The Nigerian Army has deployed 3,032 pardoned soldiers in the North-East to fight Boko Haram insurgents.
The affected soldiers had been summarily dismissed from the military in 2014 over offences allegedly committed as part of the troops involved in counter insurgency operations in the North-East.
The soldiers were dismissed by their unit commanders at the peak of the Boko Haram attacks in the North-East in 2014.
Many soldiers had at the peak of the battle against Boko Haram last year allegedly disobeyed their commanders and reportedly declined confronting the insurgents with inadequate weapons.
The 3,032 soldiers were among 5,000 dismissed soldiers whose cases were reviewed by a military panel led by the General Officer Commanding, 1 Division, Maj. Gen. Adeniyi Oyebade.
The panel had been set up by the army authorities to revisit the cases of the soldiers in August 2015.
The PUNCH learnt on Thursday that the soldiers had been sent to the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, following the completion of a two-week reorientation training programme organised for them at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontagora, Niger State.
It was learnt that the soldiers were deployed last week to strengthen the ongoing fight against the Boko Haram insurgents.
A military source said that the soldiers were moved to the headquarters of the 7 Division, Maiduguri, for deployment in the North East.
The source said, “The Army authorities have re-launched the 3032 soldiers who were granted pardon by the review panel into the mission area.
“The soldiers were moved to the 7 Division Headquarters where they are expected to be deployed in various locations in the conflict area.
“You know that they were moved to the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontagora, for a two week training programme for their readmission into the service.
“They completed the course and have been deployed in the North-East sometime last week to add more value to the operation.”
The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, had said during a briefing on September 3, 2015 that the recalled soldiers had indicated their readiness to return to the operational area.
He said that the training programme was designed to reorient them and prepare them for the last phase of the ongoing campaign against the insurgents in the North East.
Usman had said, “The committee has concluded its sitting last week and has made certain recommendations that led to the reinstatement of 3,032 soldiers into the Nigerian Army out of the 5,000 cases that were reviewed.
“The reinstated soldiers have shown total readiness to be re-launched into the theatre to combat insurgency and have now commenced a retraining exercise at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontagora, Niger State.
“This training is to reorient the affected soldiers and prepare them for this closing stage of the operational aspect of the counter insurgency operations with more weapons and new leadership.”
Meanwhile, the Director of Social Communication, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Msgr. Gabriel Osu, has applauded the decision of the Nigerian military to recall the 3,032 soldiers dismissed by the previous military authorities.
Osu said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Lagos.
He described the decision by the military to recall the dismissed soldiers as a morale booster that would encourage troops fighting the insurgents in the northeastern part of the country to do their best.
The cleric said, “We thank God. At least, they have allowed reason to go beyond military style because these guys would have just faced firing squad for nothing.
“If you don’t equip your soldiers, you don’t train them well, you don’t pay them well, don’t expect anything different from whatever has happened.
“This is a very big morale booster; the morale booster is there for them to carry out the presidential task.
“You will see that with backing and with the arms, the soldiers will fight well and they will do their best to crush the insurgents.”