Like every other profession, imposters taking over the military as personnel are now everywhere on the streets, with most of them dressing in full military gear. Some of them have even imbibed the nuances of soldiers and hardly will they be found out as fake.
The rising increase in the number of these fake personnel poses a threat to Nigeria’s fight against insecurity as there have been reported cases of kidnappers putting on military uniforms to commit crimes.
A 27-year-old suspected kidnapper recently arrested in Abuja, North-central Nigeria, Musa Ibrahim, said criminals wear soldiers’ uniforms during their operations so they can be respected by their victims who are mostly travellers and road users. His complete uniform was handed down to him by one of their leaders who also provided the same for over 1o members of the gang, he said.
On Jan. 17, seven wedding guests were abducted at Isara in Ogun, Southwest region of the country by armed men dressed in army uniform. The incident occurred when one of the vehicles conveying them to their destinations in Lagos broke down on the road.
One of the victims, Folahan Akinsola, said three persons were later released, as the kidnappers demanded N60 million ransom for the others. Although they were released a week later, the amount paid for ransom was not made known to the public.
Reign of fake military camps
Lagos State Police Command uncovered an illegal military camp code-named “Nigeria Merchant Navy” at Ogudu area of the state on Nov. 10, 2021, with over 107 fake personnel.
They recovered several military accoutrements including camouflage badges of ranks, signboards, and identity cards. Other items recovered were recruitment and promotion letters and the portrait of a fake commanding officer.
HumAngle recalled that a similar camp was uncovered in Benue State, North-central region on Sept. 26, 2017. The fake camp had a signpost with the inscription “Coastal Defence Force 4th Arms. Signal Ship Base. Okpokwu, Benue State Command.”
The fake soldiers who were reportedly caught with full military fatigues and weapons like cutlasses and what appeared to be locally-made rifles were operating criminal enterprises where they trained high profile criminals.
HumAngle understands that this trend portends danger for a country battling with insecurity and also threatens the peace of residents living around the illegal military camps as their fundamental human rights are mostly trampled on.
Collaborating with terror groups, others
The army said in a statement that Hussaini was arrested following a tip-off that he was collaborating with Boko Haram and defrauding innocent citizens with the claim that he was a general in the Nigerian Army.
Arrested on May 17, 2020, during COVID-19 lockdown in Lagos, Akin Sile who was nabbed alongside nine others confirmed that he left his farming job to seek quick money using military uniforms. He said the uniform was given to him by a serving military officer whom he identified as Lance Corporal David.
In another report published on April 19, 2021, some illegal military personnel were arrested following suspected collaboration between them and Boko Haram. They were said to be helping the terrorists to infiltrate the army and sabotage efforts to end insurgency in Nigeria.
Repeated arrests but menace remains
On May 1, 2020, operatives of 81 Division of the Nigerian Army arrested 13 fake military personnel, including a fake Lieutenant-Colonel Afolabi Hassan and Major Afolabi Allen Adegboyega, who had been parading themselves as senior officers of the army for 12 years.
More so, operatives of the Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Jan. 13 arrested one Bolarinwa Oluwasegun, a fake Army General, for an alleged N270 million fraud.
He also reportedly forged a letter of appointment as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) purportedly signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Six pump action guns, three cartridge bullets, a swagger stick, and several forged documents were recovered from Oluwasegun upon his arrest.
Abuse of citizens’ rights
Nigeria is one of the countries with the worst form of rights violations in the world. These include recurring kidnappings, incessant extra-judicial killings, and torture. Also, inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination, injustice, gross inequalities, sexual and gender-based violence, and above all, impunity, weak institutions and lack of political will to hold perpetrators accountable for several types of human rights violations.
HumAngle findings revealed that most of the soldiers roaming the country’s streets contribute to the rising cases of abuse of fundamental human rights. An example was a case of a fake soldier beating an innocent Nigerian into a coma in Lagos on April 2, 2007.
He was nabbed alongside 60 others with an AK-49 rifle and other weapons being used for intimidating and oppressing residents of Karu and Lafia Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
Based on the accounts of most arrested fake military personnel, they get their uniforms and weapons from their friends in the military. Aside from arrest, there haven’t been any proactive measures by authorities to curb this issue. The spokesperson of the Defence Headquarters did not respond to HumAngle’s enquiries on the subject.
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), however, argued earlier that there is a need to entrench respect for human rights and fundamental freedom to curtail the current challenges bedevilling the country.
He asked the government at all levels to redouble efforts to protect the lives of citizens and ensure improvement of military intelligence to find a lasting solution to the issue by “securing the country’s borders, and eliminating the arms and weapons of destruction that are being ferried into Nigeria.”
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