Are Nigerian soldiers now enemies of the people?

I saw photos of a visit by Abia state governor Alex Otti to the family of late CPL Lucky Ikechukwu Ikpeama where he paid condolences to the wife and aged mother of the deceased soldier.

Apparently, CPL Ikpeama hails from the same place, in fact, the same village, Nvosi, in Isialangwa South LGA as Otti. He is one of five soldiers killed by yet-to-be-identified gunmen on May 30. As much as I dislike using the name ‘unknown gunmen’, I am left with no better option as I don’t want to rattle my brain searching or churning a befitting name to call those causing mayhem in our locality. But the public appears to have settled with ‘unknown gunmen’, so I stand on existing protocol.

The attack that took out Ikpeama and his colleagues took place at Obikabia Junction Checkpoint in Obingwa LGA adjourning Aba metropolis, where troops of Operation Udoka were deployed to enforce peace in the area and protect the citizens.

The unknown gunmen, who many now believe were members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), came in three-tinted Prado Toyota SUVs, and in a desperate bid to enforce a sit-at-home order across the south-east, launched an attack on the military officers, leaving five dead.


On the dirty walls of the sitting room where Governor Otti visited the grieving family, there hangs a portrait of the late soldier. The room, a clear reflection of the standard of living of an average Nigerian soldier, was begging for a renovation or a little upgrade. The room was calling for new paint, new curtains, chairs and more, but I understand that this can only be done by an officer who has fed his family in an economy where food prices have gone gaga, solved family problems with a meagre salary, and have a little more left.

I felt personally pained when I saw a suckling infant, the few months old baby of the deceased soldier carried by the mother. The innocent child will only grow to hear stories and see photographs of the father, but will not have the opportunity of knowing and fellowshipping with the father. CPL Ikpeama, a young soldier, was trying to build a family, a modest one at that, with his little insufficient income until Nigeria happened to him.

Looking at photographs from the visit, governor Otti and his entourage did not even sit down, and perhaps that was because there was no good chair to sit on. When he visited the family of the late Herbert Wigwe, he sat down on the top-notch cushion furniture where he literally spent a little longer.


But CPL Ikpeama was just one of the millions of Nigerians who are struggling to live and fend for their families. His family house needs a complete upgrade and renovation. Governor Otti has made promises to stand with the family, and particularly, he promised to sponsor Ikpeama’s children up to a university degree. This is highly commendable if it is followed up even after the politician leaves office.

The madness of attacks on soldiers by civilians with arms is becoming too rampant for a profession that was once revered. Being a soldier is something of pride and utmost respect, however, something is not adding up lately, and it seems the soldiers are becoming the enemy of the people. This ugly development must be curbed before it goes out of hand.

A few days before that incident, there was an attack on soldiers inside the popular Banex Plaza in Abuja. In a video that went viral, two soldiers were attacked by a mob and were beaten to a pulp even while in uniform, with the specifics of their offence unknown.

The mob was seen in the video chasing and beating the two soldiers who tried to fight back. One of them was overpowered by the mob who hit him hard with objects. The other one tried to escape but was pushed by his attackers who also hit him repeatedly. These are the same Nigerian soldiers who put their lives on the line and continuously fight gallantly to keep the country safe and peaceful.


In April, two senior officers and four soldiers were killed by terrorists in an ambush in Karaga Village in the Shiroro LGA of Niger state. They were on a usual patrol when they were ambushed and killed.

But a more terrible incident happened in March when 17 military personnel, including a lieutenant colonel, two majors, one captain, and 13 soldiers, were killed in Delta state. The military personnel, who were on a peacekeeping mission, were gruesomely murdered by some irate youths in the Okuama community during a peace mission on the 14th of March.

This lingering attack has to stop, but before that could happen, there must be re-orientation on the side of both the military and the civilians. The army must continuously remind its personnel of the mode of operation and the ethics of the profession. Many videos have gone viral on social media where soldiers were harassing innocent civilians. Also, some military personnel are used by rich civilians to oppress other people for a meagre amount of money. Some of them have been turned into errand boys by civilians who can afford to pay; they now do side hustles like bouncers at weddings and birthday venues, and escort goods from one location to another. These things reduce the respect and integrity of the military.

Civilians must know that a soldier is not a tool that can be used at any time regardless of the close relationship they have, the army is a profession that serves the federal government, and soldiers should not be used to settle personal civil issues, that is why we have the police and the court of law.


The government also needs to upgrade the standard of living of our military personnel so that they can concentrate fully on the job. They need to be paid a good salary that can take them home, while those who have been deployed for one operation or the other must be paid their allowances in full and on time.

Israel Ojoko, a journalist, and data analyst, can be reached via [email protected]


Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
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