Why We Fled to Cameroon – Deserted Soldiers…Risks Two Years Jail Term as Military Commences Probe
The 480 soldiers who fled into the Cameroonian Territory following a heavy battle with the Boko Haram sect has explained the reason for their action.
The soldiers, according to Agence France Presse (AFP), who spoke through a junior officer acting as their proxy, said his colleague who spoke with him from Cameroon claimed that they fled after running out of ammunition.
He added that the soldier also spoke of the troops facing well-armed Islamic fighters. It said the officer insisted on anonymity since he was not authorised to speak.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in a report quoting Cameroon’s Army spokesman Didier Badjek on Monday, said Nigerian troops fled but the DHQ denied the claim, saying the soldiers strayed into Cameroon in a “tactical manoeuvre”
Yesterday, AFP said Basuma Muhammed, a resident of Gamboru-Ngala, in Borno State told it that soldiers joined hundreds of civilians who fled into Cameroon.
Initially, the soldiers were able to repel an attack by Boko Haram, killing many of their fighters, Muhammed said, adding: “But hours after the attack, a bigger number of the Boko Haram gunmen arrived from the other side of the town and engaged the soldiers who could not stand their superior force and had to join us in running into Cameroon.”
The defence headquarters statement said the soldiers had performed a “tactical maneuvre” when they found themselves in Cameroon.
The soldiers are back, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said yesterday, adding that they are in “high spirits with all their weapons and equipment intact.”
It however emerged that the military has commenced the probe of their action.
On its twitter handle, DHQ said: “The Defence Headquarters has confirmed that troops who returned from Cameroon were today addressed by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division, Maj.-Gen. Zaruwa as they embark on another mission in the Counter Terrorism campaign. All the soldiers are in high spirits with all their weapons and equipment intact.”
It was gathered yesterday from a top military source that the soldiers traversed Nigeria-Cameroon borders throughout the night and arrived in Mubi, Adamawa State, at about midday.
The source said: “The soldiers have arrived safely in Mubi. Preliminary findings confirmed that they were all hale and hearty. There was no evidence of being hurt.
“The Nigerian Army has however started the process of debriefing the soldiers as part of the ongoing probe of how they crossed into Cameroon.
“The debriefing will involve their commander and other ranks to know what transpired between them and Boko Haram insurgents.
“This is a normal military tradition in order to guide military authorities on the next step.”
Responding to a question, the highly-placed source said: “The military is weighing options on whether to reintegrate these soldiers into their battalion or unit or allow the outcome of the debriefing to determine their fate.
“The military is being careful in managing the situation to avoid any decision which could lead to spiral effect in the Army. It is too early to judge the soldiers as guilty or not. A team is handling the debriefing of the 480 soldiers.”
Another source said: “The soldiers meandered through the volatile security challenges from Cameroon to Mubi. If you are familiar with the route, Mubi, Michika and Madagali are along the same axis.
“But each of the towns has border links with Cameroon making them vulnerable to attacks by Boko Haram.”
There were indications last night that the soldiers risk a two-year jail term if found guilty of violating the Armed Forces Act.
Their debriefing will confirm whether they breached Sections 60, 61 and 62 of the Armed Forces Act.
While sections 60 and 61 have to do with desertion, Section 62 prescribes punishment for “failure to perform duties.”
The sections provides for jail term of not exceeding two years.
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