The Military Mayhem In Lagos

Editorial

The mayhem unleashed last Friday in Lagos by the Nigerian military is not only disgusting, but a depressing realisation that rather than protecting the Nigerian people against foreign aggressors and terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, our soldiers have decided to use their military might against unarmed civilians.

The soldiers are not only seizing newspapers and preventing governors from freely moving around as guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution, they now leave their barracks at the slightest alibi to unleash terror and create panic in the society.

On Friday, irate soldiers went on the rampage at Palmgrove area of Ikorodu Road in Lagos and burnt at least eight BRT-LAG buses and vandalised 20 others, after their colleague was allegedly crushed to death by a mass transit bus on the expressway. Witnesses said two soldiers were riding on a motorcycle when they were hit by a LAGBUS, leaving one of them dead and the other slightly injured.

The injured soldier was said to have rushed to a nearby barracks and mobilised his colleagues to the accident scene. Immediately the soldiers arrived, they swung into action, taking laws into their hands and vandalising all the mass transit buses in sight.

They sent passengers and bus drivers scampering for safety as they unleashed their anger on the buses and spread panic around the area. A female soldier was captured on camera smashing the windshield of one of the buses. The chaos and pandemonium lasted for hours and led to traffic snarls with commuter bus drivers turning back or increasing their fares.

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The soldiers were said to have seized and smashed phones of civilians on the expressway to prevent owners from recording their disgusting act. They asked others to raise their hands and beat a few others in a misguided show of force.

It is not the first time the Nigerian military will act so unprofessionally and irresponsibly. They displayed the same barbaric act in 2006 when they invaded Area ‘C’ Police Command in Surulere, burnt part of the station and threw a senior police officer from a storey building and the cop later died from the injuries he sustained from the fall. The soldiers who perpetrated the act got away with it, leaving the Lagos State Government to spend millions of naira to rehabilitate the burnt station.

In other climes, when soldiers are seen outside the barracks, it means the country is in deep crisis or great danger, but in Nigeria, soldiers are deployed to oppress civilians, settle scores and even force debt owners to pay back. They are seen in uniforms, illegally riding motorcycles on the expressway, driving on BRT lane and even against traffic. They behave as if they are above the law and fail to understand that the guns and ammunition they are given are purchased with the sweat of millions of tax payers who equip them to defend the country when the need arises. But they turn their guns against the same people they are supposed to protect. They forget that they were civilians before they joined the military and one day they will retire and would be dispossessed of their guns and become civilians again.

What is even more disheartening is the failure of the top echelon in the military to call the junior ones to order and the failure of the Commander-Chief of the Armed Forces to act when the military top brass fail to do their job. While we consider the death of the soldier a tragedy and sympathise with his family, and while we call on the Nigerian government to ensure that those who wear the Nigerian military uniform to defend our nation are well taken care of and their family members are not abandoned at a time like this, we believe that the soldiers acted recklessly and unprofessionally in this instance and those who take law into their hands should be punished. This should not be the case of ‘unknown soldier’ wreaking havoc at peace time or causing social disorder and melting into the barracks without trace.

We also call on those in charge of BRT drivers to call them to order. Some of them drive recklessly and act as if they have the right to kill those who drive on the BRT lane. They have killed many people in Lagos because of excessive speed.