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Published On: Wed, Apr 16th, 2014

Soldiers Fighting Boko Haram Live in Squalor, While Generals Siphone Security Funds

Sleeping bed of soldiers fighting Boko Hram insurgents

LAGOS APRIL 16TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Several soldiers operating in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, which is the hub of attacks by Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group, have accused top officers of siphoning much of the funds for counter-insurgency.
In confidential interviews, the soldiers said their generals and other officers were enriching themselves even as the soldiers in the frontline of the fight against the terrorist group live in squalid conditions and suffer from extreme deprivation as well as lack of basic facilities.

Soldiers fighting Boko Hram fetching drinking water from conterminated well

The soldiers criticized the operational tactics used by the top brass of the Army who decide how to run the counter-offensive against Boko Haram insurgents. The soldiers, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of strict anonymity, claimed that it was the common view of soldiers that their commanding officers’ decisions were informed primarily by a desire to enrich themselves at the expense of the welfare and morale of soldiers and the effectiveness of the overall fight against Boko Haram.
Most of our sources wondered why three different units with separate command structures have been stationed in the same barracks located along Maha Road in the Mubi local government area of Adamawa State.
In order to respond to the insurgent attacks of Boko Haram, the Nigerian Army Headquarters deemed it necessary to form a special operations battalion called Army Headquarters Special Operation Battalion (AHQ SOB), with headquarters and base camp on Maha Road in Mubi. The members of the unit, including officers and soldiers, were selected from various army barracks all over Nigeria, a mid-level officer told SaharaReporters. He added that the soldiers in the unit are regularly replaced by other soldiers from their respective barracks.
“The SOB has so far recorded great successes in their area of responsibilities (AOR), even though they have major problems,” said the source. He added that the constant rotation of troops is a sound strategy.
However, the officer and several soldiers questioned the decision to form another battalion called Forward Operation Battalion (FOB) and place its members in the same barracks in Mubi. “The FOB is a specially formed battalion carved out from 23 Armored Brigade, Yola,” stated one of our sources. He added: “Its area of responsibilities (AOR) is the same as that of the Special Operation Battalion (SOB). Why then are the two battalions given the same area to operate in? And why is the FOB base camp also situated in the same base camp with the SOB?”
Our sources disclosed that the duplication of tasks is a way for the different commanding officers to pocket a huge chunk of the funds meant for the war against Boko Haram insurgents. “The whole thing amounts to a waste of public funds. The generals in charge are receiving funds for two separate operations and two separate bases, but it is the same operation and the same area of responsibilities. This is a formula for some generals to siphon money,” stated a source.
Another source added that soldiers’ welfare and the supply of adequate weaponry have suffered due to the greed of some generals. “Why is it that both SOB and FOB base camps are situated within the same fence?” asked a source. He further stated, “They cover the same area of responsibility, but have different commanding officers and different budgetary allocations? And why is it that there has not been any special improvement in their operations?”
Our sources disclosed that, in November 2013, the Army organized a unit made up of 10 officers and 360 soldiers to make a foot advance into Izge Village in Gworza local government area. According to one source, this new formation was named Task Force Mike (TFM). “The soldiers [in the unit] were picked from the Special Operation Battalion (SOB), the Forward Operation Battalion (FOB), from 232 Armored Battalion, Yola, from 20 Battalion, Sariti Baruwa, Taraba State, and some others from Sokoto State. Now, SOB, FOB and TFM are the same set of troops, spread aimlessly across just one area of responsibility (AOR) with different budgetary allocations,” said the source.
All the soldiers who spoke to our correspondent asserted that, despite the three-fold allocations coming to the same base, the troops still face incessant attacks and frequently sustain casualties from Boko Haram insurgents. “This is because we lack arms and ammunitions,” one source stated. “And worst of all, welfare is very poor.”
The soldiers cited a February 12, 2014 attack by Boko Haram militants on one of their defensive locations. According to one source, “The attack came at exactly 12 midnight by the strongly prepared Boko Haram insurgents. They are strongly prepared because they have the grades of first-class warfare weapons that even a whole Nigeria Army troop in a defensive location did not have.”
The sources said the attacking insurgents were equipped with night vision goggles (NVG) that enabled them to see the soldiers easily, even in the dark. “They also drove in an armored personnel carrier (APC) with a BMG mounted on it. Their footmen were armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG),” said one source, adding, “The Nigerian Army troops in Izge do not even have an anti-tank weapon let alone an APC.”
In addition to being poorly armed, several soldiers revealed that they are also poorly fed. One of the soldiers gave a vivid description of their dismal conditions: “We feed poorly every day. We are given a maximum of three sachets of pure water a day even in the hot desert temperature. Soldiers are not issued any sleeping kit, so many of us sleep on bare dusty ground, no tents to lay our heads on. We are made to lie openly under the scorching sun and the night stars.”
Another source added that some soldiers have been able to make their own individual arrangements to get what the Hausa call “Gidan Zana,” a kind of house made of shrubs and grasses.
The soldiers wondered why their commanders had not yet commissioned the newly formed and built barrack within the same base camp in Mubi, Adamawa State to take over the area of responsibility.
Several soldiers recommended disbanding the SOB, FOB and TFM and sending the soldiers back to their respective original barracks for proper re-organization. “There is no point making troops hide under three different operational tags just because some greedy Generals up there want to redirect the flow of money,” one source said.
Source: Saharareporters

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