Olusola Fabiyi, Oyetunji Abioye and Jesusegun Alagbe
15 May 2021
Troops can’t be schooling when we’re in a war situation –Brigadier generals
Following intensified insurgency attacks across the country, particularly in the North, the Nigerian Army has recalled a large number of its personnel studying in civil institutions (universities and polytechnics) across the country, according to a leaked memo by the Nigerian Army Headquarters, Department of Army Training, Abuja.
In the memo dated May 11, the Nigerian Army also suspended the sponsorship of personnel in civil institutions with the exemption of students in the final year.
This is happening as the army continues to suffer heavy casualties in its counter-insurgency operations that have seen hundreds of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists also neutralised by gallant Nigerian troops.
In one of the recent attacks, more than 30 soldiers were reportedly killed in April when Islamic State-aligned fighters ambushed a military convoy escorting weapons and overran a base in Mainok, Borno State.
A month earlier, about 30 soldiers were reportedly killed in four attacks by Islamist militants in the North-East.
On April 1, 2021, five soldiers and two villagers were killed in the Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State. About 10 soldiers were also killed in the Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State on April 9.
On April 26, wherein 40 persons were killed in Anambra, Imo, Kebbi and Rivers states, two soldiers and three policemen were among the casualties.
In March 2020, at least 70 soldiers were killed in an ambush by ISWAP terrorists, AFP reported.
The insurgents reportedly fired rocket-propelled grenades at a lorry carrying troops as it travelled near Gorgi village in Borno State.
The Islamic State West Africa Province faction split from Boko Haram insurgents in 2016 and has focused on attacking troops, raiding bases and laying ambush on military convoys.
The decade-long Boko Haram insurgency has killed around 40,000 people and displaced over two million in the North-East, according to the International Crisis Group.
The military has also recorded many gains against the insurgents foiling their attempts to take over territories and also neutralising them in their numbers.
For instance, the troops sometime in April eliminated at least 40 Boko Haram terrorists in the town of Dikwa in Borno State. Several other members of the terrorist group were reportedly wounded but managed to escape.
In another operation in the same month, troops killed at least 21 Boko Haram terrorists in the Geidam region of Yobe State, according to a statement by the Army spokesperson, Brig Gen Mohammed Yerima
Sometime in March, 57 Boko Haram fighters were reportedly killed by soldiers in the Damboa and Gwoza local government areas of Borno State.
Most recently, at least nine Boko Haram militants were killed in a gunfight with security forces in Borno State on Tuesday, Yerima said in a statement, adding that troops of Operation Hadin Kai killed the terrorists as they attempted to attack the outskirts of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, Tuesday.
Yerima said the militants tried to advance from the Aldawari axis to attack soft targets in Jiddari Polo but were repelled by the combined troops of the army, police, vigilantes, and hunters.
In February, Yerima disclosed that troops cleared Marte, Borno State, and its surrounding areas of terrorists who had laid siege to the region for some days.
Yerima said the troops, backed by air cover of the Nigerian Air Force, successfully recovered the town in less than 48 hours.
Following the shortage of personnel to fight rising insurgency across the country, Saturday PUNCH learnt that the Nigerian Army had recalled all its personnel studying at various civil institutions except those in the final year.
It is however unclear whether the recalled personnel will be deployed for administrative purpose or combat operations in the war front.
The memo seen by Saturday PUNCH was signed by Brigadier General I. A Ajose on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, and titled, ‘Exemption of Ex Boys (NMS) from Personnel Affected by Directive on Suspension of NA Sponsorship to Civil Institutions.’
The memo was referenced AHQ DA/G7/230/164 and addressed to the Ministry of Defence, Office of the National Security Adviser, Defence Headquarters, and Nigerian Defence Academy.
The other army formations the memo was sent to are: National Defence College, Abuja; Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State; Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Lagos; Defence Intelligence Agency, Abuja; Defence Space Administration; Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria; and the headquarters of the Training and Doctrine Command.
The memo cited three earlier references – A (AHQ DAPP/G5/220/16, dated March 10, 2021); B (AHQ DAT/G7/230/164, dated March 15, 2021); and C (AHQ DAT/G7/230/164, dated April 28, 2021).
“References A-C conveyed directives for the recall of all NA personnel studying in civil institutions as well as the suspension of NA sponsorships, with the exemption of final year students. Consequently, I am directed to respectfully inform you that the directive does not include Ex Boys (NMS). Grateful (sic) treat and acknowledge,” the memo stated.
Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, two top military sources, who are brigadier generals, said the development was a result of the insufficient number of army personnel fighting insurgency across the country.
The sources, who declared that the country was already at war, said personnel could not be studying in schools while a war was going on.
“We are in a war situation, but it seems Nigerians are taking things lightly. This is a war situation, and we have less than 200,000 soldiers in a country of around 200 million population. So we are lacking personnel, and as a matter of fact, we have started recruiting,” one of the military sources said.