Army begins trial of General, four others over loss of Baga
• 300 soldiers yet to know fate
• B’Haram kills 15 in fresh Yobe attack
THE Nigerian Army has inaugurated a General Court Martial (GCM) headed by Maj. Gen O.E. Ekanem of Defence Headquarters Abuja as president.
The court is trying Brig Gen Enitan Ransome-Kuti, his Chief of Staff, Lt Col G.A. Suru, and three other senior officers for failing to offer leadership in repelling the Boko Haram attack on the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in Baga, Borno State in January.
Indications also emerged that military operation commanders in Adamawa had arrested about 300 soldiers for refusing to take orders in the face of imminent confrontation with the insurgents. This development happened late last year and the affected soldiers may be charged with mutiny.
Also, eight suspected Boko Haram gunmen Monday attacked the Wulle Village in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State, killing 15 people.
They stormed the village in a Toyota Hilux vehicle and motorcycles laden with explosives, setting ablaze three other villages.
The armed militants, according to the village head, Bulama Ibrahim, burst into Wulle through Buni/Yadi-Biu Road that links the Sambisa Forest, chanting in Arabic; God is great.
“After the gunmen reached this village square near the mosque in the evening, one of them announced that the insurgents have come here to preach, and not to kill any person in this congregation. But we were deceived and betrayed; five minutes after the insurgents’ announcements, they started firing at my people killing at least a dozen,” said Ibrahim.
Gen. Ransome-Kuti, who is being tried by the GCM, was the commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force. Other officers arrested along with him were the commanding officers of the 134 and 174 Battalions. The two battalions are under the MNJTF’s Lieutenant Cols Haruna and Maj. Aliyu.
The trial is taking place at the Defence Headquarters Garrison, Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja.
The Boko Haram routed the Nigerian Army from the strategic town of Baga, capturing high-calibre weapons and ammunition available to the multinational joint task force, including Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs).
The commanders were detained shortly after they arrived Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, from Monguno, where they took refuge with troops after being routed from Baga by Boko Haram insurgents and detained at the 21 Armoured Brigade officers’ mess in Maiduguri.
They were interrogated on the loss of the high-calibre weapons and ammunition and their inability to lead the troops to counter the Boko Haram attack.
A source, however, told The Guardia that the GCM adjourned hearing until May 21 when trial would commence.
The source said: “Yes, the GCM was inaugurated on Monday. But it adjourned till May 21 when proceedings will resume at the court. This is when the actual trial will resume.”
Brig Gen Ramsome-Kuti and the other officers are being represented at the GCM by counsels from Femi Falana Chambers.
The court-martial is the second involving senior officers in the fight against Boko Haram, as those affected by previous trials since 2014, were mostly non-commissioned personnel, many of who were either sacked or sentenced to death.
On January 22 top military officers were court-martialed at the Ikeja Military Cantonment in Lagos.
The officers included a Brigadier-General, J.O Komolafe; 14 Colonels, A. Laguda, V. Ebhaleme, V.O. Ita, and I.B. Maina, I. A Aboi, I.M Kabir, M.H. Abubakar, A. A. Egbejule, N. N. Orok, C. A. Magaji, A.O. Agwu, A.J.S. Gulani, O.O. Obolo and A.M. Adetuyi; one Major – M.M Idris; five Captains – M Adamu, O. A. Adenaike, M. Gidado, M.M. Clark and S. Raymond and one Second Lieutenant, S.O Olowa.
In December 2014, 54 soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny and conspiracy to commit such. The Army said the soldiers disobeyed a direct order from their superior officers to take part in an operation. The soldiers however said they only asked for support equipment before embarking on the operation.
Twelve other soldiers had been previously sentenced to death by firing squad for shooting at a car conveying their commanding officer, Ahmed Mohammed, a Major General.
The soldiers revolted after some of their colleagues were ambushed and killed by Boko Haram extremists, an attack they blamed on their superior officer.
Also in December 2014, over 200 soldiers were sacked after an overnight trial. They had been held in detention for three months and denied communication to their families or legal representation.
In Plateau last year, no fewer than 220 soldiers protested their dismissal on arrival at the Division having spent the mandatory six months in operation. They publicly lodged their grievances with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau State Council.
While the 220 soldiers were from Gwoza in Borno State, the 300 soldiers were mainly from Adamawa. But the common factor linking them is that they are all from the 3-Armoured Division.
As at the time the two offences were committed, the soldiers had not been fully equipped and well motivated to confront the better-armed members of the Boko Haram sect.
From the Maxwell Khobe Cantonment, Jos, apprehension is rife as to what is going to happen to the soldiers as they were being held and kept hostage on arrival and nobody seems to know what is going to be their fate.
A competent source said that their case was not a recent issue, adding that soldiers who are now in operation fighting Boko Haram insurgents are more equipped and well motivated unlike when the Nigerian soldiers were ill equipped.