Maiduguri, Enugu, Abuja — A group of soldiers in Maiduguri yesterday refused orders to deploy to fight Boko Haram militants in some areas of Borno State until they receive better equipment.
The incident happened after soldiers from the Maimalari Barracks were asked to move to a location in Damboa and to Gwoza town, which has been under Boko Haram control for two weeks now.
Daily Trust learnt that dozens of troops were mobilised at the barracks and asked to board vehicles to head to Gwoza and Dalwa village in Damboa where some troops were ambushed on Tuesday.
The two separate teams drove out of Maiduguri but stopped in the outskirts of the city and said they would not move an inch further until they were provided with adequate weapons to confront the insurgents.
Some of the soldiers, who spoke to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity, said Boko Haram insurgents have superior weapons.
"Whenever we voice our grievances within the precinct of the barracks, our superiors accuse us of disobedience... Sometimes they even say we would face mutiny charges and that is why we forced our drivers to stop at Bulabulin," one of the soldiers said.
"We were only given guns and some ammunitions, even the armoured tank that we are supposed to go with was withdrawn, and that is why we said we would not move an inch."
Another soldier said they were asked to go to Dalwa in Damboa where troops run into a deadly ambush laid by insurgents.
"After the Boko Haram insurgents were displaced from Damboa, they moved towards Gwoza and suddenly some of them appeared again in Dalwa. Sadly, they ambushed our colleagues on Tuesday which resulted in casualties on both sides," the soldier said.
"Our superiors directed that we must go back today (yesterday) and we feel this is not proper. We want superior weapons so that we can confront the insurgents head on."
Asked if their action did not amount to mutiny, the soldier said, "You can give it whatever name you like but we have to be alive before we can fight. We lost dozens of our colleagues these days simply because we don't have fighting equipment."
Another soldier, who spoke to the BBC Hausa, said at least 40 of his colleagues rejected orders to deploy to areas where insurgents hold sway.
"Soldiers are dying like fowl... The Nigerian army is not ready to fight Boko Haram," he said. "Boko Haram are inside the bush, everywhere... They (senior commanders) are sacrificing soldiers."
When contacted yesterday, Defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade told Daily Trust the report of soldiers' revolt was false.
"That degree of cowardice is not in the character of a real soldier of the Nigerian army," he said in a text message to our reporter.
"The series of lies contained in the alleged responses of the faceless person referred to as a soldier confirms the whole arrangement as another step of the mischief makers working for terrorists.
"No soldier has been sent on any mission without being armed. Each soldier answers for his action in terms of discipline. Anyone who knows the military reward for mutiny will not join anyone to try it.
"The overwhelming majority of the Nigerian soldiers remains as brave and disciplined as ever. They will certainly not join any renegade, coward, deserter or those trying to incite mutiny in the military to betray the nation at a time like this, in the way that impostor told his interviewers. His claims are false."
Yesterday's revolt came just over a week after wives of soldiers at the Giwa Barracks held a protest to stop the deployment of their husbands to Gwoza to try to dislodge Boko Haram militants who seized the town on August 6.
Earlier in May, soldiers mutinied at the Giwa Barracks, where they fired at their commander in protest of the incessant killings of their colleagues in combat because of inadequate equipment.
Many of those involved in that incident are now being court-martialled.
Daily Trust also learnt that nearly 100 soldiers from the Maiduguri-based 7 Division of the Nigerian Army are facing court martial over various offences.
"Some of the soldiers are answering questions over the 'misguided' conduct of their wives who staged protests in front of the Giwa Barracks last week. Most of those facing the charges are noncommissioned officers," he said.
When contacted on Monday on reports of the court-martialling of 100 soldiers, Defence spokesman Olukolade said in a text message: "Court martials are normal features of the disciplinary and judicial system of the military, the procedure is ever at work to handle any conduct that falls short of expectation whether an operation is ongoing or not. Those arraigned are only pronounced guilty after due process."
Minimah warns mutineers, wives
Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Kenneth Minimah yesterday warned wives of soldiers to desist from interfering with deployment of their husbands of risk being thrown out of the barracks. He also warned that soldiers who mutiny will face the firing squad if convicted.
"If they repeat it, all those wives will leave the barracks," Minimah said while addressing soldiers of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu yesterday.
"This is not a civil service organisation. This is not a Boys Scout organisation. Any repeat of such act, I will tell soldiers to use koboko (whip) on the wives and bundle them out of the barracks."
Minimah also warned soldiers: "If you are tired of the army, you quietly pack your things and go away; don't come to ridicule the army."
He said in line with the military law, mutiny is punishable by death where the offender is found guilty.
"Mutiny is death sentence, if you are found guilty you face firing squad," he said.
The Army Chief advised soldiers and those who might want to mislead them into committing mutiny to always study the military law so that they would appreciate the enormity and implications of their actions.
Minimah also said the army must win the war against Boko Haram "very, very soon" with the arrival of the brand new weapons and equipment procured by the Federal Government.
Hamza Idris, Tony Adibe, Ibrahim Kabiru Sule and Ronald Mutum