Three ex-soldiers, who were allegedly dismissed by the Nigeria Army, have been arrested on the claim that they took part in the training of 4000 members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the alleged armed wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (POB).
The group has been accused of being responsible for the alleged attacks and killing of security operatives, as well as the burning of police stations across the South East and South-South regions of the country.
Operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) arrested the three former soldiers.
The suspects, identified as Linus Owalo, Godswill Steven, and Chinasa Orji, according to reliable sources, were arrested recently after operatives of the IRT who acted on intelligence gathered from some members of IPOB who were arrested when they raided the group’s hideouts in Imo, Anambra, Delta, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
Police sources disclosed that Owalo, who was enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2013 and attached to the 102 Guard Brigade Battalion, was dismissed in 2019.
Thereafter, it was gathered that he commenced the training of the IPOB militias on combat operations, ambush, and use of firearms, while his colleagues Orji and Steven, were said to have been enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and were trained at the 133 Special Force Battalion.
However, they were said to have been dismissed in 2020, before they joined the IPOB militias, commenced training for members on how to become Special Forces.
It was gathered that the soldiers who were promised double of their salaries in the army, joined the IPOB military camp in Abia State, where they trained the over 4000 IPOB volunteer fighters, before moving to Asaba, Delta State, where they trained another 400 militias.
The suspects during interrogations by the police said that the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, told them that he would send them abroad for more military training and that when the State of Biafra is achieved, they would become military generals in the republic.
They added that they discovered that his promises were all lies and decided to quit the job.
The 32-year-old Owalo, a native of Layal Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State, married with two children, said in his confession: “I was enlisted into the Nigerian Army in 2013. I was posted to the Guards Brigade Headquarters, FCT Abuja, but in 2019, I was absent from duty and the army authorities arrested me.
“I was charged and subsequently dismissed from the service. Since then, I have been seeking reinstatement and life has not been easy for my family. I approached one man while in search of a job and he linked me to one Mr. Williams. He said the man would help get me a paid job.
“Mr. Williams told me about Biafra and their dream to achieve a sovereign state. He invited me to their meeting and when I attended I was welcomed warmly and I was given a half bag of garri, five tubers of yam and they also paid a visit to my wife and children.
“I then told them that I was making plans to get my reinstatement into the Nigeria Army. They told me that I should forget about it that their Supreme Leader, Nnamdi Kanu, will make life better for me if I train the IPOB militias known as ESN.
“They also told me that I will be taken abroad after I have completed training them so I could gain more military training and that when Biafra is actualised, I will become a general in the Biafran Army.
“I took an oath and pledged allegiance to Nnamdi Kanu. I also vowed that I will die if I betrayed the Biafra struggle. I was given the sum of N100,000. I was then moved to a forest in Abia State, where I trained over 4000 men who indicated an interest in training.
“That was in October 2020. I also met some other dismissed soldiers of the Nigeria Army who were there to train the men.
“ We commenced training the moment I arrived and we started with push-ups, moral training, then we moved to fire movement known as fieldcraft. There was no board and pen in the forest for us to write on, but we trained them the way we could.
“The people managing the camp refused to trust us and they don’t involve us in their meetings. Three months into the training, they sent us to a camp in Delta State; where we met a man known as Be-in-Spirit and he took us to the camp.
“They told us that when we get to Delta State that they will take care of us very well and when we got there we discovered that the camp had been shut down. I couldn’t talk to Nnamdi Kanu; I was just talking to his boys.
“I was used and brainwashed by IPOB. Since I have been arrested, I would make sure that IPOB must be wiped out,” he lamented.
For Godswill Steven, a 33-year-old native of Bende Local Government Area (LGA), Abia State, he “joined the Nigeria Army in June 2017, and attached to the Special Force.
“I got my four months training in Kotangora. I also went to Kaba, Kogi State for another three months of training, before I was sent to Takum Taraba State for three more months of training.
“At the completion of my training, I was sent to 133 Battalion, where I sustained an injury. I was posted to Maiduguri in 2018 and I fought at Garuda in Maiduguri.
“I survived the battle even with my injuries and I wanted to treat myself but the army authorities refused to allow me to go for treatment. When the pain became too much, I left to treat myself and when I returned, I was arrested and locked up in a cell where I met Chinasa Orji.
“ We became friends and while in the cell, he told me that one of his friends called him from Senegal and informed him that Nnamdi Kanu was recruiting trained soldiers to train IPOB militias. He said Nnamdi Kanu was ready to pay them twice the money they were earning as soldiers.
“He also told me that Nnamdi Kanu would also take the soldiers abroad and when Biafra is achieved he will make them general in Biafra. I accepted the offer and they paid us N100,000 each which was twice the salary I was receiving from the Nigeria Army.
“We then travelled to Abia State where we took an oath to be loyal to Nnamdi Kanu. We were also taken into the camp where we gave volunteered militias training on combat and special forces maneuvering.
“After spending one month in the Abia State Camp, we were transferred to another camp, where I spent three weeks training the militias. I left the camp when it became clear that the promise they made to take us abroad for training wasn’t realistic.
“I came down to Abuja where I got a security job and I was eventually arrested.” He stated
While the third suspects, Chinasa Orji, a native of Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State, 23, with a child, said he was enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2015 and was dismissed in 2018 after attending the burial of his elder brother, a soldier who was killed on 22 August 2018.
He said: “My elder brother was a soldier. He was killed when he went on escort in Bayelsa State. My bosses refused to give me a pass then, I went on my own and my bank account was frozen. When I returned, I was arrested and detained.
“While in detention, I had access to my phone and I started chatting with one of my friends called Victor who told me that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu needs my services to train some IPOB militias. He told me that Kanu was ready to pay me twice the money I was earning in the army and I told my friend Steven, who was also in detention about it.
“He accepted and they sent us money, which we used in transporting ourselves from Yola, Adamawa State to Abia State. Then we were picked up by the IPOB members and taken into the forest where we took oaths and started training the militias.
“I was paid N100,000 but I got angry when they couldn’t fulfill their promise of taking us abroad for training,” he narrated.