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Lai: No case of hunger among soldiers fighting Boko Haram

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, says the soldiers fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east are not hungry.

The minister said this in response to a report TheCable published on the plight of soldiers.

The report, with video and pictures, detailed how soldiers beg for food and sleep in classrooms because of the lack of accommodation.

Soldiers had narrated their experiences— with some of them wearing bathroom slippers to the battlefield.

“On this first assignment to the bush, some died and, luckily, some of us returned alive. If you see the kind of food they would eventually give us, you will weep for us,” one of the soldiers had told TheCable.

Another explained how he and his colleagues constructed zinc houses inside Maimalari barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state capital.

“This is my own self-contain apartment. I built this place myself, with my money and my hands. A sheet of fairly used zinc sells for N700, while the new goes for N1,000, we can only afford the former. And to put this whole structure together, you will spend at least N31,000 on zinc alone,” another soldier had said.

On one of the trips to Maimalari, TheCable reporter saw rusty zinc houses where hundreds of soldiers rest their heads.

Ten days after the report was published, President Muhammadu Buhari said he was looking into the welfare of soldiers.

“I am looking into all reported cases of inadequacies in relation to their entitlements, their welfare and those of their families,” he had said in his Independence Day broadcast.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, Mohammed said the outcome of the probe of the president showed that the soldiers were living in good condition.

He said the troops referred to in the report were being fed three times a day and were kitted immediately after their training before they are deployed in the theatre.

“Two months and 10 days after the launch, specifically on September 21st 2018, an online publication reported alleged deplorable conditions of the troops who are fighting Boko Haram in the north-east,” Mohammed said.

“Quoting a phantom corporal, with the pseudonym Gandoki, said to be serving with one of the Special Forces Units in the theatre of operation, the publication alleged that troops deployed in particular along Gubio road and the Brig.-Gen. Maimalari Secondary School were begging for food to survive, were poorly kitted with some wearing slippers and were facing irregular/short payment of their allowances.

“The publication also reported non-serviceable equipment in the theatre. These allegations have grave implications for the security of the nation, hence the allegations were taken seriously by the president and commander-in-chief, who subsequently ordered an investigation to determine the veracity or otherwise of the claims in the publication.

“Gentlemen, the investigation has since been concluded and, in line with the transparent stance of this administration, I have invited you here today to share with you the outcome.

“The summary of the findings is that there is no case of hunger, starvation or begging among the troops fighting in the north-east, and in particular in the Armed Forces Special Forces Battalion that was referenced in the publication.

“There is also no irregular/short payment of allowances, while claims of poor equipment, inadequate kitting and accommodation are found to be ill conceived and unfounded. On the allegation of poor equipment and inadequate kitting, it was found that the inflow of logistics into the theatre in the past six months showed an enormous quantity of materiel was distributed to troops in the theatre.”

Dismissing the report as “fake news”, Mohammed said it would be a “terrible downplay” of the sacrifices made by the soldiers to the country.

“Such reports amount to collaborating with fifth columnists and enemies of the nation to weaken the fighting spirit of our fighting forces.”

John Agim, spokesman of defence headquarters, had said the conditions experienced by the soldiers is the price to pay for fighting the insurgents.

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