Operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) have arrested three dismissed soldiers, who allegedly took part in the training of 4,400 members of Eastern Security Network (ESN). The suspects have been identified as Linus Owalo, Godswill Steven and Chinasa Orji.
They were arrested recently after operatives of the IRT, while following a tip-off from some members of IPOB, raided the group’s hideouts in Imo, Anambra, and Delta states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. According to police intelligence gathering, ESN is the armed wing of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (POB). IPOB and ESN have been accused by the police of responsible for the recent series of attacks and killings of security operatives, as well as burning of police stations, Independent National Electorate Commission (INEC) and government infrastructure across the South-East and South-South regions of the country. However, IPOB and ESN had repeatedly denied the allegations.
One of the soldiers, Owalo, who enlisted into the Nigeria Army in the year 2013 and attached to 102 Guard Brigade Battalion but dismissed in 2019 for unknown reasons, according to police sources, is alleged to have after his sack engaged in the training of IPOB militias on combat operations,such as ambush and use of firearms. Other alleged trainers of IPOB militia are Orji and Steven, who enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2015 and 2017, respectively and were trained at the 133 Special Force Battalion. After they were dismissed, they were said to join forces with IPOB, playing active roles in the training department. Police sources said: “The three men were promised double of their salaries in the army.
They joined the IPOB military camp in Abia State where they trained more than 4, 000 IPOB volunteered fighters before moving to Asaba, Delta State where they trained another 400 militias.” According to the men, IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, promised to move them overseas for more military trainings after the state of Biafra has been achieved. Each of them would become military general in the republic. Owalo, 32, married with two children, explained that he enlisted into the army in 2013 and was later posted to the Guards Brigade Headquarters, FCT Abuja. He recounted that: “In the year 2019, I was absent from duty and the army authorities arrested me. I was charged and subsequently dismissed. Since then, I have been seeking for reinstatement and life had not been easy for my family and me.
‘‘There was this man I approached for a job and he connected me to one Mr. Williams, who he said could help me get a job. 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. ‘‘I was given a half bag of garri and five tubers of yam.
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, and they told me that I should forget about it that their Supreme Leader, Nnamdi Kanu, would make life better for me if I trained the IPOB militias known as ESN. He further disclosed that he was given the sum of N100, 000 and then moved to a forest in Abia State where he joined other dismissed soldiers he met at the forest to train 4, 000 men.
This, according to him, took place in October 2020. The second suspect, Steven, 33, said that he joined the Nigeria Army in June 2017 and then undergone series of trainings at various locations before he was deployed to 133 Battalion, where he sustained injury.
‘‘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 meet 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 Kanu was recruiting trained soldiers to train IPOB militias,’’ revealed Steven. According to him, Orji told him of the promise of the good life, promotion to a general rank and trip abroad by Kanu. He was persuaded by these and also the payment of N100, 000 made to him to sign up. ‘‘We then travelled to Abia State where we took oaths to be loyal to Kanu. We were also taken into the camp where we gave volunteered militias trainings on combat and special forces’ maneuvering. After spending one month in their Abia State camp, we were transferred to another camp, where I spent three weeks training the men I met there,’’ he said. ‘‘I left the camp after it became clear that the promises, they made to take us abroad for training was not realistic. I came down to Abuja where I got a security job, but I was eventually arrested,” he added. Orji is 23 years old and a father. He 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 August 22, 2018.
According to Orji: ‘‘It was while in detention, I had access to my phone and I started chatting with one of my friends, Victor, who told me that Kanu needed my service to train some IPOB militias. He told me that Kanu was ready to pay me twice the money I was earning in the army. I told my friend Steven, who was also in detention about it, and he accepted.”