THE Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, claimed on Tuesday that the recent revisit by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Army showed that 847 soldiers were buried at a military cemetery in Maiduguri, Borno State.
He said the casualties were those who died as a result of insurgency in the state from 2013 to date.
Ndume said the allegation that the military had a secret cemetery for mass burial of personnel was false.
He decried the allocation of N100billion for Defence in the 2020 budget, saying it was too small to make a significant impact in the ongoing war against insurgents and bandits across the country.
Ndume, who addressed Senate correspondents in Abuja, said: “The commitment of the Armed Forces to this country is unparalleled to none.
“With the conditions they find themselves and that they 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 by the Armed Forces.
“We went to see how well kitted they are. We also visited the Army hospital.
“We are in a war. When you are in a war situation and you are budgeting N10.3trillion and you are allocating less than one per cent to Defence, that does not show that you are serious about it.
“Defence is allocated N100 billion. I was hoping that it is 10 per cent. One per cent of N10.33 trillion should be N130 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 invested $848 billion. So far, the international community that are not affected, have so far donated $547 million – over N140 billion – while the government is budgeting N38 billion for NEDC.
“If 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, bullet proof vests, better rifles cannot be provided with N100 billion.
“The war is won, but Boko Haram needs to be eliminated.”
He said Boko Haram don’t only attack civilians, but also the military.
“So far, from the record we saw in the cemetery, I think we lost over 847 soldiers – by their record there and that is in that cemetery alone. That is from 2013 to date,” he said.
Ndume added: “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. The Nigerian Army will never do that.
“In fact, if any of them is missing, they go out to search and get the person before declaring whether or not he is dead and even if he is dead, they make attempts to retrieve the body.
We went, we asked questions. That is not true.”
He said the Senate would investigate that non-governmental organisations have been aiding and abetting insurgents.
Ndume said: “Another area the Senate will look into is the allegation that the 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’m sure that the money that was paid came from the government but those in-between, what are they talking about?
“They want to create a 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 Sharibu.
“These are the questions that should be asked. Nobody is safe.”