Sunday, 2 December 2012

Jaji bombings: Military ignored warnings – Investigation

Following the setting up of a board of inquiry by the military authorities to unearth the circumstances that led to the bombing of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, fresh facts have revealed that negligence on the part of the military created security lapses that made it easier for the bombers to access the area penultimate Sunday.
According to documents sighted by Blueprint, successive leadership at the Jaji cantonment have made request for physical measures, such as observation posts (watch towers) which were to be sited at strategic points in order to enable effective monitoring of all the open areas within the college’s expansive land mass.
Our correspondent also gathered that a request was made for concrete barriers to cover all the major access points in the cantonment to prevent forceful gate crashing or ramming through the gate as has been experienced in some locations.
A letter from the cantonment in February had drawn the attention of the Defence Headquarters on the need to look into the porous nature of the cantonment, and went further to recommend the construction of watch towers to be used as observation posts.
Another letter from the Defence Headquarters said that the relevant authorities have been directed to liaise with the cantonment to work out the cost of the watch tower construction.
A retired military officer who spoke to Blueprint on condition of anonymity said, “I know Jaji very well. I served there twice. I have been there for young officers’ course, for my junior division and senior division courses. Jaji is one of the most porous military institutions in the world.

“What you have in Jaji is what we call in battle Fortification of Forward Edge of Battle (FEBA), while the Rear of Battle Area or Rear Administration Area is left open. There is no security in Jaji at all. In those days, when I was a young officer, I used to travel by rail from Lagos to Jaji railway station. If you stop at the station, it is a stone throw to the cantonment. There is no fence or any barrier between the railway station and the cantonment. There is no fence around Jaji.”
Jaji, according to the source, has a large expanse of land which has made it rear open with no fence. It also has many villages that can access it without any hindrance. Some of the villages around the cantonment include old Birnin Yero, close to Sambawa farms, Kan Zaure village, Tsofo Wasono, Agwa, Malama Gadago, Gimi and Birnikawa, Kabar and Tami. There is also a railway station (Jaji railway station).
Blueprint investigation revealed that while the front entrance of the cantonment is fortified, the rear is open from many ends.
Our correspondent also gathered that the main battalion in Jaji (4 Demon Battalion), saddled with security of the cantonment and its environment, has been dismembered. While 1 Company is in Maiduguri, 1 Company is in Jos, the main Battalion is in Kafanchan. With this depleted manpower, the unit is expected to provide security for the cantonment and also participate in military exercises.
A security expert told Blueprint that the biggest worry is that the Nigerian military has refused to learn from past mistakes.
“The military has refused to learn from past mistakes. Instead of being proactive, they wait for disaster to happen and, then, they look for one or two scapegoats. All major military disasters, either plane crash or bombing, if you find out, in most cases, an officer must have informed the military authority on the impending danger.
“For instance, the plane crash that killed over 100 military officers twenty years ago, junior officers had complained about the condition of the aircraft, nobody listened. In 2006, Nigeria lost 17 military officers, most of them major generals, in another plane crash. The military authority knew that the aircraft was not in good condition. I am sure you remember the Lagos armoury explosion which took place at Armour Transit Depot (ATD), Ikeja cantonment, on 2002.
That explosion killed over 1,000 people and displaced over 20,000 people. Nigerians were told later by the Brigade Commander of 9 Infantry Brigade, Ikeja, then Brigadier General Goerge Kolawale Emdin, and different military formations in Lagos that both the Chief of Defence Staff, General Alexandra Ogbemudia, and Senate Committee on Defence and Army were informed of the impending danger and the need to decommission the ammunitions in 2001. But nothing was done until the explosion happened.”
Responding to a question on what he thought the outcome of the board of inquiry instituted by the military on Jaji bombing would be, the security expert said, “I can assure you, it will be the same. Instead of using the opportunity of the unfortunate incident to respond appropriately in order to avert future occurrence, they will just waste some few officers and men.
“It has happened before. That was how Brigadier General Emdin was retired. That was how Major General Joseph Shobioki was removed as GOC 1 DIV, Kaduna. Officers have lost their commissions over flimsy excuses. General Emdin commanded a battalion in Bakassi. General Shoboiki was in the battle field with ECOMOG in Liberia. There are many officers and men who were wrongly retired or dismissed or lost their seniority.
“The military is still behaving as if it is still under military rule when military officers were implicated in phantom coups. Is that how developed countries respond to security challenges? How many military officers were retired from Pentagon after September 11 bombing of World Trade Centre? I think we can afford to do what we are doing because we are not facing any external aggression. In other countries, an officer never retires, he is always on reserve.”
Both the Commandant, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, AFCSC, Air Vice M Abdullahi Kure, and Commander, Infantry Corps Centre, Major General Mohammed Isa, were on Saturday directed to hand over to Air Vice Marshal E. E. Osim and Major General Kenneth C. Osuji respectively.

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