In spite of the recent invasion of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) at Afaka, Kaduna State, there is relatively easy access for visitors into military formations in the state through various alternative routes..
Kaduna State has one of the highest military formations in the country.
Gunmen had attacked the Afaka campus of the NDA – Nigeria’ foremost military university – last Tuesday, killing two officers and abducting one Major Christopher Datung.
Another officer was hospitalised within the institution as a result of gunshot wounds.
The bandits had reportedly reached out to the military, demanding N200m ransom for the release of the abducted officer.
In a statement on Wednesday by Director, Defence Information, Major General Benjamin Sawyerr, the Defence Headquarters said it had constituted a board of enquiry on the invasion.
The military said it had started compiling the names of errant personnel to be court-martialed while efforts were ongoing to rescue Datung.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, had also visited the NDA on Wednesday, saying “this madness must stop.”
Following the Tuesday attack, many Nigerians had taken to social media to express anger over affront by bandits, who have become emboldened having shut down a Nigerian Air Force jet earlier in July.
The military has a heavy presence in Kaduna with no fewer than six military formations in the city. The military formations include Jaji Military Cantonment; 1 Mech. Division Headquarters, Nigerian Army, Kaduna; New Barracks, otherwise known as ‘Kotoko’ Barracks; Old Site of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna; Kalanpazi Barracks (Artillery Regiment) and the Nigerian Air Force Base.
One of our correspondents, who visited some of the military formations on Friday, observed that apart from their main entrances, other routes leading to the facilities were relatively porous.
At the Jaji Military Cantonment, located between Zaria and Kaduna town, in the Igabi Local Government Area of the state, vehicles were subjected to careful scrutiny before being allowed access through the main entrance.
However, the unfenced back of the cantonment appeared vulnerable as people gained entry with little or no check by military men.
At the 1 Mech. Division Headquarters, Nigerian Army, there were routine security checks at the entrance, despite the ongoing massive road construction work.
Security was tight at the main entrance of 1 Div House, one of the oldest barracks in the state, housing the Dalet Barracks, where the Central Ammunition Depot is located; but visitors could access the barracks through the Mammy Market and Ugwan Gwari axis.
Similarly, at the ‘New Barracks’, better known as ‘Kotoko barracks, soldiers manned the pedestrian gate opposite the Federal Secretariat, Kawo, in the Kaduna North Local Government Area.
However, one of our correspondents discovered that the barracks, housing many military formations as well as schools, could be easily accessed from the host community, Hayin Banking, as well as via the Nnamdi Azikiwe Western Expressway by the new Panteka spare market.
This barracks also extended to the Old Site of the Nigerian Defence Academy, now being used for the training of the Direct Short Service Course officer, officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as well as the NDA Post Graduate School.
At the main gate of the NDA Old Site from the Ungwan Sanu axis, security checks were thorough as soldiers checked visitors and residents before allowing them to enter the facility also Known as ‘Ribadu Cantonment.’
But it was noticed that the barracks was accessible through the host communities – Ungwan Shanu and Kurmin- Mashi.
Also, at the 44 Army Reference Hospital, opposite the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, in the heart of the city, fierce-looking soldiers were sighted at both gates to the hospital and the barracks carrying out stop and search of vehicles.
The barracks, though fenced, was porous and could be accessed through the host Badiko community.
As usual, at the Kalanpazi Barracks, where the Artillery Regiment is located, there was a sentry directly opposite the Major Kachia Road near the St. Gerard Catholic Hospital, Kakuri, Kaduna. Soldiers manned the main gate, checking vehicles into the formation.
Although the permanent site of the NDA was attacked on Tuesday, there was nothing unusual about the security at the gate leading into the expansive land the academy occupies.
There are two gates into the institution – one opposite the old camp of the Sterling Construction Company while the other is directly on the road leading to the Kaduna International Airport.
Anyone passing through the first gate was requested to produce identification cards before being allowed into the institution. The other gate had been shut down following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Similarly, at the Nigerian Air Force Base, along the Mandi Road, Kaduna, there were thorough security checks at the main entrance into the Air Force base established in 2012 at the height of the Boko Haram bombing of military formations in the country.
The NAF Base is home to the Group Training Command of the Nigerian Air Force where airmen and women across the country are trained. It is also home to pilot training school as well as the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology.
Security checks at Borno barracks relaxed for worshippers
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, Borno State, has intensified security checks at the Maimalari Barracks, Giwa Detention Centre and the Garrison Command in the state capital, since the invasion of the NDA in Kaduna.
During a visit to the barracks by one of our correspondents, it was observed that the soldiers at the gate and checkpoints had intensified the routine stop-and-search of persons and vehicles coming into the barracks as against the usual way of identifying the visitors and registering their names on the army register stationed at the entrance.
It was observed that several visitors were turned back at the gate because the personnel were not convinced with their explanations.
However, on Friday, during Juma’at service, the mosque in the Maimalari Barracks was, as usual, opened to all worshippers coming to pray from outside the barracks.
The worshippers were allowed into the barracks without any restriction and were not subjected to search they would have gone through on other days.
One of the worshippers, a soldier at the Maimalari Barracks, said, “Some of the worshippers coming from outside are either retired soldiers or members of their families who have been worshipping in the barracks since they were in active service. So it will be difficult to deny them access to the prayer ground on the excuse of a security check.”
Another soldier said if they stopped outsiders or civilian worshippers from accessing the mosque, it means even Sunday worship would be closed for the Christian faithful.
He noted, “Remember that in the barracks, the juma’at mosque is conducted at two o’clock so many worshippers who missed the Juma’at prayer in town always rush to the barracks to observe their juma’at prayer. So, if they are stopped from entering the barracks, they will be denied their right to worship which is bad.”
Ex-military officer, security expert lament situation at formations
A retired captain, Bishop Johnson (retd.), said he was not surprised that the military had not learnt from the attack, noting that it was in the attitude of the country not to learn from previous mistakes.
He said in view of the attack on the NDA, the academy and other military formations were supposed to have increased alertness by ensuring that there were improved security measures.
Johnson stated, “I am not surprised that even after the attack nothing serious has happened because we live in a country where they don’t learn from their experiences. One would have thought that after the Chibok girls incident, a lot of lessons should have been learnt like it is done in other countries. Mistakes are taken and corrections put in place so that a similar occurrence does not happen in the future, but we didn’t do that.”
The National President of Criminology and Security Practitioners Association of Nigeria, Williams Ekposon, advised the military to put in place strategic measures in all its formations to forestall a recurrence of the NDA invasion.
He stated, “What happened (at NDA) was a mere conspiracy story. There is a political undertone to the security breach. There is a mole within the intelligence. When we talk of war, it is in three different stages – strategic, operational and tactical stages.
“What we are experiencing now falls into the strategic stage where things are not properly handled. So, strategic policies have to be implemented accordingly in order to forestall a recurrence.”
Another security expert, Hassan Stan-Labo, speaking with Sunday PUNCH, said with the current development, he would recommend a general review of the current security architecture of military installations to ascertain a state of resilience to imminent threat.