At last, the Nigerian Army has started making good its plans to screen and bring back into the service, some categories of its personnel sent home or otherwise sanctioned as a result of serious misconduct, such as desertions, acts of cowardice, insubordination and even mutiny committed at the height of the war on the Boko Haram jihadist insurgents.
A panel set up to review the sentences passed on the erring officials started work on August 17th 2005, following the resolve of the new leadership under Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, to revisit the series of sanctions that included death sentences passed on 57 soldiers after court martials conducted against no fewer than 579 soldiers.
The review became necessary when it was established that though some of the erring officers were accused of colluding with the enemy and sabotaging our troops in their gallant and patriotic endeavour to safeguard the nation from the terrorists, many of the desertions owed to poor equipment and motivation to fight a formidable enemy in an asymmetrical warfare.
Though many Nigerians had poured venom on the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kassim Shettima, last year when he revealed that Boko Haram was “better equipped and motivated” than our troops, the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, had lamented, after retirement, that indeed, the troops lacked adequate fighting equipment at the early stages of the campaign. This made it possible for the terrorists to gain ground.
In view of this home truth, we commend the federal government and the Nigerian Armed Forces for taking a second look at the issue with a view to screening the over 4,000 soldiers involved and reabsorbing those found fit and willing to return to the service.
It is never a sign of weakness, even for the fighting forces, to correct their mistakes and do justice to whoever deserves it. We believe that this gesture will buoy the military as a whole as they realise that the Army is capable of listening to the voices of reason and administer justice and fair play. It is part of the motivation necessary for morale boosting.
We, however, urge the military authorities to be very prudent in going about the exercise. There are genuine cases of saboteurs and people of questionable motives joining the Armed Forces. These elements must be kept where they belong to avoid endangering the lives of other patriotic, loyal troops and the nation by extension.
We applaud their retraining at the Nigerian Army Training Centre in Kontagora, Niger State and other institutions to bring them up to date with the current demands of their profession, and wish our heroic armed forces the best of luck.