Nigeria removed a general involved in the search for kidnapped schoolgirls, after troops fired shots into his vehicle and accused him of embezzling money meant for their weapons and food.
The army on Thursday tried to calm rebellious soldiers in the country’s northeast a day after soldiers in Maiduguri, the military headquarters in the region, revolted and accused their commander.
Top officers flew to Maiduguri to defuse tensions as soldiers complained of inadequate cars, guns and armor to fight Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgency, soldiers and witnesses said.
Earlier in the week, several soldiers said Boko Haram insurgents jumped at them from the forests, killing 12, in an ambush in an ambush along a road the soldiers had asked to avoid. Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, a military spokesman, said the army would discipline soldiers who took part in the hourslong revolt on Wednesday. No one was hurt in the attack.
“Let me assure that the military will sustain the current tempo in the fight against insurgents,” he said.
Yet the soldiers’ revolt shows how the call for action is colliding with harsh realities on the ground. The troops he is likely to meet are up against an insurgency that has moved in a few years from bows and arrows to rocket launchers and machine guns mounted on pickup trucks.
Nigeria’s troops stationed at roadblocks are without basic accessories like sandbags or helmets. Several say they have been kept beyond their tour of duty, or that their salaries have arrived weeks or months late. Some say they don’t eat on a regular basis. One soldier said he has to drive at night in a truck with broken headlights: “I am given a dead patrol vehicle here,” he said. “I spend most of the time trying to fix it.”
On Thursday, Gen. Olukolade promised an investigation into the troops’ conditions. “It is not in the character of the Nigerian soldier to be unruly,” he said. Many soldiers in Maiduguri say they sympathize with the mutineers, even if they were distancing themselves from their actions. “As a soldier, we would not say we are planning to fight our superiors,” said one soldier. But he added: “No one can predict when a frustrated soldier bursts up.”