The Nigerian Army’s deployment of northern officers for its operations in the South-East region is contributing to the tension in the region, according to several military sources who spoke to SaharaReporters.
Checks by SaharaReporters confirmed that the army posted Muslim and non-Igbo personnel as commanders over its operations and brigades in Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Benue, Edo, Delta and Rivers.
The commanders are mainly from the north, while a few are from the South-West.
In Anambra State, the Cantonment Commandant of the 302 Artillery Regiment, Onitsha, is Col Abdulsalam Abubakar Sambo, a Hausa-Fulani Muslim, while in Imo State, the Brigade Commander of 34 Brigade, Obinze, is Brig Gen Ibrahim Tukura, another northerner.
In Abia State, the Brigade Commander of 14 Brigade, Ohafia, is Brig Gen M. Ibrahim, still, a northerner while in Akwa Ibom State, the Brigade Commander of 2 Brigade, Uyo, is Brig Gen Faruk Mijinyawa, another northerner.
The 82 division headquartered in Enugu State, which oversees the South-East brigades, is headed by Major-General Taoreed Lagbaja, a Muslim South-Westerner General Officer Commanding, who assumed office only in March.
He took over from Maj Gen Lasisi Adegboye, the former GOC, another Muslim South-Westerner.
Up to the Middle Belt states, the army observably kept out South-East officers to hold any key position.
In adjoining Benue State, the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, which takes care of some of the Middle Belt states, is Maj Gen Yekini Adeyemi, also a South-West Muslim, while the Commander of 401 Special Forces Brigade, Makurdi, is Brig Gen Samai’la Mohammed Uba.
The Commanding Officer of the 72 Special Forces Battalion, Makurdi, as of January 2021, is Lt Col A.D. Alhassan, another northerner.
The situation is not different in Edo State, where the Brigade Commander of 4 Brigade, Benin, is Brigadier Gen M.A Sadiq and in Delta, the Brigade Commander of 63 Brigade; Asaba is Brig Gen A Idris, another Muslim northerner.
In Rivers State, the General Officer Commanding of the 6 Division, which oversees the South-South states, is Maj Gen Sambo G Mohammed, another Muslim northerner.
“It is sad that the Nigerian Army, though it refuses to confess it, has a body language of ethnic and religious domination for the southern states. The operations and brigades are led by officers who are estranged to the region; cannot relate to the needs and aspirations of the states and seemed to be brought to enforce subjugation,” military personnel lamented.
“Yes, the army is the face of Nigeria’s unity, but it is obvious that the army does not believe in Christian, southern officers to hold the key positions, most especially in the troubled states. And this is why the frictions continue. Sometimes, you need non-kinetic measures to solve separatist agenda and agitations and not the guns and bullets. You need well refined and diplomatic officers from their region to speak to agitators in such regions. This strategy, the military, is conspicuously lacking,” another military source stated.
A civil group, The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, while commenting on the development in the South-East, condemned the skewed postings which favour the north.
The Intersociety Chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, said, “The takeover and control of crucial army formations in the Christian part of the country by these Muslim officers are found to be a deliberate policy of the present government.
“This has been majorly responsible for disproportionate security and safety of the affected Christian civilian population and their properties, thereby putting them not only in danger but also exposing them to attacks by Jihadist herdsmen.”