IN a video released on June 23 which went viral on the internet, Lance Corporal Martins Ndakpini of Eight Division, Nigerian Army, Sokoto, criticised the leadership of the national security and defence apparatus, including the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-General Tukur Buratai, other service chiefs and the National Security Adviser to the President over the poor handling of the Boko Haram terrorism and banditry in the northern parts of the country. The corporal was subsequently arrested and moved from Sokoto to detention in Abuja. He is still being detained by the military authorities contrary to Section 122 of the Armed Forces Act which forbids the military from perpetually detaining any officer. In addition, his wife, Victoria, who granted a media interview wherein she called for the release of her husband, was also arrested and detained, leaving her three children to the care of no one in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. She was released nine days later.
In the 12-minute video, Lance Corporal Ndakpini began by describing the concept of loyalty as stated in the tradition and ethics of the Nigerian Army. He emphasised the Army’s concept of loyalty by commanders to their subordinates and the duty and loyalty of subordinates to their commanders. On the basis of these, he expressed disappointment at the command of the COAS, Lieutenant-General Buratai. He pointedly referred to the Army boss as “a coward, a traitor and a betrayer”. He stressed that loyalty of the rank and file to the Army leadership must be earned. The current crop of the leadership of the military, he lamented, had failed and should be ashamed of themselves. He maintained that these leaders at the helm of the security and defence architecture of Nigeria had not lived up to their responsibilities. In his view, they had not earned his loyalty and had failed the nation by their poor performance of their duties.
According to him, the security initiatives in the northern region had been hijacked for corrupt purposes and military men in the frontlines had been deprived of equipment and ammunition. Soldiers who protested their sorry conditions, he said, were detained and silenced. As a result, men on the frontlines had been subject to needless death. The leadership, he added, was simply not committed to ending the security crisis. He called on Nigerians to join him to hold these failing leaders to account in order to stem the needless pain and agony that now characterise life in Northern Nigeria. “I’m a concerned Nigerian…We cannot continue to keep quiet when people are dying. Many of our colleagues are dying,” he said.
It is not only the top echelon of the military that disregard the dire circumstances of men on the frontlines. According to Ndapkini, corruption has eaten so deep into the Nigerian Army that dead soldiers’ wives have become victims of some clerks who demand sex before they facilitate the release of their benefits. Saying that he was ready to face court-martial for his actions, he criticised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for not addressing corruption within the military. This video by Lance Corporal Ndakpini is not the first to come from Army men in the theatre of war to express their deprivations and frustrations in the battle against terrorists. It is, however, the most pointed and open, with a conscious fearlessness and responsibility that are unrivalled. He called on independent lawyers to help him fight to save the situation. “Let my death not be in vain” if that be the case, he wailed. This is certainly the cry of a deeply concerned Nigerian from the line of duty. His declaration must be taken with all seriousness by President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians in all walks of life. This video is another expression of some of the issues to address in dealing with the protracted security situation in the country.
A motion titled ‘A Call on the Nigerian Army to Release Lance Corporal Martins Ndakpini from Arrest on the Basis of His Expressed Opinion’ has since been moved by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, in the House of Representatives. The House has also mandated the committees on Defence and Army to investigate the alleged detention of Lance Corporal Ndakpini and his wife, and that the former should be brought before the relevant House committees and the leadership to brief them on the happenings in the northern part of the country. These are important first steps which should be pursued to a logical conclusion. We call on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), human rights groups and other relevant government agencies to intervene to ensure that Lance Corporal Ndakpini is not victimised and that the weighty issues he raised are addressed for the good of the country.
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