The military says soldiers on the front-line in the war against insurgency should not expect to live in luxurious condition.
John Agim, spokesman of defence headquarters said this in response to an investigation carried out by TheCable on how soldiers in the north-east beg for food and sleep inside classrooms.
Soldiers had narrated their experiences— with some of them wearing bathroom slippers to the battlefield and begging enemies for food.
“On this first assignment to the bush, some died and, luckily, some of us returned alive. If you see the kind of food they would eventually give us, you will weep for us,” one of the soldiers had said.
|Outside a classroom where soldiers sleep|
“This is my own self-contain apartment. I built this place myself, with my money and my hands. A sheet of fairly used zinc sells for N700, while the new goes for N1,000, we can only afford the former. And to put this whole structure together, you will spend at least N31,000 on zinc alone,” another soldier had said.
On one of the trips to Maimalari, The reporter saw rusty zinc houses where hundreds of soldiers rest their heads.
But Agim described this as a price to pay in the profession.
“It is a known fact that all over the world, the battlefront is not a playground. What differentiates soldiers from civilians is the ability to endure hard conditions and make sacrifices,” the statement released by the defense headquarters on Wednesday read.
“That is the reality and price of the military profession. There is no easy way.”
He said there are no barracks in Sambisa forest and several other troops’ locations in the northeast, and that troops are promptly paid approved operational allowances aside other welfare and administrative arrangements.
Dismissing the report that has picture and video evidence of the poor condition of soldiers, the military said it is one of the strategies at breaking the fighting spirit of the troops.
“The Defence Headquarters hereby draw the attention of the media and the general public to activities of fifth columnists whose only objective is to collaborate with enemies of our nation to prolong their own organisational interests,” he said.
“The story/video is one of their many strategies targeted at breaking the cohesion and the fighting spirit of the troops.
|A soldier on his bed inside one of the classrooms where he and his colleagues sleep|
“The story is a failed attempt to distract the purposeful direction in the counter-terrorism fight. The Nigerian Armed Forces is stating categorically here that its fighting spirit is indomitable and no amount of falsehood can distract the military from fighting terrorism to a conclusive end. The public is hereby enjoined to disregard the publication and continue to give the military the needed support and cooperation. Together we shall bring total peace and security to our fatherland.”
Twice, a freedom of information (FoI) request to the Nigerian army finance corps for a breakdown on the fund releases for soldiers’ welfare, but there was no response.
The information requested from the army were; a breakdown of amount released for the construction/rehabilitation of barracks across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states; the name of each construction/rehabilitation project for which funds were approved from January, 2014 to October, 2017; a breakdown of total amount released to kit soldiers and officers in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states from January, 2014 to October, 2017; a breakdown of total amount released as operational/danger allowance for soldiers and officers drafted into the Operation Lafiya Dole across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Interestingly, however, in the 2017 appropriation, the ministry of defence earmarked N20 million for a line item it called “implementation of FoI.”
In its reaction, the military admittted there are challenges and that it would be addressed.
“Whereas there may be challenges in the battle-space which is normal, appropriate measures are being taken to address them,” Agim’s read.
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