Christopher Bobai

12.09.2023 Featured Mentally-Ill Soldier Walked Out of Barracks 22 Years Ago. Army Denied Him After His Recovery

Published 12th Sep, 2023

By Emmanuel Uti

Christopher Bobai, an out-of-service Nigerian soldier, has come forward to share his struggle with mental illness and claims of mistreatment by the Nigerian military authorities.

The soldier, a former tactics instructor stationed at the Depot Nigerian Training branch headquarters in Kaduna State, claims to have been forced out of the barracks against his will after he recovered from his mental condition despite presenting convincing evidence of his health status.

Bobai told FIJ his ordeal started when he unconsciously left the barracks to a destination he no longer remembered due to his deteriorating mental health in 1998.

Lost and estranged from his family, he spent several years in a state of destitution until an individual who recognised him found him in Abuja scavenging for food in dustbins in June 2020.

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Bobai said the compassionate individual contacted his family who promptly took him to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital at Barnawa in Kaduna State for treatment.

Despite receiving medical attention, he endured further struggles as his family sought both professional medical care and traditional remedies before he regained his mental stability in October 2022.

Christopher Bobai

Bobai said, immediately after he was declared sane, he began to make a move to return to the barracks to inform the commandant of what happened to him.

“The consultant psychiatrist wrote me a medical report as testimonial for me to go to the commandant of my barracks after I told him I was a soldier who left the barracks because of my health,” Bobai told FIJ.

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“But when I took it to the barracks, I was not even allowed to enter the barracks. They prevented me from seeing the commandant. It was there that a legal captain called me aside to tell me the men at the top must have been receiving my salaries since I was not dismissed.”

50-year-old Christopher Bobai in August 2023
50-year-old Christopher Bobai in August 2023

Bobai said the legal captain then advised him to find a top government official or a strong human rights agency to plead his cause because he was not dismissed.

He said that he went to the human rights office at the Federal Secretariat of Kaduna State where he was given a lawyer.

“I narrated everything in my medical report and my part two order that carried my Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) was given to the lawyer who wrote a letter and gave me my own copy,” he explained.

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“Her intention was to see the commandant but, two weeks after she gave me a copy of the letter, she called and said she was not allowed to enter the barracks gate. They told her, if I persisted, they would dismiss me.”

Christopher Bobai's medical report

The former soldier, who now makes a living installing solar panels for clients, said he once worked with the army at Owode-Idiroko border with 192 Battalion.

“I should be compensated because I did not decide to go insane. Life is not easy like this,” he said.

To verify the claims of Bobai, FIJ spoke to Sergeant Akawu Bala, a friend of Christopher who served alongside him at the Artillery Barracks in Kawu, Kaduna, as of December 1994, until they were transferred.

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According to Bala, Christopher was sane and showed no sign of mental illness until he learnt after many years that he went missing and was found to be struggling from mental problems.

The letter written by Bobai's lawyer
The letter written by Bobai’s lawyer

When FIJ interviewed Timothy Bobai, the younger brother of Christopher, he confirmed his brother’s previous distressing situation, emphasising that the family might have lost Christopher if a Good Samaritan had not come to his aid.

Bobai's hospital card
Bobai’s hospital card

Timothy recounted that Christopher, who had attended a science school in Gwari before joining the army, abruptly left the army in Zaria, later revealing that he did so due to a condition that the family would later learn was insanity.

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He explained that the army had alerted the family and urgently summoned them when they realised Christopher was missing.

“When we got there, we realised we could not see my brother. So, the army gave an elder brother of ours who died in 2016 a part two order. It means that wherever he’s seen he would be caught,” Timothy told FIJ.

“Years later, someone in Abuja spotted him, injured and suffering from severe mental illness. This individual promptly contacted my family, leading us to locate my brother and get him to a hospital.”

“Subsequently, he regained his sanity and informed us that he had no recollection of what had transpired. We presented evidence of his recovery to his unit in Zaria but they directed us to the Army headquarters where we encountered numerous obstacles and made no progress.”

FIJ contacted Onyema Nwachukwu for comments on the matter but his line was switched off after multiple trials. At the time of publication, he had not responded to the message sent to his mobile line and WhatsApp.

Published 12th Sep, 2023

By Emmanuel Uti


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