When the sad news of invasion of the Nigeria army base in Melete, a community in Borno State, by the Boko Haram insurgents, broke there were widespread condemnations, with blames also heaped on the military authorities for failing to piece up dots of intelligence information to forestall such attack. JOSHUA EGBODO writes
Insurgents release Melete video
Videos surfaced online after the attack, allegedly released by the terrorists as a way of showing their supremacy against the Nigerian Army during the invasion, and the Army’s reaction left a lot of the citizens not convinced. Initial figures made public suggested that only about 44 soldiers of the Nigerian Army were killed during the attack, but later reports said 118 were massacred, with more still missing at the time.
When a motion came up on the matter last week on the floor of the House of Representatives therefore, members were also united in condemnation of the attack, as many described it as “shameful” and “embarrassing” to the nation’s armed forces. They also claimed it was embarrassing the army not could act to repel the insurgents.
The House through a resolution on the motion subsequently directed the Nigerian Army, to after due consultation with families of soldiers so far lost to the Boko Haram fight in the North East region of Nigeria, to publish their names. Analysts have considered the call as a subtle indictment of the armed forces, as figures of casualty soldiers after any of such attacks were usually contradictory.
Like it was in the recent past, there were allegations of possible mismanagement of security budgets specifically set aside to curtail the Boko Haram in the North East. Questions were raised by members on application of the One billion dollar appropriation, over which President Muhammadu Buhari was accused of breaching budget procedure to approve for the troops, still for the same purpose. The House also agreed to constitute an Ad hoc committee to investigate the operational lapses that led to the reported massacre of the 118 soldiers.
The committee was also given the mandate to probe the utilisation of all funds recently appropriated for the fight against insurgency in the north east, and make appropriate recommendations to the House.
Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara did not hid his displeasure also, when after listening to the marathon debate, as he agreed that something must have gone wrong somewhere. “How did Cameroon, Chad and Niger (Republic) manage to mobilise resources to police their boarders What of the multinational Task Force, or has it collapse? We have to begin to take responsibilities as leaders”, he stated.
Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema in the motion he sponsored under matters of urgent public importance, lamented that the attack, which initial casualty figure was put at 44 soldiers, was later to be confirmed that 118 soldiers and officers were killed, including their commander. He, therefore, called for an “exhaustive debate” on the development by the House’ and lasting solutions to be proffered.
The lawmaker lamented that in spite of the public outcry over the attacks, there was no early response by the executive arm of the federal government as expected of a government. “We need to know what is happening, because something must be wrong for a whole battalion of army to be overrun by Boko Haram”, he noted.
Anger rent the air
His submissions set the stage for members to vent their displeasures over the attack, this time like in only some rare cases, without recourse to political party affiliations. Hon. Aminu Shagari who sad he believed so much in President Buhari’s promise on take-over of government, to flush out the Boko Haram sect, said he had unfortunately lost his initial confidence.
“I am personally very disappointed that things are going from bad to worse. Where are all the monies appropriated to equip our troops going into?”, he said while also lamenting the reports that soldiers were still using riffles procured in the late 70s by former President Shehu Shagari to execute the war against Boko Haram.
Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Hon. Abdulsamad Dasuki also revealed that ” there is nothing to write home about” in terms of the numerical strength of the Nigerian armed forces today, even as they according to him “are technically backward” in modern warfare capacity to face the Boko Haram.
In the words of Hon. Sani Abdul, it was “unfortunate that we will be losing so much”, even after a One billion dollar fresh budget for the purpose of fighting the same insurgents.
Zakari Mohammed on his part said President Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian armed forces has to “sit up because the buck stops at his table”, adding that it was time the armed forces and other security outfits are made to work in synergy. “We are approaching a general election, and things are looking this shaky. We need to adopt modern technological approach to this…”, he said.
Time for Service Chiefs to bow out
According to Hon. Ali Magaji, it was time for the Service Chiefs to honourably resign their positions “because they have failed us”, adding however that rather than the government issuing warning to Nigerians to stop spreading fake news over the attacks, the government should give Nigerians what is the real news.
Others who spoke in support of the motion include Chairman of the Committee on the Army, Riman Shawulu, Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Edward Pwajok, Beni Lar, Deputy Majority Leader, Idris Wase who urged a greater oversight by committees of the House, and Chairman of the committee on foreign affairs, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje.
With the resolution, and the expected investigation by the House’s Ad hoc panel, many Nigerians are hopeful that a new course may be chatted, and the “decimation” and “technically defeated” claims of the government over the Boko Haram would be realistically seen to be so. The concerns they said, were because attacks by the sect have continued to date, unabated.