More facts have emerged on how scores of soldiers were killed while several others were wounded when Boko Haram members engaged troops of the Nigerian Army in a gun duel at Metele in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State.
The incident, which occurred on Sunday evening on the fringes of Lake Chad Basin, saw the insurgents shooting sporadically as they attacked the military base and sacked it. A security source told our correspondent that the insurgents overpowered the military and successfully carted away weapons.
“They opened fire and forcibly gained access into the military base. We lost some soldiers who stood to protect while some are yet to return. From what I got, they were outnumbered and overpowered. It was a sad day for us at the Theatre. The terrorists took advantage of the bad terrain and attacked us; it was really bad on the side of troops,” the source said. Also confirming the attack, a military official, who did not want his name in print, said the village was predominantly occupied by troops and Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF).
“We got the reports that Boko Haram terrorists attacked Metele Village in Kukawa Local Government Area on Sunday, the attack lasted for hours before they eventually penetrated the military base and now the rest is history. “Our concern is that they are becoming stronger and deadly almost on a weekly basis.
The military needs to rise above this. More manpower and intelligence gathering is needed to be deployed,” the official added.
No fewer than 100 soldiers were reportedly killed in the attacks, according to Reuters, a news agency. It claimed that four security sources said around 100 soldiers had died in the recent attack alone, while the fifth security source stated that 96 soldiers had died in recent days, mostly in the Metele attack. Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday suspended plenary and adjourned to Tuesday in honour of the over 40 soldiers reportedly killed by Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State last weekend.
The Senate took the decision following a motion by Senator Andrew Uchendu (APC, Rivers State), who argued that observing a minute silence was not enough to pay homage to the soldiers who lost their lives in defence of the country against terrorism in the North-East. In the resolution, the Senate also directed its Committee on Army to pay a solidarity as well as condolence visit to the troops in the battle front against insurgency in the North- East. The Committee on Army, in conjunction with its Defence counterpart, was also mandated to investigate the causes of loss of troops and if adequate measures were being taken by military authorities to protect their personnel. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, actually reminded the senators of the death of the soldiers following a point of order raised by Senator Ibrahim Dambaba (PDP-Sokoto).
Damababa, a member of the Committee on Army, had drawn the attention of his colleagues to an alleged inactivity by the committee’s leadership headed by Senator George Akume (APC-Benue). He alleged that the committee under Akume had not been carrying out its responsibilities effectively, lamenting that members of the committee had never undertaken any oversight duty on Army projects or operations in the country. While ruling on the Point of Order, Saraki urged the Majority Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan (APC-Yobe), to discuss with the committee’s leadership and report back to the chamber.
It was at this point that Saraki reminded the lawmakers of the fallen soldiers, who paid the ultimate price in their service to the nation and wondered why nobody deemed it necessary to move a motion on the floor of the Senate in their honour. Contributing, Uchendu argued that the Senate should go beyond observing a minute silence to shutting down plenary to demonstrate the legislators’ full respect to the deceased soldiers.
This elicited emotional contributions from several senators, who decried the plight of military personnel fighting insurgency in the North-East. He said: “Mr President and dear colleagues, I have no reasons to doubt the figure (of the 44 dead soldiers), but if that figure is correct, then this Senate must come out and show massive concern, not just one-minute silence.
We must shut down for one whole day in honour of those fallen heroes.” Other contributors included Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, among others.
They all stressed the need for the Senate to show more interest in the affairs of the military and welfare of its personnel, urging that the relevant committees on the Armed Forces should embark on oversight visit to the soldiers on the battle field in the North-East. Consequently, the lawmakers called for a strong resolution, urging the Federal Government and military authorities to adequately equip the personnel and take care of their welfare, among others.
Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South), had initially made three prayers from the motion namely: observance of a one-month silence in honour of the slain soldiers, the condolence visit and investigation by the Army committee. The prayers were all approved Reacting to the incident, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, condemned the spate of terror activities in the North-East. The former vice president called for increased funding for the military so as to equip them and boost their morale enough to contain and combat insecurity in the country. He urged the National Assembly to take action to appropriate funds for the military on a fast-track basis. Atiku said it was unacceptable that terrorists and criminals were frequently better equipped than troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The former vice president said it was the duty of the political elite to put aside political differences and take a united stand to put an end to the growing insecurity.
He said: “The increasing deaths of our servicemen in the hand of terrorists and criminals, especially in the North-East and Middle-Belt, are a clear sign that our troops need to be better funded and better equipped. It is true that funds are scarce, but this is an emergency and if we do not take care of an emergency, it becomes a crisis, which can lead to a total breakdown of law and order – anarchy in essence.
“I have been traveling all over Nigeria and I meet with both Muslim and Christian clerics who tell me that in the North-East and Middle Belt, they now officiate over more funerals than they do marriages and child dedications. This is heart-breaking and we must do something immediately to change the situation.” Atiku said that apart from funding, the Federal Government should review its policy of releasing so-called “repentant” terrorists. The former vice president said it was impossible to de-radicalise these individuals in so short a time. He added that the upsurge in terror activities could be traceable to the release of such detainees.
“These are desperate times for Nigeria and desperate times call for dedication to duty of all concerned. I am tired of issuing condolences for unnecessary deaths. I prefer to make a difference and prevent unnecessary deaths among the gallant men and women of our Armed Forces and the civilian population they took an oath to protect,” he said.