FAKE RETIRED COLONEL WHO MOBILISED PENSIONERS' PROTEST SAYS, 'JOURNALSITS GAVE ME THE RANK'
A 64-year-old retired Corporal of the Nigerian Army (name witheld), arrested for mobilizing military pensioners in Ibadan, Oyo State, to protest non payment of arrears has told of how he was offered N5,000 to mobilize for the protest.
He said the money was to enable him buy cardboards to produce placards for the protesters. He said he was offered another N2,000 for biscuits and soft drinks after he had successfully mobilized for the protest.
The suspect who claimed to be a retired Colonel when he addressed newsmen during the protest on May 5, 2011, said he was misquoted by journalists who covered the event, because they thought a corporal was the same thing as a colonel. He appealed to the Military Pensions Board (MPB) to forgive him for the embarrassment caused by his action. He, however, pointed out that the protest was peaceful as no life was lost, and his members did not engage in any form of destruction of public property and looting.
The retired corporal who spoke to Daily Sun in Abuja after he was paraded by the MPB, said he joined the Nigerian Army in 1967 but had to retire prematurely in 1977 as a result of gunshot injuries he sustained during the civil war. He said he was lured into organizing the protest at a meeting in Ibadan. However, he confessed he wouldn't have mobilized for the protest if the board had made adequate communication arrangement for pensioners. And because he could not reach any official of the board, he went to the streets of Ibadan with his men, a feat he said did not take him seconds to accomplish.
The news of the protest did not go down well with the MPB, especially when it was reported that the protest was organized by a retired colonel. The board immediately contacted the Oyo State chapter of the Nigerian Legion on the matter.
The state chairman of the legion said the group is not known to them. The board went to its records to see if it has any such name and found three people bearing the same name but were all non-commissioned soldiers and not colonel as claimed by the leader of the protesters.
With that information, the office dispatched its intelligence team to Ibadan to arrest the fake colonel. On getting to Ibadan, Daily Sun gathered that all efforts to get the fake colonel to a meeting proved abortive until he was told that he had been invited as one of the special guests to the inauguration ceremony of the governor-elect of Oyo state in his capacity as the chairman of Military Pensioners Pressure Group of Nigeria.
He agreed to attend the ceremony on May 29, only to run into the hands of the MPB intelligence men who had been on his trail. He was subsequently arrested, interrogated and transported to the MPB headquarters in Abuja. The chairman of the board, Rear Admiral Bala Mohammed Msheilla, said the board was embarrassed by what he described as meaningless protest against it by the fake colonel and his group who he said barricaded streets in Ibadan to attract undue public sympathy.
He said that upon getting the report of the protest, it deployed its team of intelligence operators in collaboration with other security agencies in the state to effect the arrest of the fake colonel. He said the suspect confessed that he is not a retired colonel as reported, but a corporal who had been paid all his pension and entitlements to date and expressed his regrets for the demonstration which he championed and admitted that he was misled.
The chairman who said the fake colonel has apologised to the board for his misconduct, advised military pensioners who had problem with their pension to approach the board for clarification instead of resorting to what he called 'unacceptable act of disrupting public peace.' He said the fake colonel would be handed to civil police as soon as investigation is concluded.