In the early hours of Wednesday, an Army Corporal serving at the Theatre Command, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, Army Super Camp 15, located at Malam Fatori, near the border with Niger Republic, “went berserk,” killing four of his colleagues before killing himself.
Nigerian Army Spokesperson, Colonel Sagir Musa, said in a statement that the soldier “opened fire, killing four of his colleagues before shooting himself. Two of his colleagues were also injured during the incident and are currently in stable condition in our hospital in Maiduguri.
“Efforts are ongoing to contact the families of our gallant colleagues who paid the supreme price in the line of duty. May their gentle souls rest in peace. Meanwhile, the investigation into the case has since been instituted to determine the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident.”
Sources later confirmed that the soldier involved in the killing had allegedly been going through depression as a result of family issues. Because of the peculiar nature of the war against Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorism, soldiers in locations in the Northeast spend almost one year before being given pass to visit their families.
Because of this, soldiers complain that their children hardly recognise them when they eventually visit, along with other issues pertaining to their long stay outside their homes. Normally, soldiers are supposed to go on pass every three months. But this is hardly the rule.
Sadly, this is not the first time such killing is taking place. In 2018, a soldier committed suicide in the same Borno State after killing a colleague. In the same year, another soldier opened fire at a military facility in Abuja, killing one colleague and injuring another before fatally shooting and shattering his own mouth with a rifle.
In November 2017, a soldier on deployment in Northeast opened fire on an Army Captain, killing him, before turning the gun on himself. In June of the same year, an Army Captain in the same region committed suicide as he was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.
In May 2014, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, then the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, Nigerian Army, narrowly escaped death when aggrieved soldiers opened fire on his official vehicle as he arrived to address them at the Maimalari Military Barracks in Maiduguri.
Wednesday killings again brings to the fore, the psychological state of military personnel serving on the frontlines of the war against terror. These soldier on soldier killings is an urgent issue that needs to be tackled by the Nigerian Army High Command as it can negatively affect morale and even the required spirit de corps among personnel. It can also blunt the fighting ability of the soldiers.
We welcome the news that the Army has instituted a Board of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the killings. But the Army should go a little further by ensuring that a thorough investigation is carried out. In addition, the result of the investigative panel should be made public. That will allay the worry of concerned Nigerians that this should not affect the ability of the Army to fully play its constitutional roles of guaranteeing the territory integrity of Nigeria and the sustenance of our democracy.