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Pulse Opinion: This is what killing of over 100 soldiers tells us about our nation

The death of 100 soldiers in Metele, Borno, raises a lot of questions about how we are sending soldiers to fight Boko Haram terrorists with inferior weapons.

Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai

Before Boko Haram insurgents killed over 100 Nigerian soldiersright inside their base on November 18/19, 2018, they had struck before, over and over again.

Premium Times investigative reporter, Nicholas Ibekwe, reminds us that we’ve been here before.

“Boko Haram attack on the army base in Metele where over 100 soldiers were reportedly killed, is not the worst attack this year. On July 14, over 200 soldiers were slaughtered in Jili during an attack on the military base there. Due to poor reporting that incident didn't go viral”, Ibekwe shared in a tweet.

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The Jili attack which Ibekwe referenced above is not even the first of its kind as well. Soldiers have become easy targets for terrorists as you would expect, since Boko Haram commenced an insurgency against the Nigerian state in 2009. It is a development that should leave us all very worried. If terrorists can make mincemeat of our soldiers at will, what becomes of the rest of us?

The only reason why everyone is talking about Metele is because the social and online media just couldn't stop talking about it, forcing everyone to eventually talk about it.

The Metele attackraises a lot of questions and concerns. How do terrorists sack an entire army base? Do our fighting forces operate without intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition or reconnaissance facilities? Were there no drones around the base? How come a military base was not secured? If our intelligence gathering is anywhere near top notch, surely this attack could have been nipped in the bud?

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This wasn’t a face-to-face war on the battlefield. This was Boko Haram marching to the home of soldiers and sacking them from their cubicles with merciless precision!

You could imagine the agony on the faces of the soldiers as the terrorists surprised them with sophisticated weaponry and shot them dead one after the other--from point blank range.

I have read chilling accounts of some of the survivors--accounts of soldiers sharing stories of how they are forced to face terrorists with weapons purchased in the ‘80s and how they are made to go to war without food in their bellies.

One soldier narrates how Military Generals feed fat on defense budgets while sending soldiers on the lower rungs of the ladder to go confront Boko Haram fighters with as little motivation as possible.

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“We know about the money the federal government gave to them but the Nigerian Army has turned us into a business.

“All the money federal government gave them to buy weapons… Nigerian Army is buying INNOSON…. All these are obsolete… Oyinbo (the white man) came here and said they are obsolete. All these weapons were bought during the Shagari regime in 1983… they have turned us to business…. federal government you will hear about it….

“All these weapons are not genuine…if you fire two times you have stoppages. This is 1983 when Shagari was head of state… federal government give them money, they go and buy INNOSON, Nigerian made… federal government please help us. Help us”, one survivor of the Metele attack reportedly said in a viral video.

The thrust of this essay is that Metele could have been avoided. Those soldiers who died would be alive today if this were a serious country that knows a thing or two about the sanctity of human life. Like it does everyone else, this country let those soldiers down and led them to Boko Haram’s slaughter slab.

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President Buhari has promised to ensure thatsoldiers get what is due them henceforth. “Our loyal forces have proved their strength over the terrorists and we are ready to give them all the needed support in terms of equipment and manpower to succeed in ending the renewed threat”, the nation’s Commander-in-Chief said in a terse statement.

The president has also summoned military chiefs in the wake of the attacks.

It is imperative to state here that cornering monies meant to equip soldiers on the battlefield was one of the biggest allegations levelled against Military Generals who served under the Goodluck Jonathan era. Some of those Generals are still facing trial for alleged corruption; and a certain Colonel Sambo Dasuki is still in jail for allegedly stealing over N2billion of monies earmarked to purchase ammunition for fighting troops.

It’s 2018 under a president who promised to crackdown on the kind of wanton and brazen corruption that was pretty much the norm under Jonathan, and military bosses are still being accused of depriving their men of weapons and bread. The more things change……

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Beyond the platitudes from all across the country however, the federal government must make sure that the families of the slain soldiers are not abandoned and that they are well taken care of by the state.

If we are really serious about winning the war against violent extremists and terrorists, we have to prioritize the welfare of our soldiers who have been dying like chickens, and arm them sufficiently.

Otherwise, in no time, we’ll all be toast.

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