No fewer than 171 persons have been arrested for impersonating personnel of the Nigerian Army across the country.
The number was obtained from various media reports between January 2021 and June 9, 2022.
The General Officer Commanding, 81 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Umar Musa, said at a briefing in Lagos that his personnel arrested over 150 imposters in his area of responsibility between January 1 and April 13, 2021.
Twenty-one others were arrested by police officers, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Economic Financial Crime Commission and volunteer groups across the country within the period under review.
Some of the prominent arrests by the security agencies include that of a fake Army General, who allegedly forged the signature of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to secure N270m grant. He was arrested on January 13 by operatives of the EFCC.
Also, in May the Nigerian Army personnel during the Operation Checkmate in Lagos and Ogun states, arrested 12 suspects impersonating its personnel.
In Osun State, four fake soldiers were arrested by the police for alleged armed robbery on March 27, 2022.
On September 23, 2021, a suspected fake soldier, who specialised in stealing church musical instruments, was arrested in Abuja.
Speaking on the development in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, said the service was worried about the increasing number of people impersonating its personnel.
Onyema, who lamented that the activities of the impostors were tainting the image of the service, said the Army was working round the clock to curb the scourge.
He said, “It has been a major challenge, not only to the Army, but the Armed Forces in general. In most cases, it has led to the tarnishing of the image of the Nigerian Army, because these people make use of our uniform and present themselves as being part of the service, and with that, they are able to have access to commit crimes, which make it look like it is our personnel that are perpetrating these crimes.
“It has been a major challenge and we are addressing it. We have been sensitising the public through various media outlets. You saw the report on the fake Major General, who was arrested in Lagos for defrauding people; this is someone who has never been in the Army. It is a very dangerous thing that we are working to curb.
“We are also calling on the public to take note and help with credible information.”
Asked how Nigerians can differentiate between impostors and serving soldiers, Onyema said, “Many do not even know the difference between a fake uniform and the real one. For all of us in the military, we wear the same camouflage with different badges.