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Army reinstates 2,500 sacked soldiers, may upturn death sentences

The Nigerian Army has recalled over 2,500 soldiers who were asked to withdraw from service for alleged offences committed under the counter-insurgency operations code named Operation Zaman Lafiya. The review panel set up by the Army, which began sitting in Kaduna on August 17, has also screened and reinstated 102 officers, who were sentenced or facing prosecution in relation to the operations in the North-East.

The reinstated soldiers and officers have commenced retraining at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontangora, Niger State. The 2,500 soldiers were among the over 4,000 who responded to a memo from the Army authorities inviting soldiers for a review of recent disciplinary cases, which emanated from the counter terrorism operations.

The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, said that this should not be mistaken for a “total reinstatement of dismissed and deserter soldiers.” The review of disciplinary cases is still ongoing and there are plans to also review the cases of 66 soldiers who were sentenced to death by firing squad.

After the retraining, the Army authorities would screen the affected personnel and re-activate their suspended bank accounts.

Not all the dismissed soldiers who turned up in Kaduna were lucky to have regained their jobs. Some of them who had been dismissed about 15 years ago for various offences, were asked to leave the venue of the review panel. They were said to have been dismissed from the Army for various offences since the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Usman described them as “a group of mischief-makers who should have been arrested and prosecuted for disrupting the peace of the public. The alleged protesting soldiers were no longer soldiers for almost 15 years now. They were dismissed for various offences and therefore are not part of those whose disciplinary cases are being reviewed by the committee. Consequently, they are not eligible for the ongoing review.”

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