By OKOSUN DENNIS
SOLDIERS of the Brigade of Guards, Nigerian Army, Abuja, are grumbling and on the verge of collision with their Commander, Brigadier General Musa Sani Yusuf for refusing to share a $10, 000 dollars (about N3,050,000) gift from the President of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh.
National Daily authoritatively gathered in Abuja that the money was given by President Jammeh to the soldiers when he visited the country in December 2015 during the 48th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
It was learnt that the money was given to the protocol officer at the airport for the soldiers and some few officers of the brigade who mounted the Guard of Honour for the visiting president.
As the Commander of the Brigade and in line with military tradition for the most senior officer to collect any item on behalf of the junior officers, the money was handed over to the commander; instead of sharing it with the junior officers, he since hogged the money.
According to a source at the presidency, President Jemmah was said to be impressed with the warm reception at the airport coupled with the impressive traditional display of cultural dances. He also doled out various sums to different groups.
A break-down of the largesse, it was learnt, indicated that $10, 000 was given to officers and soldiers of the Brigade of Guards a brigade saddled with the responsibility of providing security to the president; $3, 000 to the Flower Girls; $1, 000 to the Presidential Wings; and $4, 000 to dancers.
The Commander was said to be given the share for the soldiers. Unfortunately, since 15 December, 2015 when the money was given, Brig Gen Yusuf has kept the money to himself and refused to give it to soldiers it was meant for hence the agitations and grumbling.
A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “President Buhari is busy fighting corruption, but this is happening under his nose. Why would money be given to people and the Commander confiscates it? It would have been better not to collect the money than do so and not give it to the people it was meant for,’ the source said.
He further added, “If discipline must be fully encouraged, the massive cheating of soldiers of the Nigerian Army are subjected to by officers should be addressed. At every opportunity, we are cheated. Look at the arms procurement scam. How do you justify that massive looting at the expense of the troops that were killed?” The officer added.
When contacted, the Army Public Relations Officer of the Brigade, Captain Basheer Jagira initially denied knowledge of the money but sought to find out from the commander. He eventually responded, saying, “It was true that the Gambian President actually gave some money to the soldiers and other security organizations. The amount was not $10, 000 but $7, 000.
According to the spokesman, the money was not given to the Commander directly but through one of the officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The money was used to procure rice and vegetable oil for all the troops of the Guards Brigade and formations under it during the Christmas,” he said.
When asked if the Commander had any durbar (interaction) with soldiers to intimate them about the money and how it was going to be spent to purchase those items during yuletide, Captain Jagira said he wasn’t aware of such but insisted that it was $7, 000 not $10, 000 that was given as alleged.
Our investigation however, revealed that the quantity of rice given to soldiers said to be bought with the money was nothing to write home about. It was learnt that eight soldiers shared one bag of rice with miserable vegetable oil to complement it. However, it was further gathered that the Presidency customarily gives freebees during Christmas but “wondered how the commander or where he spent the money.”
It would be recalled that soldiers of the Nigerian army once protested in public over money during Lt.-Gen. Victor Malu’s tenure, then the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Some wounded soldiers of the Nigerian Army protested at Cairo airport, Egypt over estacode.
The soldiers who had served during the Economic Community of West Africa States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peace keeping operations in Liberia and got different degree of life threatening injuries were flown to Egypt for medical treatment. On the day they were to return to Nigeria, they protested violently at the Cairo Airport over the non-payment of their estacode. They were brought home and charged with mutiny, convicted and sentenced to various prisons terms including life imprisonment by a court martial.
Also in 2008, about 27 soldiers were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a court martial which sat at Akure, Ondo state.
The soldiers who had taken part in the United Nations peace keeping operations in Liberia embarked on a violent street demonstration to protest the diversion of their operational allowances by some officers. The sentences were later commuted to 7 years. A further review of the case, the convicts were pardoned.
In 2015, two sets of soldiers totaling 64 were charged with conspiracy to mutiny before a court martial which sat in Abuja.
The “offence” proved against the accused soldiers was that they demanded adequate weapons to fight Boko Haram sect while 12 were acquitted, 58 were sentenced to death.
However, under section 179 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20; Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 a soldier, rating, airman, is permitted to make a complaint to his commanding officer who is obligated to address the complaint. Under no condition shall the complainant be penalized for having made a complaint so far as the complaint does not contravene any provisions of the Act.