• ‘Soldiers battling Boko Haram in Hilux vans with outdated guns’
By our correspondent
Troops on the frontline of the battle against Boko Haram in Borno State are fighting with inadequate equipment, a recently retired military brass has said.
Giving an insight into the war front, the retired officer said until about three months ago when some equipment were brought, soldiers were using Hilux vans instead of Mines Resistance Armoured Personnel Carrier (MRAP) in the battlefront.
The military chief, who spoke in confidence, said National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President Gen. Babagana Monguno’s claim that neither the fund allocated for purchase of equipment nor the equipment could be found, should be thoroughly probed.
The NSA ruffled feather recently when he said: ”The President has done his best by approving huge sums of money for the purchase of weapons but the weapons were not bought; they are not here. Now he has appointed service chiefs, hopefully, they will devise some ways.
“I’m not saying the former service chiefs diverted the money, but the money is missing. We don’t know how and nobody knows for now. I believe Mr. President will investigate where the money went.”
The NSA later stated that he was misquoted in his interview with the BBC Hausa Service.
He clarified: “The orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered. That did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former Service Chiefs.”
The ex-military officer said: “Due to lack of sufficient and right equipment, arms and ammunition, troops have witnessed a situation when 35 Boko Haram fighters displaced 500 soldiers.”
He added: “I was part of Operation Lafiya Dole. Our troops have insufficient equipment, arms and ammunition. Most of the tanks you see are old.
“In terms of logistics, there is no army in the world that fights using soft-skin vehicles. Instead of using these Hilux vehicles, we should deploy Mines Resistance Armoured Personnel Carrier (MRAP) that will resist fire. Dane guns can pierce through Hilux. No Army uses that.
If you enter mines with Hilux, the mines will tear everything into pieces, including soldiers.ADVERTISEMENT
“On whether troops have received some of the arms bought, the source said: “You are talking of equipment? Most of the equipment you see, like these new artillery guns, were bought three months ago. And they are not sufficient.
“For arms, we need to take stock of the budget and the supply. These people long time ago said they can do it and the Buhari Administration released fund. The question is: How many MRAP, gun trucks, and tanks did they buy?
“One might not know the amount of money given out but for Gen. Monguno to have come out to say something, clarifying he didn’t imply that funds were misappropriated, the government should look into what is happening at the frontline because a detailed investigation may reveal where the arms ended up.
“The new Service Chiefs knew what they inherited but they cannot go to the National Assembly to open up. By virtue of their office, there are certain things they cannot disclose because they border on national security. The country needs to know if the former service chiefs made reports about missing arms following Boko Haram attacks.
“Troops are demoralised. At a time, within 10 days, we lost more than 30 soldiers. The fighting spirit of our men is zero without arms.”
The source called for a comprehensive audit of the Ordinance Corps or for a committee of retired military generals to interact with troops in the North-East.
“The Ordinance Corps is in charge of arms and ammunition. The President can order a comprehensive audit of the arms, ammunition and military equipment given to the corps for distribution. No bullet can be released to troops without the knowledge and record of the Ordinance.
“What I am suggesting is that members of the National Assembly from the North-East should go to their constituencies and find out the situation of things. They can also help the President and the ongoing probe by the National Assembly by coming up with confidential reports.”
The retired officer also spoke on how Boko Haram had been getting arms despite blockade by the military.
He said: “Boko Haram terrorists do not get supply of arms from outside. The arms they are using, including vehicles, are seized from our troops.
“90 per cent of the arms Boko Haram uses are from the troops. They collected them after attacking military bases. They just come very close to a base and fire. The boys will repel and after exhausting their ammunition, they will run for cover. The Boko Haram terrorists will cart away arms and ammunitions left behind at the base.
“Even some of the vehicles they are using are from the troops. 80 per cent of the vehicles are from our troops. That is why their vehicles are painted in Army colour. The arms are our own; they don’t buy them anywhere.
“They know our position, they gather their boys to attack and they pack things away. Then, the next thing you hear is that we repelled them.”
On how to end the war, the source recommended acquisition of gunships with night fighting facility.
“What we need is to get six helicopter gunships with night fighting capability. We can finish Boko Haram battle within three months or four. We know where they are.
“These South African or Belarus mercenaries they are talking about, are using equipment with night fighting capability. With such gunships, if we go to the camps of the terrorists, we will get them cheaply.”