Some of the Soldiers fighting the Boko Haram war have lamented the negative impact of the comments of the Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, on the morale of the nation’s troops.
Buratai on Wednesday blamed the soldiers’ unpatriotic zeal for Boko Haram resurgence.
In the face of a barrage of attacks, the COAS however recanted the following day, saying the soldiers had been defending the nation well.
He said, “You need to be at the warfront to know what we experience daily. We are sincere and patriotic. We love our country.’’
Another soldier, who, two years ago, joined the special troops deployed in the North-East, told one of our correspondents that the death of some of his colleagues had shown that they were honest.
“I have witnessed the death of my colleagues. Family members cried themselves hoarse during the burial of their loved ones and we were helpless to offer help to them. We only pray that the war ends as we continue to fight to safeguard the country,’’ the soldier said.
Also speaking, another senior army officer involved in the Boko Haram war, who, like others, spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said someone sometimes could make certain statements and regret uttering them later.
He said, “I know that the junior officers are sad with that statement and will be angry considering their sacrifices. I am part of the war. I have been involved since last year and I know the situation there. I know that there are rules in the military. Once you get in, you abide by the rules of engagement. We know what we signed for. I don’t want to talk further on the issue.’’
Meanwhile, two widows of some of the soldiers killed in the insurgency war, told SUNDAY PUNCH that they had yet to get any financial assistance from the army.
One of them said they were told that financial aid from the army would be ‘turn by turn’.
She said, “There is nothing we can do but the army authorities told us that payment of gratuities to some of us is ‘turn by turn’ because they had to cater to the financial needs of widows.’’
The woman, whose husband lost his life in one of the attacks by the insurgents in January, said despite her plight, she didn’t regret that her husband joined the army.
The middle-age woman added that although her husband’s death was painful, she was optimistic that the army would soon assist her.
Besides, a retired officer of the Nigerian Army, Lt. Col Tony Nyiam, berated Buratai for his statement while speaking in during an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH.
He said such a statement was capable of demoralising the troops, adding that the statement could only help the enemy.
Nyiam, who was one of the leaders of the officers who executed the April 22, 1990 coup to oust ex-military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, said the insurgents would be happy to hear the information which was needlessly divulged by Buratai.
Nyiam added, “The statement of the Chief of Army Staff was not the way to win the war. There is nothing wrong if he had said it to the officers and soldiers without allowing such information to get to the public.
“Such an address is most helpful to the enemy, the insurgents and the Fulani bandits. It is more helpful to the enemies and it cannot resuscitate discipline and commitment in the army.
“The kind of information, which Buratai gave out publicly, was what we used to commission some persons to get from the camp of the enemy. But he has decided to give out information that is very useful to the camp of the enemy.”
He said the COAS was trying to blame his juniors but had indicted himself while doing so.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, on Saturday, denied that payment of allowances was not regular or too small for troops, noting that a major-general, which is the highest rank in the North-East, earned the same allowances as privates, which is the lowest level on the frontlines.
Acting Director, Defence Information, Col Onyema Nwachukwu, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, said some children of soldiers, who died on the battlefields, had been awarded scholarships by the military.
Nwachukwu said, “The welfare of troops has been paramount in the hearts and minds of the leadership of the military. I refer to the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff.
“Recall that before this administration, there had been many agitations and grumbling. Today, it is not the same story. For instance, the leadership visits the front line more regularly to boost troops’ morale and to see personally to troops’ allowances. The same allowance a two-star general collects is the same allowance a private soldier collects.
“When I was serving in the North-East, the same allowance paid me was also paid my orderly.
“There is much more organisational harmony than what it used to be. Apart from that, medical facilities are provided for almost every formation, even in the frontlines to cater to injured soldiers. Some of the soldiers are even sponsored abroad for treatment.
“Those troops that paid the supreme price; their families are catered to and their children are sponsored in schools up to university level.”