A spokesman for Nigeria’s army said it intends to purge soldiers it determines to be unfit to carry out their constitutional mandate.
Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said the army will enforce discipline and professionalism among its ranks as the fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram continues.
“Most of them were charged with offenses that border on cowardice, aiding the enemy, as well as desertion in the face of the enemy,” said Usman.
He said the process is detailed and unbiased, and it will ensure soldiers uphold the agreement they signed before joining the army.
“There are three layers of the investigation: There was a board of inquiry, after which the military police carried out a thorough investigation. Then of course the directorate of army legal services reviewed all the cases and advised accordingly,” said Usman. “Some of them were advised to be tried summarily, which is causing the hue and cry all over, and others were referred to the court-martial.”
“Right now, we have two courts-martial, one in 81 division headquarters, Lagos, and the other one in Abuja at the army headquarters garrison. Those that are being tried summarily [at] the discretion of the unit's commanding officers or commanders as the case may be to exercise power based on the charges preferred against such officers or soldiers,” Usman added.
Not an ethnic purge
He denied reports the army launched this initiative to purge certain segments of the population based on ethnic and religious sentiments.
Usman said the army wants to ensure the soldiers carry out their mandate to protect the country’s territorial integrity from aggressors.
He said accusations that the military aims to purge the army based on ethnic and religious inclinations are unfortunate and without merit.
“People are just being mischievous and sentimental,” said Usman. “The military thrives on certain value systems, one which is discipline, courage and bravery. Most of the people that were accused abandoned their location, or exhibited cowardice or exhibited some kind of act of indiscipline that led to capture of so many towns and municipalities in the country.”
He also rejected suggestions that Boko Haram militants were better equipped than the Nigeria military. Some of the soldiers reportedly refused to fight and some ran away from the militants, saying they are not properly equipped.
“It is such a shame and a disgrace that most of the arms and ammunitions they [militants] either captured it from the Nigerian soldiers because they abandoned it or they fabricated based on what they were able to scavenge when the soldiers run away,” said Usman. “The Boko Haram terrorists are never in any point in time better equipped or better armed than the Nigerian army.
Usman denied media reports that more than 6,000 soldiers so far have been dismissed.