By Michael Olugbode
The Nigerian Army has commenced investigation into the allegations that soldiers involved in its counter-insurgency in North East, Operation Lafiya Dole, are engaged in illicit fishing and farming activities in Borno State.
The allegations surfaced after the recent attack on the convoy of the Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum in Baga, over a week agod.
The governor, who had to turn back from his schedule visit to the shores of Lake Chad, which is rich in fish after his convoy was attacked, had alleged sabotage and accused soldiers of involvement in illicit farming and fishing in the state
The Deputy Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Felix Omoigui led a panel of investigation on a two-day facts-finding mission to Baga, to verify the allegations.
The panel visited the 130 battalion, Baga, a forward operational base at the centre of the allegations against the Army since the attack on Zulum.
The panel interrogated the Commanding Officer of the 130 Battalion, Baga and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF).
The Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Umar Abdulmajid while responding to questions vehemently denied the allegations saying “there is nothing like that, farming or fishing from either civilian or military, nobody is farming and nobody is fishing. In fact from Monguno to Baga there’s no civilian and there’s no civilian vehicles coming to Baga.”
Omoigui told journalists that: “There was an allegation that soldiers are involved in farming activities and trading of fish and other farm produce from here to Maiduguri and other places and the Chief of Army Staff got wind of this and being that he has zero tolerance for infractions like this, he mandated us to come for a fact-finding mission to ascertain whether the allegations are true.”
He said: “During the course of our investigation you have also been there, and the investigative session was open we’ll leave you to judge. We are going to go back and write our report and the outcome will be made public.
“Once I finish we’ll submit to the appropriate superior authority and if need be we’ll let the public know because that allegation is so damaging and that is why the chief of army staff is very concerned about it and that is why we are here.”
He added that: “You’ve seen the whole place, there are no civilians here and there are no farmlands; I don’t know where this rumour is emanating from. I really don’t want to arrive at any position now because the investigation is still going on but from what they have said it follows that the allegation is baseless.
“We just liberated this place and we have made it secured now and the civilians can come in. But once in a while we do witness these infiltrations of the Boko Haram; So, in an atmosphere like that why would the soldier leave their primary duty of protecting civilians and then go and be farming? It’s not possible,” he explained.