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Army says normalcy has returned after soldiers’ protest in Maiduguri

THE Nigerian Army authorities say normalcy has been restored at the Maiduguri International Airport after some soldiers protested there on Sunday.

The soldiers were said to be angry that they were being redeployed out of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to a more remote part of the state.

Reports said the soldiers complained that having spent three years or more in the theatre of battle, they should be sent back to reunite with their families and loved ones. Others said they were trained to provide air cover and not for ground battles.

“The army special forces deployed to the airport were not trained to engage in ground battle rather trained to provide air defence,” Premium Times quoted one of the protesting soldiers as saying.

“Our task is to provide air defence. Alas, special forces trained to fight ground battle are stationed in Maiduguri and we are deployed to go and die in Marte.”

“Some troops of Operation Lafiya Dole were deployed and worked for over three years in the theatre and not rotated as against the directives by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai,” another soldier complained.

“The command is directed to redeploy soldiers back to their bases after spending stipulated time in the theatre of operation. We have spent over three years in the northeast and we should be transferred out of the northeast and not within.”

The protest which lasted for about two hours on Sunday caused some pandemonium at the Airport as intending Muslim faithful embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage were also at the airport, preparing to take off for Mecca.

However, Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Command explained that the redeployment became necessary after an assessment of the security situation, adding that some of the soldiers misunderstood the whole arrangement.

“The redeployment became expedient after a recent assessment of the security situation by the Theatre Command,” Nwachukwu, a Colonel, explained in a statement on Monday.

“Regrettably however, a few of the troops who had misunderstood the development and erroneously assumed it was going to negatively affect their rotation from the theatre of operation became agitated and reacted by firing into the air.

“Calm has however been restored, as the Theatre Commander, Major General Abba Dikko has promptly taken charge of the situation after addressing and admonishing the troops.

“The Theatre Command undoubtedly considers this ugly incident quite regrettable and appropriate measures are being taken to forestall a recurrence.”

Nwachukwu urged members of the public not to be scared of going about their legitimate businesses in and around the airport.

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