Riotous troops of the Nigerian Army sized Maiduguri Airport for about two hours on Sunday evening in protest against their deployment to Marte, one of the towns in Borno State, liberated by the military several years ago from the control of Boko Haram terrorists.
The troops barricaded some section of the airport and fired shots in the air, causing pandemonium, as hundreds of pilgrims waiting to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, scampered for safety.
Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Command confirmed in a statement that the protest by the troops happened while the command was conducting a redeployment of soldiers at the Maiduguri Airport.
He added that the deployment followed a directive to review troops’ deployment in Maiduguri metropolis, to reinvigorate the security architecture of the city.
According to him, few of the troops who 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.
But according to New Agency of Agency, the aggrieved soldiers claimed they had overstayed and were resisting redeployment to Marte.
The protesters are part of the special force deployed to provide air defence and enhance security at the airport.
The agency quoted one of the protesting soldiers who spoke under condition of anonymity, as saying the planned deployment was against the directives by the Army Headquarters.
“The army special forces deployed to the airport were not trained to engage in ground battle rather trained to provide air defence.
“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”.
Another soldier lamented that the troops have overstayed in the Northeast fighting Boko Haram, despite the rotation order by the military authorities.
He said many of them have spent over three years in the battle field.
“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.
“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”.