Okey Sampson, Aba
Up until August 2018, he was a Lance Corporal. Then began his unending travail, which culminated in his demotion to Private, and still after serving detainment and suffering the humiliation of being led through the barrack in handcuffs like a common criminal, there was no break for the beleaguered soldier.
Eventually, the army wielded the big stick: Private Adeniyi Mayowa (13NA/70/6609) of the Nigerian Army was posted out of Abia to Borno State, the theatre of war where Nigerian soldiers are locked in bitter war with the Boko Haram insurgents.
That was when the soldier broke his silence, raising an alarm about a sinister conspiracy to silence him. And out came a grave insinuation that, if it turned out to be true, smacks of racketeering and is an indication of a rot among officers and the rank and file.
The genesis of the crisis
Since December 18, 2013 when he was posted to 144 Battalion, located at Asa High School, Abia State, he was not known as a troublemaker. But on May 26, 2018, the narrative changed for the then Lance Corporal Adeniyi Mayowa. In the line of duty, he encountered what ordinarily would have been a minor problem under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, the situation snowballed into a career-threatening quandary.
Caught in a storm that appeared as if it was orchestrated to silence him, the soldier in self-defence, and as a last resort, wrote a petition, dated March 25, 2019, and forwarded to the Human Rights Commission, in which he concisely chronicled his side of the story.
On that fateful day of May 26, 2018, he was detailed to lead other soldiers to Grand Lotto World Hotel, located on Ehi Road, Aba, to quell the dangerous situation where “boys (were) fighting with bottles and knife.”
The lance corporal and his colleagues marched to the hotel as ordered
He recalled: “We got there, and saw some people already wounded. We wanted to take photographs of the environment that was when I noticed that my phone had been stolen within the premises. We arrested some boys, both in connection with the fight and the stolen phone.
“I informed our O/C of what happened at the hotel and he told us to take the boys (arrested) to the nearest police station, which is Cameroon Barracks.
At the police station, the DPO interrogated them. While others denied stealing the phone, one of them, however, said he knew who took the phone and offered that they would replace the missing phone. That was agreed upon and they contributed money and bought another phone for me and did the ‘welcome back’ for my SIM card.”
With his phone replaced, Lance Corporal Mayowa thought everything was over, but then the real trouble reared up.
On July 21, 2018, the boys who allegedly admitted ab initio to having a knowledge of the missing phone, turned around and were published in one of the national dailies where they claimed they were brutalized and unlawfully detained, and further alleged that the soldiers attempted to murder them in the process of forcing them to replace the phone. That publication brought a load of trouble for the Lance Corporal. “The Brigade Commander ordered my arrest by the military police. I was detained from July 21 to August 2018 when they prepared my order for disobedient to standing order and conduct, to which I pleaded not guilty.”
Despite his plea of innocence, he was thereafter demoted with 21 days I.H.L ( Imprisonment with Hard Labour) and loss of pay without investigation as to whether he was guilty or not. “The disturbing part was that my colleagues who went to work with me on that fateful day and who witnessed the whole incident were not even interviewed,” he said, noting that, “with this unjust demotion, my juniors have turned to my seniors and they send me on errands.”
The sacrificial lamb
Exasperated by the three-prong punishment for a single ‘offence’ meted to him by the authorities at 144 Battalion which is under the 14th Brigade, the soldier set out on a lone mission with the purpose of unearthing evidence that support his innocence.
He applied to MTN office for tracker in respect of his stolen phone. The result traced his mobile device to one Macvission who stayed at Faulks Road by Power Line. Police recovered the phone and arrested the said Macvission who later identified the persons who sold the phone to him, and the suspects were all charged to court. The matter was still in court when something preposterous happened to Mayowa. The beleaguered soldier got what he never bargained for.
A draft letter endorsed by one Captain A.U. Mande on February 27, 2019, indicated that “Mayowa who had been demoted to a Private following the incident of 2018”, had been transferred to 152 Task Force Battalion, 25 Brigade, Gar, Borno State. He was to report to duty on March 7. The flabbergasted soldier drew the attention of the authorities of 144 Brigade to the fact that transferring him to Borno State at a time his matter was in court would not only make his case suffer serious setback ( as it would die naturally) but will give a leeway to those who caused him to suffer to go scot-free.
A can of worms
His pleas fell on deaf ears. And when he failed to elicit sympathy from his superiors, the soldiers decided to take the hard option. He put pen to paper and wrote a petition to the military top brass.
His words: “The victimization and threat I’m receiving from the unit and brigade as well as civilians is much. The trouble I’m facing now is (due to) my audacity to report the case to you. Whereas the truth of the matter is that this incident happened where we went for illegal duty which officers sent us and they pay them N40, 000 monthly, while they pay them N250, 000 in another illegal duty, they pocket these money and when issues come up, they leave us in the cold without anybody to help.”
He alleged further: “One of the reasons they find it convenient to send me out now is to cover their tracks, knowing that the way this case is going, their secrets will be exposed”. Mayowa wants National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene urgently, not only to save his job, but his life also. He also wants the Rights body to compel the army authorities to pay his three months salary which he alleged was withheld.
Position of the Brigade hierarchy
Efforts by Saturday Sun to reach the authorities of the Brigade did not yield any result as the Army PRO was said to be on transfer. Calls made to Col Effiong, the brigade’s Chief of Staff, were not answered, neither were the text messages sent responded to.
However, a senior army officer who would not want his name in print avowed that Private Mayowa was actually punished for insubordination and conducts unbecoming of a disciple soldier based on a report by a human rights organization that he (Mayowa) brutalized some civilians under the pretext that they stole his phone. The officer denied all the allegations leveled against the brigade by the soldier. The Army Headquarters is aware of the case and will be taking the final decision, the officer affirmed.