Archive for December 2018

Blame game and bleak Christmas

December 24, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Recently, Oluoma gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl. A bundle of joy you might say. Yes. But this young woman cannot feed her babies. Her breast milk is not the problem. Money is. She desperately needs financial assistance.

On a regular basis, I receive calls from known and unknown people who need such help. No doubt, hardship has visited many Nigerian families today. Hitherto, people looked forward to Christmas and end-of-year activities. It is a period of conviviality and sharing of gifts. By November, hampers will have filled many shops and supermarkets. We are in December. So, take your time and move round the supermarkets in your area. Check how many hampers you see on display.

Also move round the major markets in your locality. Compare the volume of traffic in the market now and a few years ago. You don’t need to be a statistical wizard like Peter Obi to see the difference between those good old days and now.

Obi, the Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, reeled out statistics to indicate the dire situation of the economy at the recent vice presidential debate. Some individuals busied themselves fishing for errors in his statistical submissions. Talk of chasing rats when one’s house is on fire!

Pray, was Obi’s submission not in tune with the reality on ground? Are we not living witnesses to the loss of jobs and closure of many companies in Nigeria today? In the latest figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the rate of unemployment has even increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018.

Mainly those feeding fat from the current system defend the indefensible. The majority of them are government appointees and their relatives and friends. No matter what, these people will never see anything wrong with this current system. It’s self preservation at work.

The other group of supporters happens to be the President’s kinsmen. This group sees President Muhammadu Buhari as a good champion of northern interests. He professes the same religion and speaks the same language with them. And his major political and security appointments are from the north. It does not matter whether the majority of the northern masses are dying of hunger or not.

The third group comprises ruling party members and those who hope to gain one thing or the other if the status quo remains. This is where some of my Igbo brothers fall in. When I read the story of Governor Willie Obiano’s aide, Chido Obidiegwu, leading the campaign for Buhari’s re-election in Anambra State, I laughed. I can swear that sterling performance is the least of their reasons for supporting Buhari.

Together, these groups see no wrong in the present killings in the country. They strongly believe that Buhari is fighting corruption even when the owner of the $42 million Ikoyi apartment cash, for instance, remains a top secret. And they will tell you that the PDP government caused almost all the present scams and failures in the country.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, took the blame game to a ridiculous level last week. Speaking on Channels Television, Shehu said former President Goodluck Jonathan was the cause of the delay in the appointment of ministers by Buhari. According to him, the outgoing government in 2015 gave the President handover notes 48 hours to the handover of power. Recall that it took the President about six months to appoint his ministers when he took over power in 2015.

Recall that it also took him some months to enter his office in the Villa after he returned from three-month medical vacation in the United Kingdom in August last year. It was this same Shehu who informed the world then that Buhari couldn’t use his office because rats had occupied and damaged the place.

Even the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, was not left out in the blame game. As far as Fashola is concerned, the power sector has been privatised and as such, Nigerians should not blame the government for poor electricity supply in their homes.

The excuses and buck passing continued a few days ago when the All Progressives Congress blamed the PDP for the protest by National Assembly workers. The ruling party through its spokesman, Mallam Lanre Issa-Oniru, said “the PDP’s 16-year rule was characterised by such incidences of unpaid salaries, ghost workers and a shocking disdain for workers’ welfare…”

Agreed, the PDP caused some havoc during its 16-year rule. But is there any fundamental difference between the PDP and the APC? Were APC chieftains like Rotimi Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio and a host of others not PDP members? Was the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, not an APC member? Were current PDP stalwarts like Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Musa Kwankwaso and Dino Melaye not members of the APC a few weeks ago?

Truth is, there is no difference between the two major parties in Nigeria. Membership of any one of them is dependent on where one feels one’s bread will be buttered better at any material time. So, blaming the PDP for almost all Nigeria’s ills amounts to the Catholic Bishop of Enugu blaming the church for allowing Ejike Mbaka make undue political statements on the altar of God.

Most Nigerians are wiser now. The forthcoming presidential election is not about Atiku Abubakar/Peter Obi versus Muhammadu Buhari/Yemi Osinbajo. It is not also about PDP versus APC or even Hausa versus Igbo or Yoruba. It is about the urgent need to rescue Nigeria from total collapse.

President Buhari, who just marked his 76th birthday, has asked Nigerians for more time and prayers to fix Nigeria.

I am seriously praying for him to go for a deserved rest in his hometown, Daura. I am also praying for a free and fair contest next year. For those who wish to mortgage their conscience and future for a crumb, I wish them luck. But in the interest of the majority of Nigerians, especially the little twins dying of hunger, a change is inevitable.

Merry Christmas!


Re: Cry, the beloved South-East

Cry, the beloved South-East

Cash, apropos your column 17th Dec; two popular sayings strongly support Igbo and South-East position to massively vote PDP in the Atiku/Obi presidential ticket: 1. “It’s got to get worse to get better”. 2. “You gotta cry to laugh”. We will no longer cry ourselves hoarse, because, all said, the Nigerian system cannot unleash any worst, bitterest treatment and hatred on Igbo and people of the South-East and South-South. In the olden days, the village pregnant woman did not starve to death for lack of cucumber. Stupid!

Dr Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, +2348085914645

Casmir, please continue to write the truth about lopsidedness, cheating, injustice and the wickedness in this country especially in this regime.

Hofnar, +2348059576140

Casmir, your write-up regarding President Buhari’s appointment of EFCC board should not worry Igbo true sons and daughters because Nigerians know that Buhari hates the Igbo. My advice to my Igbo brothers and sisters is that if Nigeria fails to vote Atiku or any other candidate and make the mistake of voting Buhari in and APC during presidential election of 2019, let those who see it my way join me to follow Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB.

Anaekwe P.O. +2348037275839

Senator Victor Umeh spoke well about marginalisation of Ndigbo in this government but what about the time Ndigbo were in key positions in past govt? What did they use their positions to bring for lgbo land? Were they not there for their own selfish interest, not interest of Ndigbo? No infrastructural development in spite of our lgbo leaders in key positions in past govt. We must hold our past leaders responsible for infrastructural decay in southeast states.

Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

My beloved South-East! Thank you for synopsis of marginalization against Ndigbo in Nigeria. There is no way PMB can change: the cabal are resolute in conquering everything. You can only defeat them using a superior art of violence. It is so sad Casmir. I am very angry!

Col RN Oputa Retd +2348033206191

Dear Casmir, your article was very sound and clear. We Igbos are seriously being marginalised in this country. We are crying and the rest of Nigerians seem not to care. But, how will we make them care when some of us are ready to sell their mother for Hausa man to answer his greetings. Or what will you call somebody like Osita Okechukwu who is trying to betray all the Igbos to satisfy his paymasters. He wants to be the best boy to Buhari and IBB at the same time. Hear Osita in The Sun Newspaper on Monday 17:12:18 page 41: “Though the South-East did not vote for Buhari, his administration has invested massively in the second Niger Bridge and other federal roads. Please, can somebody tell Osita Okechukwu that second Niger Bridge does not belong to people of South-East but to the people of Nigeria. Come to think of it, what does how we voted connect to his praise singing? By this, one can know where some of the problems of people of South-East are coming from. If Okechukwu wants to fight for his stomach as we can see he is trying to do, let him do it without reminding his masters how we voted in 2015. Almost 4 years now. IGBO NA EGBU ONWEHA!

Anonymous, +2348063392297

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, 24 December 2018.

Cry, the beloved South-East

December 17, 2018

By Casmir Igbokwe

Alan Paton wrote his famous “Cry, the Beloved Country” in 1948. In the novel, he chronicled the social inequalities and dichotomies that gave rise to apartheid in South Africa then. But it was as if he had the South-East people of Nigeria in mind. Today, like in Paton’s country of 1948, the cup of discrimination against Nigeria’s South-East region is full.The worst is that the more the people of the zone agitate for a change of the situation, the more the problem festers.

Last week, the Senate suspended the confirmation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s four nominees for the board of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after a rowdy session. Among the nominees, there was nobody from the South-East and the South-South zones.They were Ndasule Moses (North-Central), Lawan Mamman (North-East), Galadanci Imam Najip (North-West) and Adeleke Adebayo Rafiu (South-West). Besides, the Acting Chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, is from the North-East while the recently confirmed secretary, Olanipekun Olukoyede, is from the South-West.

The confirmation almost went through but for Senator Victor Umeh who represents Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Senate. He pointed out the grave error and demanded that the two regions be included in the list.

This exclusion trend has been consistent. One, no South-East person, for instance, is found worthy to head any security outfit in this country currently. Do we talk of the army, navy,air force, police, immigration, customs and so on?

Just consider this: Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali (North); Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai (North);Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar (North); National Security Adviser,Babagana Monguno (North); EFCC chairman, Magu (North); Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris (North); Director-General, State Security Service, Yusuf Magaji Bichi (North); Controller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali (North);Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigration, Mohammed Babandede (North); and Commandant-General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu (North). Only the Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonishakin (South-West) and Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (South-South) are from the South.

Any time some South-East youths make some civilian noise over some of these things, the powers that be send military pythons to swallow them. In the last Operation Python Dance, which the army embarked upon in that region, some citizens paid with their lives. Since then,there have been occasional raids in some parts of the region in search of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Two,many federal infrastructure in the South-East are dilapidated. The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, recently debunked this allegation of neglect and claimed 69 projects were ongoing in the region. According to the minister, the South-East got N16.6 billion worth of projects from the N100 billion Sukuk Bond like other zones. Alhaji Lai concluded that “the South-East has never had it so good in the area of infrastructure. Had the previous administrations done even half of what we are doing now in that region, no one will be complaining today. It is all right to ask for more; but it is unfair to say nothing has been done.”

Should we clap for Lai? Not yet. An in-depth investigation by BusinessDay newspaper discovered that the Federal Government’s list of ongoing projects in the South-East “contains truths, half-truths, lies.” The newspaper reported in its September 19, 2018, edition that some of these so-called ongoing projects were either completed before the advent of the present administration or are not going on at the moment.

To me, some of these projects have become like the Second Niger Bridge – the more you look, the less you see. Each time I drive through the Niger Bridge, I keep looking everywhere to see how far Julius Berger has gone in the implementation of the Second Niger Bridge project. But so far, a lot still needs to be done. We have heard that the Federal Government has so far released a total amount of N33 billion for the implementation of the project. It is estimated to gulp a total of N220 billion.And the completion date is 2022. Let us see how it goes.

Three, they say South-East has four ministerial slots in this government. That’s good. But what type of ministries?Dr. Chris Ngige supervises the Ministry of Labour and Employment. His main duty now appears to be persuading labour leaders to call off strikes. Ogbonnaya Onu is Minister of Science and Technology. You wonder what the major activity in that ministry is beyond setting target to manufacture pencil. Geoffrey Onyeama is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tackling deportation of our citizens from Libya and some other countries.

Four,do we talk of admission into unity colleges in Nigeria? This is where our federal character principle works very well. If my child from Anambra State scores as high as 130 in the entrance exams, he may not be admitted. But if a child from Zamfara scores just 2, he stands a better chance of being admitted. And we claim to be in the same country!

Five, what about the number of states and local governments in the South- East vis-a-vis those of other zones? Only the South-East has five states. Others have not less than six. Every attempt to create a new state in the South-East to equal the number in the other zones has failed. The number of local governments in the zone is also lower than in the other zones. This has had tremendous effects on the allocation of resources to the region.

Six, no Igboman has been found worthy to become the President of Nigeria despite being one of the three major ethnic groups in the country. In the First Republic, an Igboman, Nnamdi Azikiwe, was a mere figurehead President. The real power resided in the Prime Minister in the person of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, a northerner. After the failed coup of 1966, Aguiyi Ironsi became the Head of State. But some soldiers, mainly of northern extraction, staged a counter coup six months after and killed him. Events that followed precipitated the civil war of 1967 to 1970.

That is why I don’t so much blame the Igbo who support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election with the hope that this will engender return of power to the South-East in 2023. But in having this hope, they forget that Buhari does not own the All Progressives Congress(APC). There are other regions eyeing the same position and it is a matter of contest and votes.

Nevertheless, the President does not pretend about rewarding those who campaigned and supported him in his quest for the presidency. He once said those who gave him 5 per cent would not get the same reward as those who gave him 95 per cent votes.

So far, the industrious nature of Ndigbo is what has kept them going in Nigeria. But for how long? The time to restructure this country and bring enduring peace is now. Will President Buhari heed this call? Will he put a lie to the statement of a prominent northern politician, Junaid Mohammed, in 2016 that, in the history of Africa, he had never seen any level of nepotism that had equalled or surpassed that of Buhari’s government in his entire life?



Re: National Assembly’s new ridiculous universities

Your article “National Assembly’s new ridiculous universities” at page 46 of Daily Sun, Monday, December 10, 2018 has shown that our representatives are myopic and extravagant. Otherwise, they ought to know that the establishment of 80 new institutions in Nigeria without adequate funding of the existing ones is nothing but a mere multiplication of glorified secondary schools. I can remember that former President Jonathan approved and released N78 billion for the establishment of two police colleges, one in the North and one in the South. Only N18 billion was utilised for training while the remaining fund went down the drain.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644

My dear brother, these “universities”? E taya me too. Soon there would be more “universities” than primary schools. Nigeria we hail thee.

– Anonymous, +2347035390254

Despite the increase in our population, we don’t need more varsities for now. Rather,let the three tiers of government equip the existing varsities to compare favourably with other varsities internationally. Those who brought the idea of opening new varsities don’t wish Nigeria well. Government should suspend the idea of establishing new varsities for now until existing ones meet international standard. It is a waste of resources if we establish new varsities.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Cas, good day! Thanks for the views you expressed in last Monday’s article. Every day on TV, one would come across a byline to the effect that either the Senate or the House has passed a bill for the establishment of one institution or the other in a certain part of the country. Every member wants to have such institutions in their constituency. It makes no sense and smacks of insensibility on their part.

– Anonymous, +2348033072852

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 17, 2018.

National Assembly’s new ridiculous universities

December 11, 2018

By Casmir Igbokwe

That the National Assembly is considering establishing 80 new higher institutions in Nigeria shows how abnormal our thought process can be sometimes. That the lawmakers are even debating the bill at a time the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike makes it more absurd and a grand exercise in shadow chasing.

The 80 bills or so are said to be at various stages of the legislative processes at the Senate and the House of Representatives. The institutions are 27 universities, 22 colleges of education, 19 polytechnics, six institutes, one federal college of agriculture, one college of forestry, one federal college of veterinary assistants, one school of mines and geological studies, one police academy and a paramilitary academy. If the National Assembly succeeds in creating these new schools, it will bring the number of federal educational institutions to 164.  The proposed ones are to spread across the 36 states and the federal capital territory.

Already,the Senate has passed bills for the establishment of one polytechnic each in Kabo, Kano State; Daura in Katsina State; Ikom in Cross River State; and Langtang in Plateau State. The upper chamber also passed bills for the establishment of two universities: a federal university of education in Aguleri, Anambra State and a federal university of technology in Manchok, Kaduna State.

There is also a federal college of education Esugbenu Irrua in Edo State; federal college of education (technical) Arochukwu in Abia State and National Institute of Construction Technology and Management, Uromi in Edo State. The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, reportedly said after the passage of the bills that approval of the federal schools would further register federal presence in the affected communities with positive multiplier effects.

I am not against the establishment of tertiary institutions where we have great need for them. But from the look of things, almost every Senator and House of Representatives member want a federal institution in his constituency. It looks like we want to build schools on political sentiment without considering their viability.

The question is, how have we funded the existing institutions and what are the chances of the survival of the new ones? If you are a product of any Nigerian university in the 80s or 90s, just pay a visit again to your alma mater and get the answer for yourself.

Last August, I visited the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and wrote a piece entitled “UNN and rot in Nigerian universities”. In that article, I chronicled the rot in infrastructure and some other areas of life in that great citadel of learning.For instance, some of the popular hostels like Zik’s Flats and Mbanefo are dilapidated and abandoned. Most of the existing ones are in such a bad shape that you will not wish to rear pigs there.

Similarly,in many other Nigerian public universities, hostel facilities are overcrowded and horrible. Female students in some of these universities reportedly take their bath in the open. In some cases, you find over 10 people in a room that is meant for about four people. For some parents who are given to superstition,the fear now is that evil people steal female students’ underwear in such crowded places for ritual purposes.    

In off-campus hostels, students face exploitation and violence of different kinds including rape and murder. Annual rent for an average self contained accommodation at Nsukka, for instance, goes for about N200, 000. And students who can afford it rush to pay even when the hostel is still under construction.

The most pathetic experience was the recent killing of a 300-level female student of Mass Communication at Delta State University, Abraka, Elozino Joshualia Ogege,22. She fell a victim to suspected ritualists while searching for accommodation.Some internet fraudsters allegedly collaborated with some private DELSU security guards and abducted Elozino inside the campus. They took her inside a bush where they first plucked her eyes while still alive. Despite the girl’s cries and pleas that they should forgive her and let her go, they still removed her breasts and heart before decapitating her.

Besides,in many of these institutions, students far outnumber the available facilities.As such, some 200 students will end up occupying a classroom meant for about 60 students. In some instances, over 1000 students struggle for space in lecture halls meant for less than 150 students. Many of these students sit on bare floor or peep through windows to attend lectures. More than half of them do not hear or even understand whatever the lecturer teaches. They end up paying for private tutorials to make up for what they lost in the classrooms.

With regard to some other modern facilities, you will be surprised to discover that some private secondary schools are even better equipped than many public universities. ASUU had noted that less than 10 per cent of the universities have video conferencing facility; less than 20 per cent use interactive boards. Internet services are either non-existent or very slow and epileptic. Libraries are not digitalised and the resources are outdated. Over 700 development projects are reportedly abandoned in these schools. Many of them don’t have good source of water, clean toilets, and good laboratories. Also, many of them don’t have qualified academic staff as they rely heavily on part-time or visiting lecturers. The list of the rot is almost endless.

To some wealthy Nigerians, the perception about Nigerian public universities is very low. A relation of mine, for instance, thinks federal universities are for poor people. Two of his children went to a Ghanaian university. Throughout the period they were in these schools, there was no strike, no cult attack and no academic disruption of any kind.

So,those who cannot afford to send their children to Ghana, United Kingdom, or the United States will have to contend with whatever our rotten system throws at them.

ASUU has been agitating for a change in the status quo. It has been on strike since November 4 to press home its demand for improved system and enhanced salary structure in our universities. The Federal Government had reportedly failed to implement the components of the agreement it entered into with the union in 2017. Part of the agreement is the release of the N20 billion the Federal Government approved for the revitalisation of public universities. The money was supposed to have been released in two instalments between September and October 2017. ASUU is not happy that the government has not released this money.

So,how can we be talking about establishing as many as 80 new tertiary institutions when we cannot fund the existing ones? ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said it all, “We don’t need them. What we need is to improve what we have. What are we doing to fund the universities we have? What are we doing to bring them up to speed with their mandate? Government is not addressing that. ASUU is on strike because the existing ones have been neglected. So, it is sheer politics, and when you over-politicise education, it cannot be used for national development.”

The Federal Government should declare a state of emergency in the education sector.It should also convoke a national conference on education where stakeholders should proffer solutions to the crises bedevilling our education system.

Education is key to personal and national development. The Federal Government cannot afford to neglect that sector. The 7 per cent allocated to education in the 2018 budget was grossly inadequate. If half of what goes into security votes is ploughed into education; if half of the questionable N10, 000 loan scheme the FG calls Tradermoni is deployed in our higher institutions; and if half of the money that will be squandered in buying votes for the 2019 Presidential election is judiciously allocated to our public schools, Nigeria will be better for it.

Re: Metele massacre: Like Jonathan like Buhari

Casmir, three takeaways from your today’s column: 1.Illiterate frontline soldiers may misunderstand the statement that “the military has decided to deploy drones to fight insurgents”.  2. The public deserves to read the published list of killed soldiers to know their composition. 3. The Army should review its old practice of sending a pair of boots, cap, belt and uniform of a soldier killed in battle, to his parents or next of kin, as a way of informing them of the death of their son in battle. A widow at Amankwu Eke town, Udi LGA, Enugu State, was recently presented this strange gift, and a letter, delivered by unknown faces in army uniform, to her village home. The bad news bearers were flummoxed when the woman fainted. No villager, chief or councillor, was contacted to break the bad news, and handle an ugly situation.  The news bearers became confused. This is Nigeria Army doing smallpox vaccination of school children, in the 21st century. 

Dr Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt,+2348085914645

It is very painful how our young soldiers were killed by the so called Boko Haram. It is very unfortunate and sad indeed in spite of resources government has been spending to end the menace in the North-East zone. Our security agencies should be on the alert all the time. I console the families that lost their loved ones in that attack. May their souls rest in peace, amen!

Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535

Metele massacre: Like Jonathan like Buhari

December 8, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

In 2014, during the run-up to the 2015 general election, the then General Officer Commanding the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, narrowly escaped death. The man was addressing his troops in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, when some disgruntled soldiers fired gunshots at him. But his aides shielded him and drove him out of danger.

Ina piece I wrote for Aljazeera then, I noted that the attack on Mohammed was one major indication that the morale of many soldiers fighting insurgency in Nigeria was low. The soldiers had lost a number of their colleagues to terrorists. And they were not happy with some of their superiors who they felt were working against their interest.

Today,as the nation prepares for another general election in 2019, nothing has changed. On Sunday, November 18, 2018, Boko Haram terrorists killed over 100 soldiers in an attack on 157 Task Force Battalion at Metele in Borno State. Many other soldiers were reportedly missing in action. Among those killed were the commander of the battalion, a lieutenant colonel, and some senior officers. This was the same day President Muhammadu Buhari launched his campaign for 2019 election called Next Level in Abuja. The service chiefs were also there at the inauguration with him.

Apparently to explain away their ineptitude, the military authorities said the media had been brandishing false casualty figures and circulating various footages of old and inaccurate Boko Haram propaganda videos, alluding same to be the Metele attack. It said reinforcing units had been able to repel the terrorists and that normality had returned to the battalion. The defence headquarters also announced it had taken new delivery of military equipment and would deal decisively with the insurgents. Good.

But do we need to wait for a deadly attack before delivering new weapons? Why did we record this high casualty figure in Metele? Can we still say that Boko Haram has been technically defeated as the current government had repeatedly boasted?What is the state of weapons given to our soldiers? Are they adequately remunerated and rewarded for their sacrifice? Do we properly utilise military budgets?

Different groups, including the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP),Transparency International and Coalition of Political Parties (CUPP) have called on President Buhari to order a probe into the spending of the military budgets.

As SERAP put it, “The military’s inability to respond adequately to the Boko Haram insurgency suggests among other things mismanagement in the spending of the country’s defence budgets. Establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate how defence and military budgets have been spent since 29 May, 1999 would help Nigerians to know if the funds meant to defend the country and for the purchase of arms to empower Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram have been transparently and accountably spent.”

During the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the then National Security Adviser was alleged to have diverted $2bn arms fund. He is currently in detention and in court over the allegation. How free is the incumbent government over this same problem, especially as the presidential election fast approaches? What has happened to the $1bn special fund reportedly released to this government to fight Boko Haram? What about the N1.323 trillion allocated to security in the 2018 budget which was higher than the N1.142 trillion allocated to it in the 2017 budget? Could it be what Transparency International called huge defence corruption?

Media reports quoted some soldiers in the warfront as saying some of their greedy officers were using them to make money. They said they were given outdated arms to fight the war, citing T72 tank made in Slovakia in 1983 as a typical example. They lamented that the country had neglected them even when many of them had not seen their wives and children for years.

We never learn from our past mistakes. During the Jonathan era, the then United States Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights,Sarah Sewall, said despite Nigeria’s $5.8bn security budget in 2014, supplies as basic as bullets and transport vehicles did not reach the frontlines of the struggle against Boko Haram.

Then also, soldiers grumbled that their leaders didn’t pay them their allowances as and when due. Some of them also complained that some of the weapons given to them were obsolete.     

Reports were rife in Jonathan’s government that the Boko Haram terrorists used some weapons reportedly stolen from the Nigerian military to prosecute their agenda. There was suspicion that some soldiers allegedly colluded with the terrorists to wreak havoc on the nation. Some media reports in 2014 even alleged that nine generals and some other senior officers were under investigation for their alleged role in the sale of arms to Boko Haram.

The situation was such that former President Jonathan even lamented that Boko Haram had infiltrated his government. That was why some secret information on military movements was allegedly leaked to the insurgents. And that was why the American officers, who came to help rescue the young schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April 14, 2014, reportedly said they would not share intelligence information with their Nigerian counterparts.

The Nigerian military should watch it. Nothing kills esprit de corps than mutual suspicion and acrimony. Recently, some soldiers fighting the Boko Haram terrorists reportedly kicked against the alleged approval by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, of the promotion of soldiers who unravelled the mystery behind the disappearance and death of the former Chief of Administration of the Army, Major General Idris Alkali (retd).

The soldiers told journalists the action was unfair and would further demoralise them.They wondered what death or danger the soldiers sent to Jos faced, or what threat to the nation they had warded off. They regretted that even when they were daily being killed by insurgents, they got little or no rewards. The morale, to say the least, is already low. The Federal Government should not worsen it by certain actions that will depict it as insensitive.

This is why the political bickering between the ruling and opposition parties, which usually follows this type of tragedy, is unfortunate. During the Jonathan administration, the then opposition APC used every opportunity to lampoon the PDP government. It called the then government weak, clueless and corrupt.

Today, the tide has turned.  The PDP and the CUPP, for instance, insinuated that the war had become a source for raising campaign funds. It wondered why months after Buhari reportedly received the $1bn to fight Boko Haram, soldiers still fought with obsolete weapons.

The APC fired back, accusing the opposition parties, especially the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, of dancing on the graves of the fallen heroes. The ruling party said the PDP’s allegations regarding diverting military funds to finance the 2019 election campaigns of the APC was a sad reminder of the evil and retrogressive practices the PDP was notorious for during its rule.

One disturbing point in the midst of all these is that the President purportedly ignored intelligence reports on the potency of Boko Haram prior to the Metele attack. A South African firm, Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection International (STTEP) had alleged negligence on the part of Buhari in the latest Boko Haram onslaught.

Besides,President Buhari’s response after the attack came very late. It took him almost six days to express shock at the massacre. He later summoned the service chiefs for a briefing. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was also guilty of this. For months after the terrorists had abducted young school girls from Chibok in Borno State, Jonathan reportedly doubted the veracity of the abduction story.He dilly-dallied until the situation escalated. 

Although the military has denied reports of negligence, it is pertinent to advise that concerned authorities should be on their guards. There are reports that the insurgents are planning another attack on another military base at Jiddari-Polo in Maiduguri.  The terrorists, who reportedly hacked four farmers in the area to death last Monday, allegedly left a message that the army should prepare for them. The military should treat this information with all the seriousness it deserves.

Since July this year, there have been Boko Haram attacks in such places as Jili, Zari, Mainok and Kekeno with alleged heavy casualties. The Metele tragedy was the most recent. These attacks have engendered rising cases of missing soldiers,prompting the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, to issue a warning to troops in the warfront to desist from fleeing from insurgents.

For Nigeria to survive the terrorist onslaught and prevent a recurrence of the Metele massacre, there is need to overhaul the intelligence network of the security agencies. The Federal Government must find a way to motivate the soldiers and summarily deal with every act of corruption in the military. The government should also declare national mourning for the fallen heroes.

By the way, what are the service chiefs still doing in office? Are they not supposed to be cooling off in retirement by now?  

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, December 3, 2018.