By Kingsley Omonobi & Ibrahim Hassan
Worried by the plethora of petitions, misinformation, exchange of unsubstantiated text messages and unfounded allegations overpayment of allowances, and other emoluments which personnel of the Armed Forces are entitled to, and the negative effect it could have on morale, military authorities have directed Formation Commanders, Operational and Institutional Commanders to engage troops and clear any grey areas agitating the minds of such troops.
The directive to commanders at all levels, including GOCs, Corp Commanders, Operational Commanders, Commandants of Institutions and equivalent, followed misconceptions about the implementation of the Manual of Financial Administration, MAFA, for the Armed Forces, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 26, 2018.
Petitions sent to NASS, Presidency
Many of the petitions have been sent to the National Assembly and the Presidency.
This came on a day the people of Garkida in Adamawa State raised alarm that Boko Haram insurgents threatened to launch a fresh attack on the area, barely 48 hours after they launched an attack that led to the razing of homes, churches, mosques and other properties, and caused the people to flee en masse into the bush.
On the directive, under the MAFA which implementation ought to have commenced in 2018, several allowances were reviewed and new ones approved for troops towards ensuring a boost to morale, particularly in the current dispensation that the nation is at war not only against terrorism but also against banditry and other national security threats.
Consequently, Incidental Allowances, including Packing or Posting allowances, Terminal Packing allowances, Lodging allowances, were reviewed upwards. So also were Courses allowances for officers, ratings and airmen.
Furthermore, the MAFA spelt out the new Transport allowance packages for students of Course as it applies to officers of the ranks of Majors to Colonels and equivalent, Lieutenants to Captains and equivalent, Sergeants to Army Warrant Officer and equivalent as well as Private to Corporal and equivalent.
Also contained in the MAFA are what personnel are entitled to as Non-Accident Bonus Allowances, Family Passage Allowances and Security Debarment Allowances.
The security Debarment Allowance, in particular, has caused an uproar among troops because since 2018 when it was signed into law, affected military personnel claimed they had not been paid the money which is aimed at keeping them, going pending payment of their gratuities and pensions.
MAFA states explicitly: “Security Debarment Allowance is payable by each service to all personnel on retirement from service. The essence of the allowance is to debar personnel from employing skills acquired in service against the state after retirement and the amount is 10 per cent of annual salary at the time of retirement.’’
For the implementation of payments for Security Debarment allowances, it was discovered that if funding is made available, the Defence Headquarters will be saddled with the responsibility and not the Army, Navy or Airforce authorities as erroneously believed by military personnel.
Investigations, however, revealed that since the signing into law of the MAFA, the dilly dally over firstly, the budgeting and approval of funding for its implementation, which had been in the pipeline, and non-availability or lack of cash backing had seen it’s implementation stalled.
However, many members of the Armed Forces erroneously believed that with Buhari’s signature approving the financial administration, payment and other implementation had since commenced, were convinced that the various services were sitting on their entitlements.
What investigations revealed
Investigations revealed that as at 2020, the National Assembly only appropriated about 48 percent to 50 percent of money needed on the average, hence partial implementation commenced in all the Services which troops are viewing as attempts to shortchange them of their entitlements.
So with the dilemma of its inability to implement the MAFA and to douse the tension, it is generating, the Payment Instructions issued to all formations spelt out monies troops are entitled to, including operations allowances, and directs commanders to create avenues for troops to ask questions on grey areas for clarity of purposes.
Expectations from NASS
In the meantime, a senior military officer who spoke under condition of anonymity said there were expectations that the National Assembly would take the bull by the horns and work to ensure that money for the implementation of MAFA since 2018 is released before that of the year 2020 catches up with the backlog and it increases further to more than N600 billion.
Since 2018 when MAFA became law, for instance, three batches of retirees from the Army, Navy, and Airforce, numbering over 2,500 Non-Commissioned Officers, have attended the pre-retirement courses at the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, NAFRC, Oshodi, and commenced retirement life without getting paid.
Another batch of ex-military men expected to proceed in a few months.
This is besides several hundreds of officer cadre personnel who have retired, having attained 35 years of service, or due to age on rank or having attained the mandatory retirement age.
Why local hunters are deployed
Meanwhile, the Police in Adamawa State weekend, explained why local hunters were necessary for the fight against the insurgents who dealt a heavy blow on Garkida town.
They said only the hunters who reside in the locality knew the terrain, according to a BBC Hausa report monitored by journalists in Kaduna.
The PPRO of Adamawa State Command, Suleiman Yahaya Ngoroji, said the Police could only succeed if the locals cooperated and exposed strangers among them.
“We assure you that we are collaborating with the Army and local hunters to protect life and property of citizens, and to prevent future occurrence of such attack.
‘’The local hunters reside in the affected community. If you really want to know the geography of a place, it’s necessary to work with the natives of that place. They will show us all entry and exit points,” he said.
The local hunters, journalists were told, have the spiritual powers to disappear when faced with danger, apart from an aphrodisiac which made it impossible for any sharp object or bullet to pierce their skin.
A resident of Garkida told the BBC Hausa Service on condition of anonymity, that the insurgents had indicated plans to launch another attack on the town.
According to the displaced residents, “many have fled on foot..even if you have the money, there are no vehicles because of the high number of people on the run.
“I had to leave my family behind. Everybody is scared because they (Boko Haram) sent a new message that they are coming back.
“We are afraid because there is a route that links us with Guyuk, Chibok and up to Sambisa.
‘’That is why we are afraid of another attack. The last attack lasted from 7 0’clock up till midnight, they vandalised the town, set houses on fire, razed a hospital and three churches.
‘’They killed two security agents; we have no information of the dead among the town dwellers because we all scampered for safety.”
However, the PPRO, Mr.Suleiman Yahaya, assured that security had been beefed up in Garkida.
He said: “Truly, houses and churches were burnt, police facility and a mini Army barracks too. But Investigation is still on by the police to ascertain the number of the dead.”
He, therefore, sought the cooperation of the community to report any strange development or faces to the authority.