Officers Explain Low Morale among Frontlines Soldiers

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 • Buratai orders sacking of cowardly soldiers

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja   

Strong indications have emerged that a combination of grudge by senior officers against the continued stay in office of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, unresolved welfare issues and outstanding payments and entitlement to the families of some fallen men and officers and the activities of fifth columnists have contributed to the sabotaging of the ground war against insurgency.

This is coming as the Nigerian Army weekend thwarted an ambush staged by insurgents in the North-east, provoking a fierce exchange of fire that led to the killing of two terrorists even as it arrested a kidnap kingpin and 20 armed bandits terrorising villages in Katsina State.

Buratai,   had, in a recent workshop in Abuja, hit back at those sabotaging the war efforts.

But THISDAY gathered that the continued stay in office of the army chief was creating crisis of confidence in the army and within the theatre of war even as senior officers close to Buratai have raised the charge that officers and men at the theatre of war create the impression of   total commitment each time Buratai was in Maiduguri to boost the morale of fighters but soon reverts back to sabotage mode as soon as he moves back to Abuja.

Competent military sources told THISDAY that senior officers were not forthcoming with supportive ideas on how to win the war but rely only on orders issued by Army Headquarters even when they have better strategies and when prodded for contributions preferred to go with Buratai’s war strategy knowing it may be faulty and would lead to a backlash.

THISDAY further gathered that there were fifth columnists in the war theatre who have turned the campaign into a booming business by offering information to terrorists and their sponsors on the location of arms and ammunition each time there are new purchases of military hardware by the army.

Such profiteers are allegedly paid in hard currency.

These elements were believed to be responsible for the successful attacks and overrunning of four military bases within two months that lead to the killing of  the Commanding Officer of 158 Battalion, Lt. Col. Azubuike and 25 soldiers, the latest being in Kareto village, 130 kilometres from Maiduguri, Borno State capital.

The insurgents usually carted away arms and ammunition, including tanks but the army recovered some of the weapons in subsequent encounters.

THISDAY gathered that the Nigerian Army has made purchases of military hardware four times in the last seven months from European countries, the last one in May being Czechoslovakia  but the type of hardware procured were not usually made available for security reasons.

“The issue is that the COAS has brought it to the fore and we have said it repeatedly that great leaders without waiting for even the president to appoint new service chiefs could step down when you know your colleagues have lost confidence in you but cannot tell you so.

“This is also the same with the other service chiefs. If your stay begins to hurt your colleagues and end in their premature retirement, must you wait for the C-in-C to retire you? This bothers on greed and with such a situation, this war is unwinnable,” the source said.

Another military source was supportive of Buratai. “The saboteurs are in the habit of showing so much commitment each time COAS is in the frontline. He has fought physically and I mean carrying AK 47 in the battlefield which greatly boosted the morale of the troops. And this has happened several times. Those who are asking him to resign, would they have resigned? When an army chief or any other service chief resigns in the middle of a war that means you have been defeated.

“If the president has not asked you to go, how on earth can you go? Then you are not a trained soldier. Can an army chief resign when you are fighting terrorists? Buratai’s time has been the best for the army in terms of welfare, provision of accommodation and improvement in remuneration even for retirees. When you are sabotaged as an army chief, you are fighting two wars and you can’t give up”, the source, who spoke anonymously, contended.

The issue of remuneration of men and officers are also part of the mix.

Some soldiers who survived some of the attacks on military bases and were later redeployed to other battalions have alleged that some of their salaries were stopped and have not been paid since the attacks.

There are also complaints by some wives of fallen soldiers in that regard but the army has since debunked the allegations, saying it was meeting obligations in terms of remunerations.

When contacted Army spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, said the Nigerian Army stood by Buratai’s speech and position on insufficient commitment of men and officers in the frontline.

“Irrespective of whatever anybody said or will say, the Nigerian Army stands totally with the speech of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General T.Y Buratai,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army said weekend it killed two terrorists, captured a kidnap kingpin and 20 other armed bandits terrorising villages in Katsina State.

A statement by the Army spokesman said: “In its routine effort in providing and  maintaining a secure, and steady passage of persons and goods as well as free vehicular movements along some notable roads/main Supply Routes (MSR) in the North East, troops of 26 Brigade Garrison   on patrol and escort duties of civilian merchants and commuters along Wala village and adjoining communities on Saturday, the 22nd of June 2019, had a fierce encounter with desperate terrorists’ ambush team desperately craving for food and other essentials.”

During the encounter, he said, troops  swiftly responded with heavy gunfire, thwarted the ambush, exterminated two terrorists and captured two AK 47 Rifles.

“Subsequently, intelligence revealed that the terrorists were informed by their informants of the troops movement in order to use the opportunity to grab foodstuff that they direly need for survival. In order to consolidate on the gains achieved from the ambush clearance, further exploitation of the general area and beyond was undertaken with the troops of 121 Task Force Battalion dispatched to reinforce the 26 Brigade Garrison,” he said.

Col. Musa noted that “during advance, troops discovered two Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) concealed along their axis of advance. The IEDs were successfully detonated and cleared. Despite the IED threat, the resilient troops proceeded further to ensure the general area is   cleared of terrorists and explosives. There is no casualty on the part of Nigerian Army troops during the operation.”

He said the exploits in the ongoing operation “Halaka Dodo” was yielding success, noting that Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division Nigerian Army  Operation Lafiya Dole, Brigadier General Abdulmalik Bulama Biu, on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff commended the troops for the successes achieved, and urged them to be more vigorous and decisive to end the insurgency.

He also conveyed the assurance of the unyielding support of the Chief of Army Staff in this regard.

In a related development, the army said it arrested a kidnap kingpin and 20 others terrorising villagers in Katsina State.

It said the suspects were arrested based on credible intelligence from the locals and confessions of the suspects showing their participation in several armed banditry activities.

“In continuation of operations against armed banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and other criminalities in Katsina State, troops of 17 Brigade on Operation Harbin Kunama III, have arrested a notorious bandit/kidnapping kingpin, Mallam Bawa Gomna and 20 others during operations around Batsari, Jibia and Safana Local Government Areas of Katsina State between June 3 and 21, 2019.

“Those arrested so far are reportedly responsible for terrorising villagers in Batsari, Jibia and Safana Local Government Areas of the state, an army statement said.

The release said the “criminal elements were apprehended based on credible intelligence from the locals, and have confessed taking part in several banditry activities, cattle rustling and other sundry crimes. They, as usual, will be handed over to the respective law enforcement agency for further action.

“The 17 Brigade Nigerian Army, commends and appreciates all those that provided the information that led to the arrest of the criminals and urged members of the public to continue to support security agencies with credible information in order to combat the insecurity”.

Meanwhile, Buratai yesterday ordered commanders to fire officers and men who have shown unwillingness to fight terrorists.

He said at the closing ceremony of a workshop on transformational leadership for middle level officers in Abuja, that the Army would kick out those who are unwilling to lead or follow.

According to him, the Army will fish out the bad eggs in it and kick them out.

“Let me now reiterate that in line with the theme of the workshop, the Nigerian Army will do all that is necessary to fish out any bad eggs whose willingness to lead or follow as required has waned. 

“Transformational leaders should not wait for them to get out of the way, you must kick them out of your way,” he said. 

He said the Army was ready to evolve and institutionalise formal mentoring frameworks to compliment the informal system that we currently practice. 

“I have ensured that we take advantage of technology as force multiplier in our operations. Yet I am glad that your discussions on emerging technologies and innovations made it clear that our human capacity and willingness to work is vital for success.  

“Lastly, the presentation on insights into the NA Strategic Plan 2019 – 2029 has given us hope that surely tomorrow will be better for the NA,” he added.