Corpses of soldiers “yet to be recovered” says survivor
Soldiers who survived the Metele massacre of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram Islamic terrorist Jihadi groups on 19 November, have denied the claim by the Nigerian Army that “only 23 soldiers were killed by the Boko Haram Islamists.” A soldier, speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “the information about the Metele attack by the head of the Army, especially the Chief of Staff is wrong. I do not think they are doing what they are being paid to do. Soldiers are being killed daily, and their families are not being catered for properly,” the soldier told Vanguard.
Another soldiers who survived the attack by Boko Haram at Metele spoke to Global Christian News also on condition of anonymity said he wants to desert the army because there was “no truth in the campaign against Boko Haram.”
Both soldiers; who spoke to Vanguard newspaper and Global Christian News staff said most soldiers have been fighting the Jihadists with faulty Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs, with very little aerial support from the Nigerian Air Force while Boko Haram uses drones to monitor the activities of the soldiers.
“The APC’s we have cannot run for 10 to 15 minutes without overheating or stopping in the bush. The Anti-Aircraft Artillery, AA, also has the same challenges. We cannot shoot for three minutes without stoppages. But Boko Haram shoots for more than two straight hours without stoppages,” the soldier who spoke to Vanguard said.
Pointing out a possible inside collaboration with the terrorists by some persons in the army, the soldier said in 2017 there was public event in Maiduguri by the army to show that Boko Haram terrorist have been defeated and the region was safe. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), were told to return “to their respective areas. 150 vehicles left Abuja for Maiduguri for the exercise, 15 suddenly got missing and the 15 vehicles that got missing were painted green, with ‘Operation Last Hold’ written on them. They are the vehicles being used in attacking military locations, including Gagiram (village) that was first attacked,” the soldier revealed.
“The attack led to the death of a Captain and 11 others, but they (army) told the press and others that we lost only seven soldiers… For us to lose about 11 soldiers and they called it just seven it is not true,” the soldier lamented.
“Gagiram was attacked the second and third time. Minari (another vilalage outside maiduguri the Borno State capital) was attacked and we lost 13 soldiers and officers. Others, who ran into the bush are still missing. The fight against the insurgents became intense with attacks on many locations. Between Gundunbali and Gamasa, we lost many soldiers but it was unreported in the press and to the Presidency. No fewer than 200 soldiers were killed and the truth was never told, the soldier said.
Speaking about the November attack, the soldier said, “since the Metele attack, many soldiers are still missing. Some corpses have been recovered while many have not been recovered. How do they know the total number of soldiers? I was surprised when the Chief of Army Staff came out on the TV and said only 23 people died… What I know is that when a General loses in a battle, he is supposed to be court-martialed, retired, or jailed. But, some of our commanders failed and were then promoted. It shows that we are very wicked and we have lost it all as a nation,” the soldier said.
The soldiers pointed out that field allowances have not been paid for about six months. “the Federal Government has released Ratio Cash Allowance, RCA, and operational allowance. It has not been given to us. We are only paid N20,000 monthly, (about £44) and we are not paid at when due. They pay N10,000 (about £22) in cash and N45,000 (£100) is being given to the commandant for feeding. What are we being fed? They feed us beans every day in the morning. At noon we are given rice, while we eat garri for supper… Some soldiers now have challenges with their eyes because of what we eat.” the soldier said.
The Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim, has however denied the claims by the soldiers. “It is not true that our troops are feeding themselves. The allegation that their allowances are not being paid and also that they are paying for their kits is baseless and unfounded,” Agim said.
“It is not true, people just want to bring corruption to everything we are doing. I think the allegation came after the attack in Metele… we are fighting a battle and these people (Boko Haram) are getting more daring because they are now getting support from Islamic State of West African Province. So, we are fighting ISIS, we are fighting ISWAP altogether. We are bound to have setbacks if there are lapses,” Agim admitted but pointed out that this is simply “allegation of corruption against the commander, but they should know that the Metele attack affected the commander too; he died. So if he was corrupt as some are alleging, where has it taken him?” Agim said.
The General attacked the “insinuations that soldiers are running away from the terrorists in the North East and they can’t stand to fight. This kind of thing only emboldens the terrorists,” he pointed out. The Army general said the press should not write “certain things about these terrorists” because “doing so will rather encourage the terrorists and insurgents to be bold.”
General Agim said the press should “be downplaying some of these things because it is not possible that these things you mentioned are happening because their allowances are paid as at when due,” he told the Vanguard.
Despite the army’s denials, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, was reported to have carried out major redeployment of several Brigade Commanders and Commanding Officers, “to restore confidence and high morale among fighting troops,” and to “bypassed bottlenecks in the disbursement of allowances… directly to the Field Brigade Commanders and Commanding Officers of Units and Battalions for direct disbursements to troops.” A military officer confirmed saying, “it was a surprise to the authorities that some revelations came out after the Matele attack (which) pointed to issues of allowances to troops as one of the things that affected morale,” the officer said.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.