Operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team have arrested three dismissed soldiers, who allegedly partook in the training of 4,400 members of the Eastern Security Network for the Indigenous People of Biafra.
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 and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
ESN is the armed wing of the POB.
IPOB and ESN have been accused by the police of being responsible for the attacks and killings of security operatives as well as burning of police stations and government infrastructure across the South East and South South regions of the country.
IPOB and ESN have repeatedly denied the allegation, causing conventional media, social media and security agencies to tag the perpetrators “unknown gunmen.”
One of the soldiers, Owalo, who enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2013, was attached to 102 Guard Brigade Battalion until his dismissal.
He was dismissed in 2019 and the reason for his dismissal is yet unknown.
Police sources are alleging that Owalo, after his sack in 2019, left to start training the IPOB militias on combat operations such as ambush and use of firearms.
His colleagues, Orji and Steven, enlisted into the Nigeria Army in 2015 and 2017 respectively and were trained at the 133 Special Force Battalion.
After their dismissal, they went 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 dismissed soldiers, IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, promised to move them overseas for more military trainings after the state of Biafra has been achieved and activated.
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: “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 I.
“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.
“They also told me that I would be taken abroad after I had trained the militias, so that I could get more military trainings.
“They also promised me that after Birafra had been actualised, I would become a General in the Biafra Army.
“I took an oath, swearing my allegiance to Nnamdi Kanu.
“I also 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 State, where I trained over 4,000 men.
“This was in October 2020 and I also met some other dismissed soldiers who were there to train the men.
“We commenced training the moment I arrived, and we started with push-ups, moral training and then we moved to fire movement known as field craft.
“There was no board and pen in the forest for us to write on, but we trained them the way we could.
“The people managing the camp refused to trust us and refused to allow us in their meetings.
“Three months into the training, they sent us to a camp in Delta State, where we met a man known as Be-In-Spirit.
“They told us that when we got to Delta, they would take care of us.”
Owalo said when they got there, they discovered the camp has been shut down.
He also never got the opportunity to speak with Kanu.
He said: “I was just talking to his boys.
“I was used and brainwashed by IPOB.
“Since I have been arrested, I will make sure IPOB is swept out.”
The second suspect, Steven, 33, said he joined the Nigeria Army in June 2017 and trained for four months in Katogora.
He was later attached to the Special Force Unit.
He also went to Kaba Kogi State for another three months training before he was sent to Takum, Taraba State for three for more trainings.
After completing his training, he was deployed to 133 Battalion, where he sustained injury.
He recalled: “I was posted to Maiduguri in 2018 and I fought at Garuda in Maiduguri.
“I survived the battle even with my injuries.
“I wanted to treat myself, but the army authorities refused to allow me go for the treatment.
“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.
“He said Kanu was ready to pay them twice the money they were earning as soldiers.
“He also told me that Kanu would also take the soldiers abroad and when Biafra was achieved, he would make them general in the Biafra.
“I accepted the offer and they paid us N100,000 each, which was twice the salary I was receiving from the Nigeria Army.
“We then traveled 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 manoeuvring.
“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.
“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.”
Orji, on the other hand, 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.
He said: “My elder brother was a soldier, and he was killed when he went on escort duty in Bayelsa State.
“My bosses refused to give me pass.
“I had to go on my own and my bank account was frozen.
“When I returned, I was arrested and detained.
“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 dentation about it, and he accepted.
“They sent us money. which we used in transporting ourselves from Yola, Adamawa State to Abia State, then we were picked up by the IPOB members and taken into the forest where we took oaths and started training the men.
“I was paid N100,000, but I got angry when they couldn’t fulfil their promise of taking us abroad for training.”