It is becoming alarming the way imposters are taking over many professions. In the journalism profession, there are many fake journalists just like In the medical field where many quack doctors and nurses also abound. Other professions are not spared, including the military. Fake soldiers are now everywhere on the streets, with most of them dressing in full gear of the military that you will mistaken them for real soldiers, especially as they try to imbibe the nuances of a Nigerian soldier. But the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Olu Irefin, says they are fake soldiers.
General Irefin revealed this as he paraded over 30 of these fake soldiers at the headquarters of the Division in Lagos during the lockdown imposed on Lagos, Ogun and Abuja over the dreaded Coronavirus disease.
The GOC said that unless one was told, one wouldl not believe that these persons wearing military uniforms are not soldiers, added that his Division has a way of separating the wheat from the chaff, through its operation tagged Operation Checkmate.
Indeed, these civilians who were arrested during the lockdown wearing military uniform said they were wearing the uniform to commit all sorts of nefarious activities, some time alone, while at other times in connivance with some military persons.
The story of one of the civilian who was arrested alongside nine others in the Obalande area of Lagos confirmed it that not all who wear the uniform are soldiers.
Identified as Akin Sile, the alleged fake soldier told Sunday Sun that he was a farmer, but left his farming job to seek quick money using military uniforms. He said the uniform was given to him by a serving military personnel whom he identified as Lance Corporal David.
Akin Sile said that he came from a farm in Ondo to hustle for money especially as farming is presently not paying them well.
Revealing how he operates, he said that on a good day doing his escort business, he makes close to N15,000 which he shares with his accomplice, who allegedly works with the 65 Battalion in Bonny Cantonment in Lagos.
Sunday Sun learnt that Sile had been arrested four times and that each time he was handed over to the police, he would secure his freedom.
He said that he had planned to retire from “the illegal business,” but his friend, the soldier at 65 Battalion asked him to just take the last shot, after which he can retire, regretting as he said, and “see where I am now.”
Akin Sile begged profusely for his freedom, but the General Officer Commanding 81 Division said that would not happen as he had been arrested severally by operatives of his division.
Another person arrested by soldiers of the 81 Division was an armed man with a military camouflage uniform riding in a Sienna bus.
The man who was identified as Folorunsho Akingbola said he was hunting in Lagos with the automatic pump action gun wrapped in a military wallet.
He denied being fake as alleged by the Army, saying “I am a third engineer onboard a merchant tanker, MT Princess, which is not a military vessel. I am a Marine Navy, I work on board ship and I bought the military uniform when I was in Australia, I normally use the uniform and the gun when I am going for hunting, so it was the day I was going for hunting that I was apprehended.”
The Army alleged that during the period of the lockdown some of the culprits used the uniform to commit various nefarious activities ranging from dodging police check point to drawing debt and also harassing innocent citizens.
Sunday Sun discovered that many of those involved in the business of wearing military uniform are either dismissed soldiers or people who havie relationship with some persons in the military.
Else who claimed to be a Nigerian Army personnel said that he was sent to the Northeast to fight Boko Haram, but he decided to run away from the battlefield.
He said he is of the 17NA set of the Nigerian Army and was enlisted as a chaplain, but rather than be deployed to do his chaplain duties, he was drafted to fight Boko Haram, the reason he said made him to abscond from the battlefield.
He said: “When we passed out they pushed us to infantry and I was hoping that as we were enlisted as chaplains, they will give us our call, some of us cannot even cork a rifle, but they wheeled us to infantry, to fight Boko Haram.”
He said that he decided to wear the uniform to draw debt from someone who was owing him, that he collected the money after intimidating the person, but could not enjoy the money peacefully as he was arrested on his way back by soldiers attached to the Operation Checkmate.
While the Army was parading the fake soldiers, the military police unit apprehended another civilian wearing a lieutenant colonel uniform and posing as such on the social media.
This development angered General Irefin who called on the Nigeria Police Force in Lagos and within the area of responsibility of the division, to always stop vehicles of persons in military uniforms and search them thoroughly.
He said that some of these persons who claim to be military personnel or wear military uniforms are not military personnel, but are just civilians using the uniform to dodge being checked.
The GOC said that one of the suspects who was caught wearing a Lieutenant Colonel rank was also caught with the letter head paper of the Military Police, with which he had applied for a visa at the United States Embassy.
Apart from the letter headed paper of the military police, the GOC said that other materials used by the military police, including anklet, muffler, berets and badges of the unit were found on him.
It was learnt that the man who was identified as Allen Afolabi also carried his impersonation further by opening a facebook page, where he addressed himself as a military officer and also claimed that he works with the Nigerian Army.
It was gathered that the suspect was doing that to attract more patronage from people who often use him to settle issues relating to lands as Omonile.
Similarly, the GOC said that another arrested was a fake army Captain who recently also, promoted himself to Major and has been parading himself as such before he was arrested.
Apart from Allen Afolabi, there was also another Afolabi Hassan who it was learnt was a dismissed soldier, but was caught using the military uniform to escort trucks and making money while pretending to be military personnel.
He told journalists that he had been doing that since 2008 and had also been arrested severally but released after being handed over to the prosecuting agency.
The GOC said that the Army would no longer tolerate this, vowing to do all within his powers to clean up the system, especially as the fake military personnel are the ones who do several things that the service abhor within the society in the name of military personnel.
Within the last three weeks, the 81 Division has arrested over 30 fake military personnel, making the GOC to warn members of the public to beware, saying not all who wear camouflage are military persons.