Former Senate Leader and Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, All Progressives Congress, APC, Borno South, Tuesday raised the alarm that Nigeria as a country was in a war situation following the continued cases of armed banditry and insurgency.
Ndume lamented that budgeting less than one percent of the 10.33 trillion 2020 Budget set aside for Defence was not reasonable and re relatively too Small to address the security challenges in the country.
Addressing Journalists on Tuesday in Abuja on the findings by his Colleagues who recently returned from Maiduguri, Senator Ndume disclosed that 840 Nigerian soldiers have been killed by the Boko Haram terrorists from 2013 till date and were buried in the Military cemetery located in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
According to him, the figure did not include other soldiers killed by the insurgents and buried in other military cemeteries located in other parts of the North-East geopolitical zone.
Ndume who denied reports of mass burial of soldiers killed by the terrorists said that the Senate panel was already investigating allegations that some non governmental agencies operating in the North-East, were providing useful information to the Boko Haram leaders.
Speaking further, Ndume said, ” We have resolved to work with the house committee on Army. The committent of the Armed forces to this country is unparallel to none. For the conditions they find themselves and still decide to sacrifice their lives for the country – is commendable.
“We even visited the cemetery because as you know, there have been reports of mass burial in the armed forces. We went to see how well kitted they are. we also visited the army hospital was attacked twice.
“We are in a war when you are in a war situation and you are budgeting 10.3 trillion and you are allocating less than one per cent to defence, that does not show that you are serious about it. Defence is allocated 100bn. I was hoping that its 10 per cent. one per cent of 10.33 trillion should b 130 billion.
“Right now, IDPs are moving from unsafe zones to what they think is a safe zone and that is putting more pressure on the government. International communities have requested $848 billion. So far, the international community that is not affected, have so far donated $547 million – over N140 billion – while the Nigerian government is budgeting N38 billion for NEDC.
More than half of the budget is given to security, it is worth it. Because without it, all these things that you are doing – infrastructure, hospitals – will not work.
“Better kits, bulletproof vests, better riffles cannot be provided for with the sum of Nbillion. The war is won but Boko Haram needs to be defeated. They don’t only attack civilians but the military as well. So far, fro the record we saw in the cemetery, I think we lost over 847 soldiers – by their record here. and that is in that cemetery alone.
“That is from 2013 to date. And just so you know they have cemeteries elsewhere where they bury victims. But that allegation that there is mass burial, is not true. Nigerians don’t do that. Nigerian army will never do that.
“In fact is any of them is missing, they go out to search and get the person before declaring whether pr not he is dead and even f he is dead, they make attempts to retrieve the body.
“We went, we asked questions. That is not true. Another area that the Senate will look into is the allegation that the various NGOs in that area are conniving with the insurgents – providing them information, logistics and so many things.
“I have been critical about this and people have told me to be careful but it has come out now that one or two of the so-called NGOs operating there are actually aiding and abetting and supporting the insurgents but we will do an investigation and we will hear if we have the evidence.
“So far, we have evidence. we just want to make it credible. the evidence is there and the common questions are even there. I have asked them before –
“When Chibok girls were released, we were very happy and jubilating, some people went and negotiated for their release. When Dapchi girls were abducted, only one was remaining, but you negotiated for the rest. Then what happened with the only one?
“Government cooperated. I am sure that the one that the money that was paid came from government, but those in-between, what are they talking about?
“They want to create problem? If I am the one negotiating and I have 100 Muslims that can be released, for that one Christian that will not be released, I’ll cut off the deal.
“If you are giving me these children, give all of them to me but if you are keeping one, keep all of them. But nobody is talking. Everybody is just saying bring back Leah. These are the questions that should be asked. Nobody is safe.”