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‘No More Morale To Fight’: Again, Nigerian Soldiers Petition Army Chief To Rotate Them

The former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Attahiru, had promised to address the issue of overstay of soldiers at the war theatre but he died about a month later.

Some officers of the Nigerian Army, who have been deployed to fight insurgents for a prolonged period of about five years and five months, are asking for a breather – for the umpteenth time.

Seeing as previous calls have yielded no result, the military personnel, officers of the 3 Battalion in Gamboru/Ngala and Rann, Northeast Nigeria, called on the new Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Farouk Yahaya, to intervene by bringing an end to their overstay at the frontlines. 

Maj. Gen. Yahaya was appointed on May 27 following the death of his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru.

The soldiers have previously expressed their concerns multiple times between Dec. 2020 and March 2021 but say nothing has been done. 

A month to his death, Lt. Gen. Attahiru had promised to address the issue of overstay of soldiers deployed for counterinsurgency operations.

“When most of our soldiers run and leave this job, it is not because they are afraid to fight Boko Haram. It is because they keep us from our families for a very long time,” one soldier informed HumAngle in a muffled tone.

“Most of our soldiers left the job because of anger, because they (the authorities) are not doing what they are supposed to do. They say they will be rotating soldiers every two years, but some of us are here now, five years and five months, and nothing is being done.”

He said soldiers are eager to fight terror groups and end the insurgency but staying long in battle has weakened their morale to sustain the fight.

“They should please help us with this rotation, especially the troops of the 3 Battalion. They should help us. Honestly, our morale is very very low as I am talking to you. There is no morale to fight the insurgency anymore; we need to be rotated because we are tired … since 2016,” he lamented.

He added that the soldiers have complained repeatedly to their commanding officer but do not see him taking action.

“Other commanding officers are making efforts and do not allow their soldiers to stay long. But we don’t know what we have done that keeps us until now,” he said. 

“The Chief of Army Staff should please use his good office to help us because our morale is very down. Where is the morale when we are seeing that others who we came before are being changed? They should please … so that it will not cause us danger. They should help us, so that we will be rotated to go back to our families and refresh our energy, and then come back to fight again.”

Another soldier told HumAngle that many of their colleagues have withdrawn from duty because of pressure from their families and because they could not “bear it anymore.” Unlike them, military personnel posted to other parts of the region between 2017 and 2019 have been rotated accordingly.

“We pleaded with the former Chief of Army Staff and he promised changes … before he died. We the troops of 3 Battalion want to beg the new Chief of Army Staff. We are the only soldiers that have overstayed in the theatre since 2016,” he said. “We don’t know what we have done.”

Various studies have found a relationship between the likelihood of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the long stay of Nigerian soldiers in mission areas. But the effects of prolonged deployment and low morale are not only felt after a soldier has returned to the barracks, they also affect the performance of the operatives during battles.

Former Army Chief Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai had traced setbacks faced by the military to “insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national and military course by those at the frontlines.”

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'Kunle Adebajo

Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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