How military officers are led to their death
Amnesty International’s damning report
By Jide Ajani
After two weeks of investigation, Sunday Vanguard presents exclusive details of the dirty war going on between the military, members of the Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (Western education is evil), otherwise known as Boko Haram, some influential Nigerians who appear to have lent support to the terrorists on the one hand, and some officers and men of the military who are aiding the operations of the terrorists in this war, as well as the sometimes naïve yet complicit contradictory disposition of Europe and America, that have both wittingly and unwittingly allowed the terrorists to gain ground and have become somewhat difficult to defeat.
This report will show that whereas the military is engaged in a battle on the warfront, the political and psychological component of the engagement appears to be currying sympathy for these mindless killers because of those who seem to share their ideological slant and who once (and have again) found their way to the corridors of power in a polity of clashing socio-political and religious interests. This is the story of how experienced and war-tested officers are led to their death because of the contradictory, compromising and deadly activities of fifth columnists in the military and in government. And beyond AI’s indictment of some top military commanders in Nigeria, former Commander-in-Chief, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, may be dragged before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The details are as revealing as they are shocking.
SAD KILLING OF MAJOR TIMOTHY FAMBIYA, SHOT FROM BEHIND
Major Timothy Fambiya’s story is known to military commanders because the operation in which he took part was both strategic and very sensitive.
Fambiya was a native of Gwoza in Yobe State. He was a Christian.
Intel extracted from and some made available by detained members of Boko Haram suggested that their leader, Abubakar Shekau, was hiding somewhere around the hills in Gwoza. Top military commanders brain-stormed and, after hours of thinking out how to approach the battle, an action plan was hatched. But because of the hilly nature of some parts of Gwoza and the need to be dexterous in prosecuting the operation, someone with a good knowledge of the area of operation needed to be part of or lead the operation.
Enter Major Fambiya.
Now, here was a young man who was on a course at Nigeria’s Command and Staff College, Jaji, in far away Kaduna. Words got to him that Shekau may be hiding around the hills of Gwoza but the top commanders were hamstrung in proceeding. This was in July, 2014.
“That was how Fambiya came into the picture. Because he was very familiar with the topography of this town, he volunteered to be part of the operation. The idea was to capture Shekau alive. Unfortunately, as in some of our operations, we believe some people from within, even among the officer corps, may have leaked the information to the terrorists”, a source said.
Mind you, it was from this battle that the story of Shekau’s killing filtered out. There were conflicting reports that he was injured during the gun battle and that he died but was quickly buried. Other reports claimed he fled with gunshot injuries to neighbouring Cameroun.
Worse still, Sunday Vanguard gathered that it was after this battle that Fambiya was shot in the head from behind.
A top military source lamented: “In Fambiya’s death, Nigeria lost one of her best Special Forces officer”.
The source went on: “We suspect that Major Fambiya may have been killed by one of his men because he was shot in the head from behind. Though we have no concrete proof of that, the incident raises the question as to how the terrorists have been able to infiltrate the military because of some people who seem to share their ideological slant”.
A COLONEL IS AMBUSHED AND BURNT ALIVE IN HIS MILITARY TANK
If you are still trying to come to terms with the gruesomeness of the death of Fambiya, the story of this Colonel will shock you even more.
Due to the sensitivity involved, Sunday Vanguard would not reveal his identity. But the military authorities know him too well.
Also, for fear of giving away sources, the location of the battle would not be mentioned; but it happened in Borno State.
There was an operation to engage members of the Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, (Western education is evil), otherwise known as Boko Haram. The said Colonel volunteered to lead his men into battle.
According to one of his friends who disclosed what happened, the operation was a top secret operation. “As they advanced in a convoy of trucks and tanks, barely 10kilometres from base, they were ambushed. You would not believe that the terrorists directed their Rocket Propelled Grenades, RPGs, at the tank in which the Colonel was riding. Our officers and men attempted to repel the terrorists but these terrorists came prepared. Now, to demonstrate that they had fore-knowledge of the operation and they knew where their target was, there were dozens of them. While the battle raged, they just concentrated on the Colonel’s tank. They burnt him alive before fleeing into the forest and hillside”.
The Colonel’s death caused real anguish for the military leadership.
The source then asked somewhat rhetorically: “Do you know what it means to be burnt alive in a tank”?
You may never know.
And apart from the irreplaceable human life, it does not come cheap to train an individual to the level of a Colonel.
THE ATTEMPTED KILLING OF OBASANJO’S SON
And on Monday, September 8, 2014, former President Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo almost lost one of his sons, Adeboye, a Lt-Col, to the insurgents.
The attack on his platoon in Baza, near Michika, Adamawa State, followed the same pattern of an insider-assisted information flow to the terrorists.
The officers and men of the Nigerian Army were not even in Michika yet – that was the town they wanted to go and liberate before they were ambushed by the terrorists.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that the operation to liberate Michika was top secret.
But the manner in which the terrorists ambushed and opened fire on the troops had all the signposts of advance intelligence, that the troops were coming. At the time of the incident, which took place at Baza, Major Gen J.S. Zaruwa, Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, who served as the Brigade Commander of the 23rd Army Brigade in Yola, and Lieutenant Agwu were all together advancing towards Michika when Boko Haram fighters ambushed them and unleashed the deadly attack on the soldiers.
Adeboye Obasanjo was shot in the leg. Many other officers were shot. Some officers and men died during that battle while others gave up the ghost in hospital.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that sometime in December 2013, top military commanders were getting worried that officers and men were being lost to the terrorists not on account of face-to-face combat but due to acts of sabotage occasioned by serial ambush of military convoys.
However, matters began to get to a head with the targeting and killing of the Colonel in his tank in a convoy of many tanks and trucks. Also, the killing of Major Fambiya marked another very sour point.
A very senior military commander, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard anonymously, gave an insight into the workings of the military today, especially when strategy sessions are held preparatory to combat.
“It has become so bad that we now have some conscientious objectors – these are officers and men who latch on one excuse or the other in order not to be active – in this battle against terrorists. While some claim religion as a basis, others, who just refuse to play by the rules of engagement, would just refuse to be active. They will just sit there at sessions and will not talk. They will not make meaningful contributions”.
Worse still for the military, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that sometimes, within minutes or hours after such strategy meetings, whatever had been discussed would find its way to some quarters.
In fact, the source said most of the ambush that had led to the deaths of many officers and men were as a result of insider activities in collaboration with the terrorists. That is one leg of the activities of the fifth columnists.
Whereas there can be no excuse for acts of barbarism on the part of Nigeria’s military, there have been occasions when the terrorists have tended to use human shields during combat. This leads to needless loss of innocent lives.
There have also been many instances where the terrorists have been dressed like civilians while attacking the military. For such scenarios, Sunday Vanguard was told that some officers and men of the military sometimes record such duels with telephone.
“It is the killing of some terrorists dressed in civilian clothing that some fifth columnists, who share the ideology of these killers, post on YouTube and send abroad to propagandise that the war against terror in the North East is a genocide against the people of the area. Yes, the military is expected to operate within a code of ethics that shares the values of respect for human lives but when terrorists dressed as civilians are killed and these footages are made to look as though the military simply opened fire on innocent civilians, it sends the wrong message”, an Army General said.
“We are not going to behave like the terrorists who are not accountable to no one; but to paint a picture that appears as if the Nigerians military is just spineless does not help the cause of this war”.
SOUL SERACHING AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S REPORT
And whereas Amnesty International, AI, the global human rights watchdog, released its report on Nigeria’s war on terror, penultimate week, in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, a report which it claimed was as a result of its research and investigation, there are fresh grounds to pooh-pooh the report which Netsanet Belay, its African Director, Research and Advocacy, and Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research, promoted by ballyhoo.
Two retired senior military officers, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said the report, which AI presented as a research work, is not different in content from the findings of a report compiled after an investigation ordered by the Nigerian military itself. However, the same report was allegedly dangerously manipulated and presented in another context for the intendment of scandalizing the Nigerian military.
Indeed, there had been instances of rascality and recklessness on the part of some officer corps of the military in the prosecution of the war against terror. Even Nigeria’s human rights body, the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, had challenged the fidelity of the activities of Nigeria’s military in prosecuting the war.
“But there was no structured and tailored systemic modus operandi which tolerated any of such acts of dehumanization or brutality”, one of the retired officers stated.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that a former Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, sometime in July, 2013, set up an 18-man Joint Investigation Team. The team comprised members of the various arms of the military as well as the para-military units, including representatives from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice – while not leaving out legal officers from security agencies in the affected states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno States.
A statement from the military at that time noted: “The measure is geared towards the need to further ensure that the legal rights of persons involved are observed”.
The mandate of the team was the classification of the detainees as well as an appraisal of any forms of infringement on the rights of the detainees.
The report of the team was submitted within one month.
One of the retired officers who spoke to Sunday Vanguard asked: “Why then would Service Chiefs, working with their Chief of Defence Staff, having launched an investigation into a matter with a view to having a good sense of what had happened or what was happening, be labeled as people who should be tried for war crimes”?
THE MILITARY AND NIGERIA’S HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
The contradictory nature of the activities of the Nigerian military in prosecuting the war on terror needs to be further interrogated.
On a few instances, the NHRC has had to eyeball the military regarding human rights violations. The killings in Baga, Borno State, and the APO killings in the FCT, Abuja, represent just two of the interventions of the NHRC.
Indeed, based on the created interface between the Nigerian military and the NHRC, there may have been some improvements on the part of the military
Sunday Vanguard discovered from the Commission that it has offices in the troubled states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe where its men are on ground collating information on any noticed or perceived violations.
To be sure, Sunday Vanguard gathered that a series of meetings with and interventions by the NHRC have yielded quite a number of improvements in the human rights profile of the Nigerian military.
It was learnt that upon intervention by NHRC, the military revised the contents of its operational guidelines and rules of engagement which it now uses in the war-torn areas. The improvements take cognizance of the sanctity of life as well as the need to protect civilians even while in the line of fire against terrorists.
As for the endorsement or rejection of AI’s report, Sunday Vanguard was informed that the position of the Commission is that it would not join the fray.
Instead, it is compiling its own data which would be used in writing a thorough report that would be presented to Nigerians and the world.
Indeed, there have been two Joint Investigation Teams set up by the military part of which were informed by the intervention of the NHRC.
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