After THISDAY’s Exclusive Report, Army Commences Rotation of Battle-Fatigued Soldiers

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• Frees eight hostages in Birnin-Gwari
• General attacked by gunmen in Benue

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi

Rotation of troops engaged in various counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram terrorist group in the North-east has begun, the Nigerian Army said Monday, stating that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, had given a clear directive that the military policy on rotation should be strictly adhered to.

THISDAY had in its June 3, 2018 edition published exclusively an investigative report, which revealed how battle-fatigued soldiers were forced to remain in the war front for almost three years without being relieved to rest and recuperate.

The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. John Agim, had told THISDAY that the situation was actuated by the shortage of experienced fighters, explaining that its fighting force had been dispersed to deal with mounting internal security challenges in the country.

But Monday, the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brig-Gen Texas Chukwu, made a statement, quoting the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7 Division Nigerian Army, Brig-Gen. Abdulmalik Bulama Biu, as saying that the Army chief had directed strict compliance with the policy on rotation of battle front soldier to avoid fatigue.

He also quoted the GOC as charging newly inducted troops of the division in Maimalari Cantonment Maiduguri, at the weekend, shortly before their deployment to the frontline, to be proactive and advised them to deploy the use of military tactics in the discharge of their duties while combating the Boko Haram menace.

Welcoming them to the theatre, the GOC pointed out that their deployment was coming at a better time, as the terrorists had been degraded.

He further charged them to be highly professional and keep to the rules of engagement, urging them to be ‘’tactical and decisive’’ in the conduct of any assigned task.

Biu commended the troops of the division for their team spirit, doggedness and boldness in combating terrorism.

THISDAY had two weeks ago spoken to some officers and men in the operations in the North-east, who complained that they had been kept at the battle field for longer than necessary, complaining that they were fatigued and battle weary.

According to knowledgeable military sources, soldiers in battle fields were supposed to be relieved, at least, every year or at most two years to prevent them from becoming disoriented and battle weary. Many of the soldiers are said to have served on the battle field for three years or more.

But dismissing those claims, the Director of Defence Information (DDI) Agim had explained to THISDAY that experienced fighters were constantly deployed and rotated in and out of the North-east because of the intense involvement of the military in the vast internal security operations in the country.

The GOC 7 Division who announced the latest rotation and deployment, appreciated the efforts of the COAS for providing all the needed logistics to the division to accomplish its operations in the North-east.

He assured the troops of their welfare and wellbeing, stating that “the rotation is in line with the Chief of Army Staff’s directive to relieve troops in operations after a certain period.”

However, further findings by THISDAY revealed that some of the rotations carried out were done haphazardly with discrimination against certain units and brigades, leaving out some soldiers deployed since 2015 in the battlefield.

Eight Hostages Rescued

In another development, the Army spokesman said troops deployed in operation Idon Raini, last Saturday, while on clearance patrol along Maganda – Funtua Road, rescued eight hostages who were earlier kidnapped along Maganda – Sofo Birnin Gwari road.

Chukwu listed those rescued to include: three men, two women, and three children, while also listing items recovered from the bandits to include: one red Golf car, trailer and two boxes of clothes belonging to one of the passengers.

Similarly, he said troops on patrol to Nachibi village recovered a motorcycle abandoned by the bandits on sighting the troops.

He said the troops encountered bandits at Maidaro village, where they were roasting some cows.

According to him, three members of the vigilante sustained gunshot wounds, while one person was killed in action during the encounter.

Chukwu stated that one motorcycle was recovered from the bandits urging members of the public to be security conscious and report any suspicious movements to the law enforcement agents.

General Attacked in Benue

Meanwhile, unknown gunmen in the early hours of Sunday attacked Maj- Gen. John Malu, younger brother of former Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Victor Malu (rtd.), at his village, St Tse Adoo in Benue State.

It was gathered that the General was at home when the attackers stormed his residence where they shot sporadically at his house.

However, soldiers posted to the house repelled the gunmen.

The Commandant, 72 Special Force Battalion, Lt Col. Suleiman Mohammed, confirmed the attack when contacted on phone.

According to him, “It is true that some gunmen attacked the general in his village around 7 this morning but the soldiers who were with him repelled them.”

He said the General was around at the time the attackers came calling.

It would be recalled that Katsina Ala/Zaki Biam axis has been notorious for gunmen attack since the past three years.

Only recently some medical doctors and the wife of a serving justice of the Appeal Court were kidnapped in the area.