As security operatives and top government officials intensify moves to ensure the release of the abducted girls of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, the military authorities have started the court martial of some of its men and officers for cowardice and negligence among others.
Saturday PUNCH investigations revealed that the military authorities opened two centres for the court martial at the Headquarters of One Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, under Maj.- Gen KC Osuji and the Army Headquarters Garrison Command, under Brig.-Gen Ndiomu, at the Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja.
Investigations revealed that some of the affected military personnel had appeared before the court-martial which commenced on Monday in Abuja and Kaduna.
Our correspondent gathered that a total of 110 officers and men of the military would appear before the court martial trying the military personnel for alleged negligence and false report.
It was learnt that the court martial was being done in batches.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen Olajide Laleye, confirmed the court martial to Saturday PUNCH.
Laleye said in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Friday that the men and officers would be court-martialled for all manner of offences which he did not specify.
The Army spokesperson also did not give the exact number of personnel battling to establish their innocence before the panels.
He said, “I don’t know the number, but there is a court-martial in One Division, Kaduna and another centre at the Army Headquarters Garrison, the Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja.
“The court martial is to try all misdemeanours or offences allegedly committed by the military personnel,” he said.
However, it was gathered that the affected officers and soldiers are facing trial for negligence of duty, cowardice, failure to perform military duty and leakage of information to the enemy.
Saturday PUNCH investigations revealed that the military police investigators summoned some of the officers believed to be in strategic positions in the Chibok area and other operational spots in the North-East to Abuja for interrogation in a fact-finding exercise.
A security source, who confided in our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said that some of the officers involved were from the 331 Artillery Brigade in Biu, Borno State.
It was also learnt that officers that were being investigated included lieutenant-colonel, a Major, a captain and some lieutenants.
The source, said, “You think that the military authorities are not doing anything because they are silent. For anything that happens, investigation follows and relevant actions taken.
“The military authorities are probing the Chibok incident and some officers faced court martial at the Headquarters of One Division, Kaduna. Others are also facing court martial for similar offences at the Mogadishu Cantonment, Abuja.
“Apart from the Chibok abduction saga, the military authorities are also assessing other operations and conducting routine investigations.”
Investigations further revealed that the military authorities, especially the Army, had put some personnel believed to be involved in unacceptable military conduct under close watch as part of the effort to sanitise the service.
It was gathered that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, and his men had begun working hard to ensure that officers and men involved in unprofessional conducts were fished out for appropriate action.
A security source said that the military authorities were investigating the lieutenant-colonel for generating a false report shortly after the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls on April 16, 2014.
The Chibok school girls were abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents on April 14, 2014.
It was learnt that lieutenant-colonel had caused the Defence authorities to issue a statement on April 16, 2014 that 121 out the 129 girls said then to have been abducted from the school had been rescued.
The military could not hold onto the claim of the purported release of 121 girls for too long when the Principal of the Government Girls Secondary School, Mrs. Asabe Kwambura, who was said to have released the information to the Army unit in Borno, contradicted the claim.
After the statement, the number of abducted girls moved from 129 to 276.
It was gathered that the military leadership became embittered that the originator of the statement did not make precautionary checks before releasing a misleading statement which was denied later by the principal.
While reacting to the abduction in April, the military authorities claimed that the principal did not ask for military protection before gathering such a large number of students for the West African School Certificate Examination in an unprotected environment.
The military also said in a defence that a soldier was killed when a unit involved in a rescue operation was ambushed on the way to Chibok.
The soldier’s killing delayed the rescue operation.
A lieutenant, who led 15 soldiers for the rescue operation, was among those facing the court martial.
Shortly after the girls were abducted, the military said that soldiers mobilised to rescue them, but they were ambushed.
It was further gathered that a Major, who was serving in one of the military units in Yobe State when the insurgents killed 40 students of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, on February 25, 2014, was among those facing the court martial.
There were claims that a military checkpoint was withdrawn from the vicinity of the college 24 hours before it was attacked. The Defence
Headquarters debunked the claim.
Our correspondent contacted the Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade, for his comment on why the military was setting up military court martial, and whether there was an observed laxity on the part of the soldiers who were drafted for the rescue operation.
Our correspondent also sought to know if there were enough men on the ground who could have prevented the Chibok saga or if the military was no longer standing by its position that the troops were ambushed and lost a soldier while on the rescue mission.
But the Defence spokesman said he was not disposed to confirming nor denying the questions raised in the text message to him.
He said, “Please excuse me as I am not disposed to confirming or denying any of these posers, Thank you.”[Punch]