The Federal Government on Monday in Abuja released a report on investigation into alleged deplorable conditions of the troops involved in the fight against insurgency in the North-East.
Briefing newsmen on the issue, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the report indicated that there was no case of hunger among the troops.
“The summary of findings is that there is no case of hunger, starvation or begging among the troops fighting in the North-East.
“There is also no irregular or short payment of allowances, while claims of poor equipment, inadequate kitting and accommodation are found to be ill-conceived and unfounded,” Mohammed.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that on Sept. 21, an online publication reported alleged deplorable conditions of the troops who were fighting Boko Haram in the North-East.
The allegation was attributed to a phantom Corporal, with the pseudonym Gandoki, said to be serving with one of the Special Forces Units in the theatre of operation.
He was quoted as alleging that troops deployed along Gubio Road and Brig.-Gen. Maimalari Secondary School, Maiduguri, were begging for food to survive.
According to the allegation, the troops were poorly kitted with some wearing slippers and were facing irregular or short payment of their allowances as well as alleged non-serviceable equipment in the theatre.
The minister said that because of the grave implications of the report and the allegations on the security of the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered an investigation to determine the veracity or otherwise of the claims.
He said that from the findings of the investigation, the allegations in the publication were “ill-conceived and unfounded” and an example of fake news that the government was fighting against.
“Let me elaborate. The troops in question, deployed at Brig.-Gen. Maimalari Secondary School along Gubio Road, are being fed centrally three times a day, and are kitted immediately after their training before they are deployed in the theatre.
“How then can soldiers who are fed centrally be starving or begging for food?
“Concerning the payment of allowances, the monthly allowances of troops of the AFSF Battalion are being paid directly into their various accounts from the Defence Headquarters, hence they cannot be short-changed,’’ he said.
The minister added: “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 materials was distributed to troops.
“Needless to say that no army in the world has all the requisite equipment to prosecute a counter-insurgency operation.
“There is no issue of hunger, improper kitting of soldiers, non-payment or short-payment of soldiers’ allowances and poor equipment at the AFSF Battalion or in any other unit within Operation Lafiya Dole theatre.
“If anything, the publication in question exhibited poor understanding of what obtains in the theatre of military operations.”
Justifying the findings, the minister said that the allegation of poor accommodation in an operational environment was ill conceived.
“By their training, soldiers in theatres of war are usually in trenches, tents or other makeshift structures.
“Fighting insurgency is not a walk-in-the-park and the gallant men and women in uniform who are engaged in counter-insurgency operation in the North-East are not on a luxurious expedition. The battlefront is no playground.”
He noted that the men and women in uniform were making great sacrifices for the nation, and that engaging in such fake news publication was a great disservice to the nation and a terrible downplay of the sacrifices.
“They stay awake and are constantly in harm’s way so that you and I can sleep well and be safe.
“I saw this first-hand when I took over 30 local and international journalists to the North-East in December, 2015.
“As we drove from Maiduguri to Bama, passing through Konduga, Kaure and other towns along the way, we saw gallant troops deployed on desolate roads and bushes.
“We saw them perched on very high towers, where they stay for hours. We marveled at the sacrifices they are all making on our behalf.
“The least we can do is to support and pray for them. Such reports amount to collaborating with fifth columnists and enemies of the nation to weaken the fighting spirit of our fighting forces,” he said.
The minister appealed to the media to check the veracity of whatever information they received from any source before publishing.
He emphasised that it was necessary to double-check with the government before publishing any information from the theatre of operation in the North-East.
The minister reiterated government’s commitment to freedom of the press, adding that the government would not do anything to jeopardise the freedom.