carry 143 people had landed in Abuja on Friday, 22nd June, with troops and also took some to Sudan.

A petition posted sent to Pointblanknews.com by 'Concerned Soldiers in Dafur', accessed by Daily Trust yesterday accused military hierarchy of corruption and negligence.

They noted with anger that after the completion of the stipulated six months duty tour, the military hierarchy extended their duty tour with no explanation and provision for their families back home.

The petition reads in part: "Nigeria which was an active participant in the UN peace keeping operations, widely commended for our previous performance of restoring peace in Sierra leone and Liberia, but presently we lost our respect especially in United Nations African Union Hybrid Missions in Darfur due to ill equipment and corruption existing among top Nigerian who is who in peace support operation.

"The situation of our peacekeepers is pitiable as if we don't belong to any country. Nobody seems to listen to us or the plight of our family back home. Even though it is against the ethics of military to go to press, we are pushed to the wall, because nobody to listens our cry apart from the media.

"As am writing now Nigerian Troops are Stranded In Nyala, sector south headquarters of the mission in Darfur, Sudan, after the expiration of their 6 Months Tour of Duty - We have four Nigerian Battalions (NIBATTS 30, 31, 32 and 33) on duty in Darfur, Sudan, deployed from 26 November, 2011 - 2 January, 2012.

"After successful completion of their mission, they are now stranded with no specific date for rotation. Our expected period of rotation to Nigeria is 26 May - 3 July, 2012 for the four battalions; up till the time of this report, we have not been rotated. This situation is very depressing and is dangerously affecting us and our loved ones back home.

"NIBATT 31 was supposed to be rotated back to Nigeria between 31 May - 7 June, 2012. Out of the 800 troops that made up the battalion, only 115 were airlifted to Nigeria on 31 May; the remaining troops are still stranded in Sudan. They have added extra weeks to their official date of departure as well as NIBATT 30 which was supposed to be rotated back home on 26 May.

"This situation is due to either negligence on the part of the Nigerian government or the Army in taking up their responsibilities abroad with respect to their men and women on tour of duty. And the worse nobody explain to us what is happening as if we are not humans, as if we dont have anyone that cares for us, as if we dont have the right to know what affect us. Our family are left helpless because we gave them only six months cheques, now we are more than six months here, our houses are crying of money to buy food, fuel generators, pay our children school fees. Last month a two soldiers fainted and gave up the ghost due to negligence, depression and uncertainty about our condition. Is our country that poor cannot charter a commercial flight to bring us back home or are we not needed back home?

"As I write, Nigerian Army Peace Keeping Center (NAPKC) in Jaji is full of troops of the four Battalions that underwent training to rotate the stranded 4 Battalions here in Sudan. Also the FOB in Abuja where troops normally spend the night before they are airlifted to Sudan is filled up with troops awaiting airlift to Sudan. Sudan as we all know is a very hostile and a desert country with hash weather that makes living very unbearable. It is unwise for Nigeria to leave us to stay extra days, weeks or months in Sudan after the expiration of our tour of duty.

"Other Contingents like Thailand, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Nepal, Egypt and South Africa have all rotated their troops with chartered planes with passenger seats of about 220. Nigerian Army is waiting for United Nations to organize their rotation for them with a plane carrying only 115 passengers, making us to rotate a battalion seven (7) times x 4.

"I appeal to Nigerians to use their good offices in telling Mr. President, Senate President, Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Army Staff as a matter of urgency to bring planes (bigger ones) to rotate the four Battalions in Sudan not later than 3 July or else we will create a scenario in Sudan which will deter the on-going peace process in Darfur."

With Agency Reports

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