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Tackling the challenge of fake army personnel terrorising Lagos

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Government, they say, is a continuum. The implication is that successive administrations should build on good foundations laid by past ones. This way, the society develops and the citizens get a better life.

The recent change of baton at the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Lagos, is one major development expected to add value to Nigerians’ lives particularly Lagos residents – both soldiers and the civilian community.

Handing over of the mantle of leadership of the foremost army division by Maj.-Gen. Olubunmi Irefin to Maj.-Gen. Godwin Umelo as its General Officer Commanding (GOC), on July 22, 2020, is, therefore, seen by analysts as another opportunity to take the army division to a greater height and strengthen security in the commercial nerve centre.

Irefin was redeployed to the 6 Division, Port Harcourt, while Umelo was, until his new appointment, in the Department of Training and Operations, Army Headquarters, Abuja.

Analysts are of the opinion that Lagos State is peculiar and has peculiar security needs.

A public affairs analyst in Lagos, Mr Kazeem Jimoh, notes that Irefin did his best as the GOC of the division.

He, however, says more needs to be done, expressing confidence that Umelo’s administration would build on the successes of the Irefin administration and put the division on a stronger pedestal.

According to Jimoh, two major areas Umelo should give attention are discipline among army officers and men, and fishing out fake army personnel who parade Lagos, causing havoc.

Jimoh says it is saddening that some dismissed soldiers and other unpatriotic Nigerian found pleasure in impersonating army officers and men, wear army uniforms, use army stickers or any regalia to commit fraud, assault and other crimes.

He notes that the operatives of the division, on April 30, paraded 13 suspected fake army officers and men, including a lieutenant-colonel and a major who perpetrated crimes in various parts of Lagos State during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

The analyst urges the new GOC to also do his best to alleviate the sufferings of soldiers in the division in terms of provision of accommodation and other welfare matters.
He believes that by his track record of achievements, Umelo will live up to the expectations.

A journalist, Mr Samuel Udom, wants Umelo to ensure cleaner barracks in Lagos State.

“My expectation from the new GOC is to ensure the soldiers have a better accommodation and a clean environment.

“If you go to some barracks – 9 Brigade, Bonny Camp – the environment is not yet satisfactory,’’ he says.

Udom is also of the opinion that enforcement of discipline among
officers and men of the division is an important task before Umelo.

He claims that some soldiers are cruel to civilians, beating them up for flimsy reasons.

“Soldiers should be punished for indiscipline. Soldiers are seen on the streets maltreating civilians.’’

He observes that the situation tarnishes army’s image and makes it appear wicked to those it is defending against external aggression.

“There should be dedicated active hotlines where civilians can report such matters.

“The GOC should prioritise training of soldiers on civil-military relationship.

“Over the years, officers are the ones that mainly go for the training; we should not forget that soldiers are the ones interfacing with civilians on the streets,’’ he argues.

Udom is convinced that such a training will help more soldiers to interact peacefully with civilians.

A Lagos resident, Mrs Ngozi Akawa, believes that there are increased cases of impersonation of army officers in the state, urging that this should be a cause for concern to the division.

She is also convinced that much of the impersonation is done by ex-soldiers.

“Whatever makes unpatriotic Nigerians to find it convenient to impersonate soldiers should be addressed. It is not giving the army a good image,’’ she says.

She urges that Umelo should also bring sanity to all military
formations in the division in terms of discipline of personnel and improved relationship within and outside the barracks.

According to Akawa, Umelo should strengthen the division’s Operation Checkmate meant to check soldiers’ excesses, arrest impostors and enforce discipline during the lockdown.

“He should insist on proper dressing and kick against wearing of mufti with military caps outside the barracks.

“The new GOC should end maltreatment of civilians by soldiers. He should also close non-designated checkpoints mounted by soldiers, as well as renovate poor houses in all the barracks,’’ she suggests.

While taking over the mantle of leadership, Umelo had pledged to build on the successes of his predecessor.

The new GOC says he is mindful of the responsibilities of the division and the challenges ahead.

He believes that the challenges are surmountable with the support and cooperation of the officers and men and others, including media professionals.

“I am aware that to whom much is given, much more is expected.
“I am not unmindful of the challenges, but I want to believe that with quality cooperation, including that of the press, we will be able to surmount the challenges.

He promises not to go below the standard set by Irefin.

“By God’s grace, we will try and see if we can take it higher,’’ he assures, charging army officers and men in 81 Division to be ready to work to lift the division higher.

The state Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who emphasizes that Lagos State has peculiar security needs, gives assurance of his administration’s support for the new GOC.

At a courtesy visit to him by Umelo, at the Lagos House, Marina, Sanwo-Olu said: The work is tough, but we want to promise you that we will cooperate with you and support you like we supported your predecessor for you to be successful in your assignment as GOC of 81 Division of the Nigerian Army.

“Lagos is peculiar and we have our own security needs. We are working with the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Police and other security agencies to continue to ensure that Lagos is safe and secure for investors, visitors and residents of the state.’’

Analysts are hopeful that with adequate cooperation of army officers and men, Lagos State Government, the state residents and others, Umelo will bring his competence, experience and versatility to bear in the administration of 81 Division of the Nigerian Army and advance it to greater heights.(NANFeatures)

***If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria

News Analysis by Ijeoma Popoola

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