The Nigerian Army says the service will soon get a new camouflage which will make the troops look ‘smarter’ and more distinguishable from impostors following recent incidents in which civilians and Boko Haram militant group members were arrested for committing crimes while wearing security services camouflage attire.
All three wings of the Nigerian Defence Forces – army, navy and air force – have over the past few years been caught up in extortion and bribery scams in which tricksters in full military fatigues posed as recruiting officers and were paid millions by would-be soldiers.
The defence and police services have also suffered battlefield casualties to Boko Haram militants who attacked them while wearing camouflage attire identical to theirs.
Addressing soldiers of the 149 Battalion at its Ojo Cantonment in Lagos, Chief of Nigerian Army Staff Lieutenant General Kenneth Minimah said all officers will soon be outfitted with new sets of uniforms which the defence ministry hopes will differentiate them from impostors. Minimah said the army will now produce the uniforms.
“The Nigerian Army has decided to change the camouflage uniform of the service. We have also decided to make it ourselves so that it will have a uniform look. We will not allow anybody to make them for us. They are currently being made at the Nigerian Army Tailoring Department at Yaba, Lagos State. It will make us look smarter and better,” he said.
Previously, all security services attire and camouflage was tailored by private companies contracted by the respective ministries. Criminal groups including armed carjackers and bank robbers took advantage of the relatively easy access to security services attire and often wear fatigues belonging to the army, navy, air force, police, immigration and other public inspectorate services while committing crimes.
The change of uniform comes against a backdrop of rising incidents in which small military units have been wiped out by Boko Haram militants wearing identical uniforms and driving vehicles painted in services camouflage in war-zones in the restive north.
Minimah warned disgruntled soldiers against using social networks to spread “falsehoods” about alleged dire conditions in the service and information about military equipment and operations in the three war-torn northern states.
“One trend that is also dangerous to the service we all seem to cherish is the misuse of the social media. I urge you to be careful of social media. Some of you like to use Facebook, Twitter and others to report the Army as if you are not a member.
“What you do not know is you are undoing a system you are part of. You can twit on social issues. Do not twit about our locations, equipment, weapons and ammunition. I hope you did not come in to undo the system,” he said.
The warning follows revelations from disgruntled soldiers who have taken to social media to voice their frustrations in a dossier of complaints which includes the army’s use of poor and defective equipment, lack of reliable re-supply lines, long-duration non-payment of salaries, lack of motivation and lack of operational and force protection vehicles among the reasons for high casualties as the army appears to be losing the war against Boko Haram in the north.
The defence ministry has also threatened to prosecute all officers involved in spreading the information, which the government views as damaging to the local credibility and international standing of the Nigerian Army.