The Nigerian Army may have been unable to track down the bandits who abducted Christopher Datong, a Major, at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna State, on Tuesday, but the Army has a history of locating the criminals it genuinely wants to apprehend.
Major Datong was abducted in the wee hours of Tuesday by assailants, who also shot two officers dead after gaining access to the defence academy, with the Army unable to locate him so far. However, in 2015, an orderly who stole cash and jewellery of a Brigadier-General, her boss’s husband, and escaped from Zaria in kaduna State was tracked all the way to a room in Maiduguri, Borno State, and whisked back to Kaduna.
A senior military source told FIJ that after Yanuty Dzarma, the orderly, stole N25million cash and jewellery worth N50million belonging to Brigadier-General Bright Ateke Fiboinumama, then Commandant, Depot Nigerian Army, and fled Kaduna, a search team was sent after her.
“They were able to track her to Maiduguri. In fact, they went into her bedroom and caught her, the source told FIJ. “Part of the story that came up was that she wanted to cross over to Cameroon or something. When they caught her, they brought her back to Zaria.”
Documents seen by FIJ showed that ‘Ex-12NA/68/5627F Pte Yanuty Dzarma’ was placed on detention at the Depot NA/NMS Provost Company Guardroom in Kaduna on July 28, 2015. Yanuty was to be handed over to the Police on September 4, 2015 as directed by Brig-Gen CG Musa (N/9209), who had succeeded Fiboinumama as Depot Commandant.
Musa, who was to ensure the handover, not only failed to do it, claiming the prosecuting barrister had asked him to obtain a fresh statement from the suspect and write a comprehensive brief on the case, he also did not report the situation to the Commandant. Three days later, Yanuty escaped from the guardroom.
“That was how she escaped the second time and they couldn’t find her,” the source said. The night she escaped, I think it rained, so they staged something. You might suspect that she ‘sorted’ soldiers to allow her to go.”
Those claims were corroborated by documents seen by FIJ. The board of enquiry set up to investigate Yanuty’s escape observed that “both the Visiting Non-Commission-Officer (NCO) and the Desk NCO were not physically present at their posts during the period of escape”.
It also said “the Visiting NCO claimed to have gone to get something to eat over a 20-minute period while the Desk NCO went out to send for recharge card and was outside the duty room for about 10 to 15mins”.
“The Desk NCO on duty 13NA/70/7995F LCpl Mutiat Oladunwo could not tell the board the exact time the detainees escaped from detention,” the board said, adding that “the detainees escaped either through the main cell door or through the broken window in the exhibit store”.
“Depot NA/NMS Prov Coy guardroom had cells next to an exhibit store containing equipment that could be used to aid escape such as metal rods, diggers and cutlasses,” it said.
“The door to the exhibit store was forcefully opened and the small window in the exhibit store was broken. The shackles used on the escaped detainees and the padlocks used to lock their cell doors and the doors were not damaged.”
In its conclusion, the board said: “The escape from detention of 07NA/60/0380 Pte Fidelis Ashikong and Ex- 12NA/68/5627F Pte Yanuty Dzarma on 7 Sep 15 was pre-planned. The defence by MP personnel was unconvincing to the board that they were not culpable. There was security breach, negligence and possibly sabotage by some personnel of the Depot NA/NMS Prov Coy.”
Four days after her escape, an attempt was made to rearrest Yanuty, believed to have been on admission at St Gerald Hospital Kaduna However, the exercise of Warrant officer Usman Mohmmed, Staff Sergeant Ahmed Chiroma, Staff Sergeant Usman Abdullahi, Sergeant Sani Mohammed, Lance Corporal Ajide Omolara and Lance Corporal Amtu Samuel of the Depot NA/NMS Prov Coy ended in futility.
FIJ understands Fiboinumama’s loyalists in the Army could have tracked and apprehended Yanuty a second time if they really wanted to, but they were handicapped by new political realities.
“Fiboinumama was no longer commandant. He is Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s kinsman and was no longer in Muhammadu Buhari’s good books. So if he had made noise, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would have looked for him and asked him to explain how, as Commandant, he got N75million.”
FIJ understands that such was the need to cover up the amount of money involved that Yanuty was tried not for the offence she committed but something else entirely: flouting the Army’s code on marriage.
A female in the Nigerian Army is barred from getting married until three years post-depot training; however, Yanuty, a Private, got married earlier than that.
“They did not even dismiss her from the Army because she stole the money. No,” the source said.
“What they used for her case was that she got married prematurely, and in the Army you can’t get married until you have spent a certain number of years. They used that to dismiss her — because the man didn’t want it to be linked to the fact that she stole his money.”
All in all, the source said, “if the Army have the total will to find and free Major Datong, they know what to do and how to do it — because when senior interests were at stake, they did what they had to do.”
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