No new equipment was ever issued to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to prosecute the war against Boko Haram militants, a prosecution witness has stated at the ongoing court-martial of Brig Gen EA Ransome-Kuti, a former commander of the MNJTF.
This testimony starkly contradicts the assertion of the former Chief of Army Staff Kenneth Minimah that brand new equipment was purchased and issued to the MNJTF.
Brigadier General Kuti was in charge of Baga, in Borno State, when Boko Haram overran the army headquarters in December 2014. International organizations estimated that over 3, 000 died in the incident, but Defense Headquarters posted a much lower figure of 150.
Making the stunning statement at the Special Court Martial, which is taking place at the Army Headquarters Garrison in Abuja, was Major Gen MY Ibrahim, former General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of the army.
Major General Ibrahim caused a further stir when he declared that throughout his tenure as the GOC, he did not once visit Baga.
General Ibrahim further testified that the three MBLT Battle Tanks issued to the force had mechanical and electrical faults, while the artillery guns lacked critical accessories.
It was further revealed during the trial that the MNJTF lacked adequate fighting vehicles and support weapons. Most of the battle tanks in Baga were issued in 1998 at the commencement of the operation, and were therefore in very poor condition. The tanks were therefore not useful and could not effectively be used to repel the attack by the insurgents on the 3rd of January 2015.
Despite Army Headquarters directives that there should be mutual support in the North East operation by all members of the Nigerian Army, members of the Court Martial were dumbfounded when documentary evidence was tendered to show that the former GOC intentionally refused to task any military unit to support the MNJTF when it came under that attack.
Prior to this development, the Investigating Police Officer had informed the court that he was restricted in his investigation while the second prosecution witness, Captain EE Emmanuel, testified that MNJTF fighting equipment was unserviceable and that the troops were thus overwhelmed by the insurgents who fought with superior fire power and in strength.
Meanwhile, the Committee set up by the Chief of Army Staff to screen officers and soldiers in Jaji has concluded its sitting without screening all the army officers who turned up for the exercise. The committee made up of Maj Gen A Oyebade, Col I Buhari, Col ON Taiwo, Col TS Nurseman, Lt Col EO Ugwu, Lt Col ME Elom and Lt Col U Ukpe, directed the officers to return to their location and continue with their trials.
Although the trial has not commenced, our investigations have revealed that Col I Buhari participated in the investigations that led to the trial of most of the officers while Col TS Nurseman, Lt Col EO Ugwu and Lt Col U Ukpe who are presently serving as Director Legal Services in HQ 81 Div, HQ 1 Div and AHQ Gar respectively, gave the legal advice that led to the convening and trial of the officers affected by the court martial. Of equal significance, they are participating as either the Prosecutor or Judge Advocate in the court martial.
The Special Court Martial is expected to resume sitting tomorrow for the defence counsels Femi Falana and Rtd Maj OA Oyebanji to open their case. Notice has been given in court that the military authorities should make the former Chief of Defence Staff, former Chief of Army Staff and Maj Gen JAH Ewansiha available as witnesses in view of the testimony of General Ibrahim that new equipment was never issued to the MNJTF.