- Demand list of dead soldiers
By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Puma
The House of Representatives, yesterday, began investigation into all funds appropriated for the fight against insurgents (Boko Haram) in the North Eastern Nigeria.
The House also demanded that the Nigerian Army should release the names of soldiers killed by the insurgents on Nov 18, at the village of Metele, in Borno State, after due consultations with their families.
The resolution followed a motion sponsored by Rep Chukwuka Onyema (PDP-Anambra) at the plenary presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
Presenting the motion, Onyema, who is the Deputy Minority Leader, noted that no fewer than 118 Nigerian soldiers of the 157 battalion at Metele in Borno State
were massacred by Boko Haram insurgents, who now called themselves Islamic State West Africa.
According to him, the initial figures of the casualty put the death toll at 44, but as more details emerged, it is now confirmed that 188 soldiers and officers were killed together with their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba, while about 150 more soldiers and officers are still missing.
”The House notes that according to reports, the insurgents carted away large consignment of weapons from the Melete army base, which security experts say would emboldened them and pose great danger.
”The House observed that while the news of the attack and death toll continued to increase, neither the President and Commander-In-Chief nor the minister of defense or the army authorities said anything about the report as there was silence for more than five days.
”The House notes that the President and C-In-C finally broke his silence six days after the attack in a statement issued on his behalf,” he said.
The lawmaker said it was unfortunate that in the last one year, no fewer than 600 Nigerian soldiers were killed by insurgents, mostly in Borno State, around the fringes of the Lake Chad.
He enumerated instances of attacks launched by Boko Haram against Nigerian soldiers within the year under review.
Onyema, who expressed regret that while the executive continued to insist that Boko Haram terrorists had been technically defeated, he said the insurgents seemed to be waxing stronger on a daily basis.
”The House recalls that twice in three years, the Commander-In-Chief gave directives to service chiefs to permanently relocate to the Theatre Command Centre in Maiduguri until Boko Haram is defeated,” he said.
He said it was disheartening that with the recent happenings, all the successes and gains made against Boko Haram had been reversed.
Contributing, Rep Nnenna Ukeje (PDP-Abia) said it was high time Nigeria began to change tactics in order to checkmate the audacity of Boko Haram.
She urged the Federal Government to take a cue from Pakistan and review the curriculum of its military.
Rep Aminu Shagari (PDP-Sokoto), who queried how the recently appropriated $1 billion was used, described the attack as sad.
Rep Beni Lar (PDP-Plateau) called for the sack of the service chiefs.
On his part, Rep Idris Ease (APC-Plateau) called on the House to treat the matter dispassionately and not to be affected by political sentiment.
Rep Rimande Shawulu (PDP-Taraba) recalled that last year, there were reports that about 6, 000 members of the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) found their ways to the sub-Saharan Africa.
According to him, some of the things we are seeing now are not unexpected.
He argued that the porous nature of the country’s borders was another challenge.
Shawulu, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Army, however said that there was the need for the security agencies to account for the funds appropriated to them.
Other lawmakers who contributed include Reps Johnson Agbonayinma, Stephanus Gyang, Aminu Shagari, Edward Pwajok, Zakari Mohammed, among others.
The Speaker, Mr Dogara, after over an hour deliberation on the motion, described the development as an Eye-opener.
He said it was time the leadership in the country began to take responsibility and not to apportion blame.
”Is the international task force still in existence or has it collapsed? The taskforce comprise Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
”One wonders if they are really in operation and how Boko Haram could defile the team to overrun the military base. I think we have to begin to take responsibility and not to apportion blame,” he said.
When the motion was put to a voice vote by the speaker, the lawmakers unanimously adopted it.
An ad hoc committee to investigate all funds appropriated for utilisation by the armed forces for the fight against Boko Haram was set up by the House.
The committee was also charged to look into the operational lapses that led to the killings of the soldiers.