Published On: Wed, Dec 16th, 2015

Open Letter To President Muhammadu Buhari On Soldier’s Welfare

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DEAR MR PRESIDENT: A PROMISE IS DEBT
Dear Mr President,
We the members of ‘Lets talk Nigeria’ (LTN) – a group of young professionals – write to you today to intimate you on the plight of our service men at the battle front in the North East of Nigeria. This letter has become imperative for a few reasons. We are committed to your success having contributed in immeasurable ways to your success at the last presidential elections and will not want you to fail. We are of the opinion we owe you a responsibility to squeal to you things that may be hidden from you. In addition, there appears to be a seeming gap between your promise before and after the elections with the subsisting reality at the battle front in recent times. President Muhammadu Buhari 1

Mr President, at the Chatam House on February 26, 2015, you said “Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels…..”

In addition sir, in your inauguration speech, you promised “We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people – friendly and well – compensated security forces within an over – all security architecture.” But recent events reported by the media and eye witnesses’ accounts from soldiers at the war front appear to paint a different scary picture. Let us remind you sir of the litany of sad events that have taken place in recent times as regard our soldiers.
On the 19th of November, 2015 the news media reported the killing of over 100 soldiers at Gudunbali in Borno State by the insurgents. It was reported they captured a T-72 tank from the unit and some artillery weapons. Initially the Army authorities denied such event happened and that no soldier neither died nor got missing. But later, they made a volte-face admitting through the Army spokesperson Colonel Sani Usman that there was an attack but that the details reported in the media were inaccurate.

On the 30th of November, 2015 the media reported again the attack on our soldiers by the insurgents at Gulak, the administrative headquarters of Madagali in northern part of Adamawa State. Premium times specifically reported that the insurgents “came around 7 p.m in three vehicles brandishing guns, burnt down a military base as they also burnt down three artilleries and carted away guns….started firing on the soldiers during which all the soldiers ran away.” Interestingly, this was not denied.

On the 12th of December, 2015 the news media reported and the Army authority confirmed the ambush of its supply vehicle by Boko Haram militants on Bama-Ngurosoye highway. The vehicle was conveying food to soldiers on the war front who had not eaten in two days. A Nigerian soldier and a civilian member of the Joint Task Force were killed in the ambush. One soldier is still missing.

Mr President, the aforementioned instances were only the attacks and casualties reported in the media. Many unreported events exist to which you are not privy. Soldiers at the battle front have continued to complain of lack of the appropriate equipment to prosecute this war. They have pinpointed lack of weaponry, air support, logistic support and co-ordination as obstacles to the scheduled end to this insurgence. Mr President, do you know for example that at times it takes over 48hrs for a wounded soldier to be evacuated from the battle field? Do you know also that our soldiers at times fight on an empty stomach for days?

Mr President, may we remind you again of what you said at Chatam House earlier this year. At that event, Mr President, you spoke with confidence as a retired general of the Nigerian Army. You said “I, as a retired general and a former head of state, have always known about our soldiers: they are capable, well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty in the service of our country”. Sir, we have to bring to your notice a terrifying reality; these soldiers lack the appropriate tools to end this war on time.

You appropriately diagnosed in your inauguration speech that “through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion Boko Haram became a terrifying force”, we have reasons to believe such still exist even 6 months after your swearing-in. Unpalatable reports from soldiers to families and friends of neglect and inadequate support portray a different picture from what the Military Commanders may be showing you. Mr President, it is trite to remind you of the massive goodwill that accompanied your election. You are aware of it already.

However, we must not fail to remind you that one of the fastest way to lose that goodwill is not to keep your promise. A promise remains a debt. You had promised to “pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers…… give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, …..improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels.” This promise has not reflected at the battle fronts according to the recent account of a soldier. He had said “a whole battalion that supposed to move with 40 battle tanks is having just two and 3 hilux…don’t expect magic, I am telling u…God will not do it except we r ready for it. Soldiers r loosing it and d command is getting setback by d day. We v recorded more than 20 desert soldiers for d last 5 days (sic)” .

Sir, in conclusion, we must bring to your attention again one of your promises at Chatam House. You had said “I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front.” There is no better time to do so than now concerning the issues highlighted so far. We therefore appeal to you to set up an independent body (outside the Nigerian military) comprising of probably retired army officers with war experiences and seasoned journalists to investigate these concerns and ascertain – within the shortest time possible – the true state of the situation at the battle front. We trust in your judgement and in your leadership of this great nation. We believe you will act with dispatch to look into the issues raised. Posterity will judge you well if you do. Thank you for your time sir.
‘Let’s Talk Nigeria’ Group

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