A soldier serving in the Nigerian Army, Lance Corporal Adeniyi Mayowa, has lamented how his phone, which went missing during an operation in Aba, Abia State, landed him in trouble with the Army authorities.
Mayowa, with Army number, 13 NA/70/6609, was serving at the 144 Battalion, Asa, Ukwa West council area, under 14 Brigade, Ohafia, Abia State when the incident occurred.
Trouble started for him on May 26, 2018, when he and his colleagues were sent to arrest “some hoodlums” said to be fighting at a hotel along Ehi road, Aba. On getting to the hotel, according to him, his Gionee A1 handset, valued at N95, 000, went missing.
Efforts to locate the phone, he claimed, were unsuccessful. However, he said the case of missing phone was reported at the Ndiegoro Police Division, Aba, leading to the arrest of some suspects.
“When we got to the hotel, some people were already wounded. I wanted to take a photograph of the environment; I noticed that my phone was missing. The boys denied seeing the phone. I informed my OC who asked me to take the suspects to the nearest police station. We arrested them. At the police station, the DPO interrogated them and they denied stealing the phone. But one of the suspects admitted that one of them stole the phone and that they preferred to buy the phone. They later contributed money to buy the phone. I didn’t collect the money from them, but they went to a phone dealer and bought the phone and did welcome back for my line”, he narrated.
The soldier told Sunday Vanguard that on July 21, 2018, he was alerted to a newspaper publication which claimed that the police and some soldiers tortured disc Jockeys over missing phone in Aba. Following the newspaper publication, Mayowa alleged that the Brigade Commander, 14 Brigade, Ohafia, without investigation into the incident, ordered his arrest and directed him to refund the suspects and their hospital bill under duress. According to him, the Brigade Commander also ordered his detention at the military police office.
“I was demoted from the rank of Lance Corporal to Private and suspension of my salary for an offence I didn’t commit”, he lamented. “Till date, they have failed to issue me letters of demotion and suspension of salary. My rank was removed from me while handcuffed and paraded through the barracks with many people watching. I was treated like a common criminal. This is a great injustice. Since then, my life has been under threat.”
MISSING PHONE FOUND
The soldier disclosed that his missing phone was later tracked to a user at a location on Faulks road, by Power Line, Aba. But instead of his problems coming to an end since the missing phone had been found, it worsened.
He said, “To get to the root of the matter, I applied to the MTN for them to track the missing phone. On September 21, 2018, my missing phone was tracked at Faulks road, by Power Line, Aba in possession of one DJ and computer downloader and they were arrested.
“At the police station, one of the arrested suspects said he bought the phone from one Macvision Egwuonwu who, upon arrest, admitted that somebody sold the phone to him and stated that he could identify the person if seen.
“I thought my problem had ended since the missing phone had been recovered, but I was wrong as it appeared some highly placed people wanted to deal with me and frustrate my military career.
“I don’t know the interest playing out in my case; the victimization and threats are just too much.”
An extract from the crime diary sighted by Sunday Vanguard confirmed that a case of a missing phone was reported at the Ndiegoro police Division by Mayowa. The diary stated that the phone was later tracked to a location at Faulks road, Aba and one Macvision Egwuonw claimed he bought it from someone. The soldier lamented that he and his family had been made to suffer as a result of the order of the military authorities demoting him to the rank of a Private and suspending his salary.
In a petition addressed to the Army headquarters, Abuja, dated February 17, 2019, Mayowa, insisted that he was punished even when there was no prima facie case established against him.
“The Brigade Commander ordered the military police to investigate the incident, but before the investigation could be concluded, he ordered me to refund the suspects accused of stealing my phone and asked me to pay their hospital bills which I did under duress”, the petition said.
“The military police told my Commanding Officer that the publication against me was a lie because they interviewed the suspects. The CO called the Brigade Commander to inform him, but he ordered the military police to stop the investigation because he knew I was innocent.
“After this, I was detained from July 25 to August 7, 2018. They prepared my order for disobedience to standing order in which I appeared and told them I was not guilty of the alleged offence because I was not on illegal duty.
”Due to the charge, I was awarded 28 days IHL and demoted from L/Cpl to Private and loss of pay in an offence I did not commit. I was not on illegal duty. The disturbing part of the investigation is that my fellow soldiers who witnessed the entire incident were not interviewed. The entire 144 Battalion, Asa, now see me as common criminal because of the manner I have been treated while some officers who wanted to know why they have subjected to untold hardship were punished one way or the other. I’m appealing to the authorities to correct this injustice done me. “
In another petition addressed to the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Abuja, and acknowledged on March 1, 2019, under the title, ‘Case of Maltreatment through Handcuff, parade through the Barracks, Detention and Force to pay money to those who stole my phone, loss of pay’, Mayowa appeal for the urgent intervention of the Commission to redress the injustice done him.
Contacted, Army Public Relations Officer, 14 Brigade, Ohafia, Major Oyegoke Badamasi, who said he was on transfer, promised to make available the mobile number of his successor, but never did as the time of filing this report. Efforts to get the reaction of the Army headquarters, Abuja, and the 14 Brigade, Ohafia, also proved abortive.