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More Than 3,000 Nigerian Soldiers Reinstated After Review

FILE - Nigerian army soldiers stand guard as they cordon off a road leading to the scene of a blast at a business district in Abuja.

Nigeria’s army has announced it will reinstate more than 3,000 soldiers who were facing court-martials. Most of those charged had failed to follow orders in the campaign against insurgent group Boko Haram.

Nigeria began reviewing the cases of 5,000 army soldiers after President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May. The decision to review the cases was made amid a public outcry over Nigerian soldiers being sent to fight Boko Haram without proper equipment.

Army spokesman Sani Usman said Thursday the army has decided to reinstate 3,032 soldiers who were convicted or were awaiting trial for various offenses, particularly those committed during the campaign against Boko Haram.

"Anybody that was involved in criminal offense, his charges were not treated. So basically it was offenses that ranged from minor administrative issues, disobedience,” said Usman.

Boko Haram fighters routinely have outgunned Nigerian soldiers, and last year the Islamic extremists took control of a swath of territory the size of Belgium, although much of that territory was reclaimed in an offensive earlier this year.

The insurgents' success sapped the morale of the Nigerian army, leading to several incidents of mutiny in the ranks.

Army morale

Buhari won the March election in part due to public dissatisfaction with how the military was handling the insurgency. He’s since replaced the heads of the military branches and the national security advisor.

Umar Ardo, a former lecturer at the Nigerian Defense Academy, expects the reinstatements will boost army morale. He said the military recognizes it did not give soldiers the proper weapons to take on the militants.

“They didn’t equip the army. And if you did not equip the army, and you send them to the battlefront, then they’re either going to be killed, or they’ll run away, which they did,” said Usman.

The army didn’t let everyone off. Nearly 2,000 were denied reinstatement, and dozens of soldiers remain on death row, awaiting execution for offenses during the mutiny last year.