Three hundred and fifty-six (356) soldiers are formally exiting the Nigerian Army citing “loss of interest”, PREMIUM TIMES can report, in a development insiders say is indicative of broken morale in the army.
The army is currently engaged in various combat operations as insecurity worsens across the country.
Many of the soldiers are among the troops engaged in the decade-long war against Boko Haram in the Northeast, while others are from various other formations across the country.
But apart from the 356 who are leaving for losing interest in the army, 24 others are exiting because they want “to take traditional title,” making a total of 380 soldiers, including two Master Warrant Officers and 28 Warrant Officers, voluntarily discharging from the army, according to sources with direct knowledge of the development.
“That the reason given by most of them is ‘loss of interest’ is an indication of low morale in the army due to poor leadership,” one army insider said, claiming the army had been “broken, demoralised and polarised more than ever before under Buratai.”
“It is an indication of the rot in the system,” said another officer who knew about the mass disengagement.
More than those enduring the long official process to exit the army, many soldiers have deserted the army especially from among the troops combating Boko Haram in the Northeast, sources in the frontline said.
At various times, commanders and soldiers have appeared in videos complaining about logistical support and equipment available to them to combat the terrorists in a war that has in ten years precipitated a humongous humanitarian disaster in the Lake Chad region, displacing millions of people and killing thousands.
In one case, a former commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Olusegun Adeniyi, appeared in a rare video admitting soldiers were outgunned by the terrorists. In that video, March this year, Mr Adeniyi could be seen among disorganised troops decrying losses of men and equipment in a particular encounter with Boko Haram, who were “facing us” from “every flank with not less than15 gun trucks.”
Mr Adeniyi was swiftly removed from his position after the video emerged, with the current commander, Faruq Yahaya, taking over.
On Tuesday, troops of 25 Brigade on patrol were ambushed by terrorists on Damboa-Maiduguri Road. In the ensuing fight, 37 soldiers were killed in action and “about 60” unaccounted for, according to security sources briefed following the losses, which also included nine gun trucks.
“Tempers were rising amongst the troops of 25 Task Force Brigade,” a source in the frontline said after the attack on Tuesday, before “the efforts to calm the situation.”
However, the military officially told the public only two soldiers died, while 17 terrorists were killed.
“That official press release is a total lie to preempt the press,” one army source said.
The source said the misrepresentation to avoid having to answer questions about the use of heavy funds and also to prevent renewed calls for the removal of the service chiefs.
Apart from the Northeastern anti-terrorism operations, the army, alongside the airforce, is combatting the spiralling armed violence from rural banditry and farmer-herdsmen conflict in the Northwest and Northcentral. In these areas, the exacerbating insecurity appears to have gone beyond the constabulary capacities of the police.
Even in the Southeast, the army has been involved in federal efforts to stop the secessionist threats; and in the Niger Delta, it helps in protecting oil and gas infrastructure.
Meanwhile, apart from the 380 soldiers voluntary exiting the army, mostly for losing interest, six others are being discharged based on the recommendation of the armed force’s medical board.
Thus, a total of 386 soldiers are disengaging – and 356 among them have opted out over “loss of interest” amid morale crisis in the service.
Units and formations have been directed to recover all military items from the affected soldiers, who are to report to the army headquarters for documentation by October 20 and complete forms to make withdrawals from various contributory schemes.
Many more have deserted without any official process, according to our sources.
“They just abandoned their guns and uniforms and ran away,” one source said.
The spokesperson for the army, Musa Sagir, denied claim of low morale in the army. “The Nigerian Army is in very high morale,” he said.
He added that the army is “very well” prosecuting all the operations it is involved in whether “the insurgency in the Northeast and banditry in the Northwest.”
He said there was no mass disengagement happening in the army. But PREMIUM TIMES reviewed documents and spoke with sources, contradicting Mr Sagir’s position.