The Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) has arrested three dismissed soldiers who took part in the training of more than 4,000 members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the militant wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Linus Owalo, Godswill Steven and Chinasa Orji were apprehended after a tip-off led to the raid of IPOB hideouts in Abuja, Imo, Anambra and Delta States.
Federal authorities embarked on a crackdown on the secessionist group due to attacks on security personnel and government facilities in the South-East and South-South regions. The proscribed organisation denies involvement.
Owalo enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2013 and was attached to 102 Guard Brigade Battalion until his dismissal in 2019. He trained ESN fighters on combat operations such as ambush and use of firearms.
Orji and Steven, enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2015 and 2017 respectively and were trained at the 133 Special Force Battalion. They joined IPOB after their sack.
The trio revealed IPOB promised them that the leader, Nnamdi Kanu, would sponsor them for military training abroad, and make them Generals in Biafra.
Owalo, 32, a former Lance Corporal married with two children, said life has not been easy since he was booted out of the Army.
He recalled how a man connected him to one Mr. Williams who spoke about Biafra and the dream to achieve a sovereign state. Owalo was invited for a meeting.
“I was given a half bag of garri and five tubers of yam. They visited my wife and children. I said I was making plans for reinstatement into the Army. They told me that I should forget about it; that Nnamdi Kanu would make life better for me if I trained the ESN.
“They told me that I would be taken abroad for more military training. They also promised me that after Birafra had been actualised, I would become a General in the Biafran Army.
“I took an oath of allegiance to Nnamdi Kanu. I vowed that I would die if I betrayed the Biafra struggle. I was given the sum of N100,000. I was then moved to a forest in Abia where I trained over 4,000 men in October 2020.
“I met other dismissed soldiers there. We commenced the moment I arrived; started with push-ups, moral training and fire movement known as field craft. The camp managers did not trust us or invited us to their meetings.”
Three months into the training, Owalo said they were sent to Delta. They met a man alias ‘Be-In-Spirit’, but later discovered the camp in the state had been shut down.
The second suspect, Steven, 33, said he joined the Nigeria Army in June 2017, trained for four months in Kontagora in Niger and was later attached to the Special Force Unit.
Steven was at Kabba in Kogi for another three months training, and Takum in Taraba for additional training before deployment to 133 Battalion.
He claimed the Army arrested him for going AWOL after sustaining an injury. It was in detention that he met Chinasa Orji.
Steven said Orji told him a friend called from Senegal and hinted that Kanu was recruiting soldiers to train IPOB fighters and would pay twice the money they were earning.
“He said Kanu would also take the soldiers abroad, and when Biafra was achieved, he would make them Generals in Biafra. I accepted the offer and they paid us N100,000 each, twice the salary I was receiving from the Army.”
Steven recounted their trip to Abia, the loyalty oath sworn to Kanu, and the training on combat and special forces manoeuvring, among others.
After one month in the Abia camp, they were transferred to another for three weeks. But when he started doubting the promises which were not forthcoming, Steven returned to Abuja and got a security job. He was arrested afterwards.
Orji, 23 years old and a father, enlisted into the Army in 2015 and was dismissed in 2018 after attending the burial of his elder brother.
According to him, the deceased, also a soldier, was killed on August 22, 2018, while on escort duty in Bayelsa State.
Orji complained that his superiors refused to give him a pass. After he left without permission, his bank account was frozen. He was arrested and detained upon return.
But he had access to his phone in detention and chatted with a friend, Victor, who notified him that Kanu needed soldiers to train some ESN members.
“I told my friend Steven, who was also in detention, and he accepted. They sent us money for transport from Yola in Adamawa to Abia. We were taken into the forest where we took oaths and started training the men. I was paid N100,000.”