THREE soldiers recently dismissed from the Nigerian Army have confessed that they were recruited by the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) to train over 4,000 Eastern Security Network (ESN) members.
Created as the military wing of secessionist group Ipob, the ESN has taken on the responsibility of confronting armed Fulani herdsmen across the southeast geo-political zone. Of late, however, it has been accused of acts of bringandry, including raiding police stations and carting away weapons.
Recently, soldiers Linus Owalo, Godswill Steven and Chinasa Orji were dismissed from the Nigerian Army for various offences. They claimed that while they were in the army, Ipob made them mouth-watering, including overseas training.
According to the three ex-soldiers, Ipob leader Nnamdi Kanu, promised them that when the state of Biafra was achieved, they would become military generals in the new country. However, they said that they discovered that all the promises Ipob made to them were lies, adding that since helping the proscribed secessionist group to train ESN members, none of the promises had materialised.
All three former soldiers have seen been arrested by operatives of the Intelligence Response Team of the Nigeria Police Force. Mr Owalo, a 32-year-old father of two, was enlisted into the Nigerian Army in 2013 and attached to 102 Guard Brigade Battalion but was dismissed in 2019 from desertion.
His colleagues, Orji and Steven, were enlisted into the Nigerian Army in 2015 and 2017, respectively and were trained at the 133 Special Force Battalion. However, they were both dismissed in 2020 and went to join the ESN to train its members in Abia and Delta states.
Mr Owalo, an indigene of Yala Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State, said: “I was enlisted into the Nigerian Army in 2013 and posted to the Guards Brigade Headquarters, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. But in 2019, I was absent on duty and the army authorities arrested me and I was charged and subsequently dismissed from the service.
I trained over 4,000 ESN members in October 2020 and also met some other dismissed soldiers of the Nigerian Army at the ESN camp. Three months into the training, I was redeployed to the ESN camp in Delta State but all this while, they didn’t allow me to speak to Nnamdi Kanu. I was just talking to his boys. I was used and brainwashed by Ipob.”
Mr Steven, a 33-year-old indigene of Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, said he joined the Nigerian Army in June 2017 and was attached to 133 Battalion and eventually deployed in Maiduguri, Borno State, in 2018. He added that he was dismissed for deserting his base, explaining that he left because he sustained injuries at the battlefront but was not allowed to go for treatment.
“I was eventually dismissed by the Nigerian Army and accepted Ipob’s offer. I was paid N100,000, which was twice the salary I was earning at the Nigerian Army, so I travelled to Abia State, where Orji and I took oaths to be loyal to Nnamdi Kanu. We trained ESN in combat and special forces manoeuvring,” Mr Steven said.
He added that he eventually left the ESN camp when it became clear that the promises made to them were not materialising. Mr Orji, 23, said he was dismissed by the Nigerian Army in 2018 after attending the burial of his elder brother, a soldier, killed on August 22, 2018, against the order of his superiors.
“My bosses refused to give me a pass to attend my brother’s burial, so I travelled without permission. When I returned to base, I was arrested and detained.
“While in detention, I started chatting with a friend who told me that Nnamdi Kanu needed my service to train Ipob militias. He told me that Kanu was ready to pay me twice the money I was earning in the army, so I accepted his offer after my dismissal,” Mr Orji said.