There are indeed growing concerns within the military on the infiltration of its ranks by agents who leak operational strategies to Boko Haram insurgents that have of late increased their tempo of ambush attacks on security forces, leaving on their trail high profile casualties on the part of the armed forces.
The concern, which is the subject of a recent intelligence report on President Goodluck Jonathan’s desk, has already brought some military officers, soldiers and other security agents involved “in the chain of operations against the insurgents” under 24/7 surveillance.
Saturday Sun gathered that the security report which also raised concerns over a possible link between some foreign mercenaries serving as Boko Haram field commanders and foreigners that had been erroneously recruited into the nation’s security forces.
It was further learnt that over the years, hundreds of citizens of some African countries especially Chad, Niger, Mali and The Gambia among others have settled in Nigeria, claiming either Kano or Borno as their state of origin and have as a result been able to get jobs into security agencies “simply because they bear the same names as we have in the North while most of them have their tertiary education also in Nigeria.”
“Information available to us indicates that a number of Boko Haram fighters and frontline commanders come in as mercenaries from some of these neighbouring countries especially those that have trained and fought along side some rebels in Northern Mali before they were displaced there. That’s why we are indeed concerned that there could be a possible nexus between some of these fighters and their people that have found their way into our security forces in the past because a major challenge in our operations is the leakage of information and operational strategies which the terrorists have continued to use to ambush our men killing some of our fine and promising officers. One of such officers we lost in a recent ambush attack in Mubi Adamawa State is Captain O. Akintola who was due to be decorated as a Major this month”, a red neck security chief told Saturday Sun in Abuja.
President Jonathan had indeed raised the alarm over the infiltration of his government especially the Armed Forces in 2012 when indications began to emerge that insurgents were not only enjoying the sympathy of some elements in government but were getting strategic support to frustrate counter-insurgency efforts.
Jonathan spoke during an inter-denominational service to mark the 2012 Armed Forces Remembrance Day had disclosed that the situation had made it more difficult to combat Boko Haram.
According to him “This is a particular time when the country has major security challenges. There are explosions every day, people are dying and are being killed daily without any reason.
“It is a period we also call on the armed forces, including those that have retired to hang with their colleagues that are still in service and government to see how collectively we can protect our nation.
“I believe we will overcome our immediate challenges. The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought. During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from, you can even know the route they are coming from, you can even know what calibre of weapon they will use and so on.
“But the challenge we have today is more complicated. I remember when I held a meeting with elders from the Northeast and some parts of the Northwest where the Boko Haram phenomenon is more prevalent; somebody said that the situation is bad that even if one’s son is a member, one will not even know. That means that if the person will plant a bomb behind your house you won’t know.
“Some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government while some of them are even in the judiciary. Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house.”
Though the Defence Headquarters has continued to dismiss or downplay insinuations that there are troubles within, it was gathered that much of the sophisticated surveillance equipment recently acquired by two security agencies have been devoted to tracking and monitoring many military officers and other security agents involved “in the processing of information, planning, deployment of troops and logistics for operations in the North East with a view to block leakages and fish out moles and fifth columnists in the system.”
The security source further revealed that some suspects had already been arrested as a result of the latest effort. Some of them are said to be going through further screening and investigations by their various formations.
While dispelling insinuations that some top military officers were being detained over alleged links with Boko Haram on Tuesday, Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade however explained that “Disciplinary processes being undertaken in any formation of the Nigerian Army are at best routine and definitely not at the level that has been so willfully exaggerated for clearly sinister motives.”
In an exclusive online interview with Saturday Sun on the latest development, General Olukolade assured that strict measures are being taken against fifth columnists in the armed forces adding that sufficient screening is also done at the point of recruitment to ensure that bad eggs are not given any opportunity.
His words: “all agencies participating in a joint operation come under one command. If anyone from any service or organization outside the military is involved in any misdemeanor, the inter-service channels will be utilized to demand appropriate justice as stipulated by the laws/regulations of his organization after proper investigations and reports.
“As for the military personnel, apart from the usual regimental procedures that work to prevent or sanction such tendencies, various provisions of the Armed Forces Act are available to ensure due justice in the event of any breach.
All investigations by the military police will seek to confirm enough ground for prosecution for appropriate trial process.
“With regards to the likelihood of moles coming in through recruitment exercise, this will not be as easy as imagined. There is thorough screening at all stages of the recruitment process. The process is quite capable of detecting any false identity.”
Notwithstanding the assurance from the DHQ, multiple security sources familiar with the process of recruitment into the nation’s security forces insist that only about half of the number of those recruited go through the normal process while the other half are taken through recommendations from high quarters and VIPs while subsequent background checks done by a few agencies are not thorough enough to discover anything aside those who forge educational qualifications.