t least, 840 Nigerian soldiers were killed by the Boko Haram members from 2013 till date and were buried in the Military cemetery located in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, who disclosed this yesterday, said the figure did not include other soldiers killed by the insurgents and buried in other military cemeteries located in other parts of the North-East geopolitical zone.
Ndume briefed journalists in Abuja on the findings by his colleagues who recently returned from Maiduguri.
The senator, however, denied reports of mass burial of soldiers killed by the terrorists.
Ndume also said that the Senate Committee was already investigating allegations that some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) operating in the North-East, were providing useful information to the Boko Haram leaders.
He said: “So far, from the record we saw in the cemetery, I think we lost over 847 soldiers, by their record there, and that is in that cemetery alone.
“That is from 2013 till date. You know they have cemeteries elsewhere where they bury victims. But that allegation that there is mass burial is not true.
Nigerians don’t do that. Nigerian Army will never do that.
“In fact, if any of them is missing, they go out to search and get the person before declaring whether or not he is dead. Even if he is dead, they make attempts to retrieve the body. We went; we asked questions. That is not true.
“Another area that the Senate will look into is the allegation that the various NGOs in that area are conniving with the insurgents; providing them information, logistics and so many things.
“I have been critical about this and people have told me to be careful but it has come out now that one or two of the so-called NGOs operating there are actually aiding and abetting and supporting the insurgents. But we will do an investigation and we will hear if we have the evidence.
“So far, we have evidence. We just want to make it credible. The evidences are there and the common questions are even there. I have asked them before. When Chibok girls were released, we were very happy.
“When Dapchi girls were abducted, only one was remaining. But you negotiated for the rest. Then what happened with the only one? Government cooperated. I am sure that the money that was paid came from government but those in-between, what are they talking about?
“They want to create problem? If I am the one negotiating and I have 100 Muslims that can be released, for that one Christian that will not be released, I’ll cut off the deal.
“If you are giving me these children, give all of them to me but if you are keeping one, keep all of them. But nobody is talking. Everybody is just saying ‘bring back Leah Sharibu.’”
Ndume said the Federal Government did not appear to be serious to end the insurgency war which has ravaged the North-East with the allocation of N100 billion to the defence sector in the 2020 budget.
The politician lamented that the defence allocation was less than one per cent of the N10.33 trillion total budget for 2020.
According to him, with such paltry percentage of the nation’s total appropriation, government can hardly satisfy its uppermost constitutional duty of securing lives and property of the citizenry.
He also observed that government’s allocation of lion’s share of the budget to infrastructure would be meaningless if the nation was not secured.
Ndume said that although the Nigerian military remained one of the best in the world professionally, it lacked adequate personnel and fund.
He expressed concerns that there were about 30,000 soldiers in the Nigerian Army with 6,000 officers in a country of about 200 million population. According to him, Egypt, a smaller nation of 80 million population, has about one million military capacity.
Consequently, he noted that if the Nigerian Armed Forces were properly funded, the insurgency war would have been eliminated under three months.
He advised the government to divert and plough into the Armed Forces, the expected differential income from sales of oil from the benchmarked $55 per barrel to $57 per barrel.
Ndume, who recounted the experience of the committee members at the war front in the North-East, commended the dedication of the Nigerian troops.
Some of them, the lawmaker said, had paid the supreme price.
He said that from the visit, it was obvious that the Nigerian military lacked adequate equipment, kits and tools to effectively prosecute the insurgency war.
Ndume said that if the helicopters requested to be at the battalion base in Borno were approved, it would aid the ground troops in routing the insurgents.
He said: “Our committee visited the cemetery because as you know, there have been reports of mass burial in the Armed Forces. We went to see how well kitted they are. We also visited the Army hospital which was attacked twice.
“We are in a war situation. When you are in a war situation and you are budgeting N10.3 trillion and allocating less than one per cent to defence, that does not show that you are serious about it.
“Defence is allocated N100 billion. Right now, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are moving from unsafe zones to what they think are safe zones and that is putting more pressure on the government.
“International communities have requested $848 billion. So far, the international communities that are not affected, have so far donated $547 million – over N140 billion – while the Nigerian government is budgeting N38 billion for the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
“If more than half of the budget is given to security, it is worth it. Because without it, all these things that you are doing – infrastructure, hospitals – will not work.”
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