“To start with, if Buratai said we don’t have sufficient commitment in the battle field, Number one, find out how many regular soldiers we have in the battle field to back the troops and give them the needed morale support in the battle front. Let me tell you categorically about the officers we have here in the battle front; short service commissioned officers. You can never see regular combatant officers here. They hide themselves in various places like in Abuja, Lagos, PortHarcourt, where they are making money. In case you don’t know, some regular combatant soldiers are those who spend just within five years and get promoted fast.
It would have been nice if the chief of Army staff came to camp zero here, the heart of Sambisa, before he went to the media. He needs to visit here to see our problems.
Here in camp zero, we have limited Mine Resistant Ambush Protection, MRAP, and gun truck used for maximum capacity to retain fire from the enemies. If Boko Haram is coming with eleven to twenty gun trucks and we have only few here, how can we confront such situation? We agree that in the time of warfare, skill and professionalism matter, but also, the number matters.
With professionalism you can only confront minimal situation. The troops here are ill -equipped and highly demoralized. Even the statement by Buratai is another demoralizing statement. The statement has gotten to the troops in battle grounds, and do you know how we are feeling here now? We feel that despite our struggle, Buratai went ahead and made such a statement, and we are not being appreciated. At the end of the day, the society will treat and look at us with lukewarm and docile attitudes.
In terms of our equipment, let me give you a layman analogy. If you are holding a water cane, no matter how long it is, and you are fighting a man with a cutlass, you may flog him severally, but immediately he gives you one cut, that is the end for you. We are nowhere near Boko Haram.
There is also confusion. On a good day, we could be advancing after receiving intelligence. We will get a call, maybe from one General in Abuja who will say, gentlemen, pin down, pause. That is when you are set to give a massive devastation to the enemies. In the next hour, we will get a call again to advance, before we get there, we would realize that all the enemies have gone. The General may mean well based on intelligence made available to him. But it could also be pure sabotage. That is what I call conspiracy of silence. That’s confusion.
Another instance is that, you can see the army about launching an attack, and they will tell you, gentlemen, withdraw. For what? And when we withdraw, the same road we came through, the enemies would have laid ambush for you. At the end, we would become the victims. Also, when we get Intelligence report through our drone, they will report that in an axis like Metele, we have sighted enemies with about 20 gun trucks, and that we should get ready. Tell me, what stops the Air Force that saw the enemies from shooting them immediately? Then at the end of the month, we are being given N20 or N30, 000, to do what?
Another disheartening part is that, when a soldier dies, after two months, they stop paying the soldier’s salary, and leave his family suffering, without any care for them. If you could recall, a video went viral recently of a soldier that needed a kidney transplant. He needed just about N6 million, but the government could not assist him and that was a man that laid down his life for his country.”
How much are you in the battle front paid?
We receive our normal salary and then, they give us N45, 000. But, all is not given in cash. They give N10, 000 cash; pay N20, 000 into your bank account. Then, the authorities collect the remaining N15, 000, saying it is for our feeding.
What type of food do you people eat?
Normal food, Gari, Rice, Beans, and whatever they bring.
So, we are just here because we don’t have any other country to call our own. We have laid down our lives for Nigeria. There is no greater love than a man to lay down his life for his country and colleague, which is what we are doing here.
Describe how you are equipped to fight enemies?
The simple word is that we are ill-equipped. What we normally have with us is just our AK47 rifles and nothing more apart from our uniforms. Some soldiers don’t have ballistic helmet, some, no fighting jacket, except you make personal efforts. We buy some equipment by ourselves. For instance, if a soldier leading a troop is changed, the new leader has to beg the former to buy his equipment from him after negotiation. If you don’t provide for yourself, you are on your own. Sometimes, we have to go to soldiers in the barracks, give them little money and collect their equipment.
What happens at the battlefield when you go to war?
What we are fighting here is defensive, not offensive. In an ideal situation, we are supposed to be fighting offensive battle. Defensive means that, you are on your own position, and they bring the fight to you. This happens because we don’t have logistics, not the type of vehicles you would expect. When the troops are going, movement could sometimes be compromised. So, when they bring the fight to us, by the time we start engaging them, it becomes difficult. They come in thousands against us in hundreds. We will shoot until we get tired, that your barrel gets so hot that if you don’t pause for a moment and urinate on it to cool off, it could explode and become another weapon of destruction to you.
And as we are firing, after sometime, we run short of ammunition, while they keep coming from right, back and centre, shouting ‘Alahu Ak bar’ and shooting at us. Sometimes, they don’t even come close, they stay afar and launch Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), one grenade can bring down a 3- storey building, and they come with over a thousand of them. In such situation, how do we face them? There’s a place in Maiduguri well fortified and defended. It will be nice for other locations to be like that.
What makes it difficult for the Air force to intervene?
What we heard is that, when money is released a larger chunk, say about 90%, goes to the army when Airforce could be expecting may be 70%. So, when we call them, they say they don’t have aviation fuel or equipment, and you can’t blame them. But please not that these are challenges we sometimes face. It’s not all the time. There are times we are good and on the offensive and credit must go to where it’s due. But we can be better than we are now.
Is it true people are deserting the army?
That is not a new thing. It only takes the grace of God to withstand all what is going on here. That’s why we have formed a slogan that, a living standing soldier is better than a dead general. It forms the basis for desertion, because if you are alive, you should be able to do something for yourself tomorrow.
What, in your candid opinion, will government do to stop the menace of Boko Haram?
If the government of the day will listen and do the needful:
- The morale of the soldiers must be boosted. Provide adequate remuneration for them, how can you be paying what they are earning now and you expect them to be highly motivated. Government should approve money for this war and is approved should be well managed.
- Properly equip the soldiers. Look at the way the US army equips their soldiers, it gives them confidence to fight. The money is there to buy these things. Ours is like giving one Toyota Camry to go and fight enemies with Armoured Tankers. We can be better equipped to fight this war. Result will be better.
Where are the hotspots?
For now, the battle is hottest at Gajira, Kareto, Avadan, Damask closer to the Chad. There is this group called Islamic State of West Africa Provinc, ISRAP, that usually join them. When they come, they come fearlessly not minding bullets, shouting Alau Akbar. They come in mass. Whenever the air force comes, we feel relieved. That is only when we have less casualties.
When will this Boko Haram problem end?
Some people are benefiting from it. It will end if the military is well equipped and motivated. If what is affecting our operations are looked into and addressed, things like equipment etc. When you see a tank written 272, the implication is that that tank was made in 1972 which has been phased out. You see the one written 215, and it was made in 1915, during the First World War. Despite all these, we remain here, if we were cowards we won’t be here.
Do senior officers celebrate salah and Christmas with you as claimed?
They do that in areas that are not prone to attacks, relatively calm.
Has there been any protest by you people?
It is an offence punishable under the army act section 63. That is why we are suppressed. Last time they rotated some soldiers and when they protested, they charged them for insubordination. A former highly placed officer who sent troops to a particular route where they were ambushed in 2014 was challenged. Some of those that challenged him were later punished and many of them are still in prison till date.