Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Former vice president and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has called on the federal government to speak out on the alleged secret burial of 1000 Nigerian soldiers said to have been killed by Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgents in the northeast.
The Wall Street Journal had reported that the “Nigeria Army has been accused of operating several ‘secret grave yards’ according to some troop members in a report by the Wall Street Journal. “Several of my comrades were buried in unmarked graves at night,” said a soldier from the Maimalari barracks, where more than 1,000 soldiers are based. “They are dying and being deleted from history.”
In his reaction contained in a statement that he personally signed, Atiku said, “I read the report by the Wall Street Journal that over a thousand Nigerian soldiers have been secretly buried at night by the General Muhammadu Buhari led administration, in order to hide the true state of the war on terror, with a sense of heartbreak and shock”.
The former vice president said that he is heart broken over the secret burial of the Nigerian soldiers killed by the insurgents, even where it is a single Nigerian soldier that was killed.
According to Atiku, “Heartbreak for the families and friends of those soldiers who, if the report is true, have lost their loved ones, without being allowed to bury them or even to have any sense of closure as regards their fate.
“Shock, that such a thing could happen under a democracy, such as Nigeria is supposed to be. I shudder to think that the cover-up of such an event of epic proportions can be true.
“The men and women of our armed forces are our first, second and last defence against our domestic and foreign enemies and should be treated with love, respect, dignity and appreciation for the invaluable service they render to Nigeria.
“I cannot fathom that in the space of a year, 1000 of these great patriots were killed and buried secretly without their families being told. I hesitate to believe that deceit on such a grand scale is even possible”.
Atiku said that to ensure Nigerians get to the root of this secret burial that it would be better a judicial panel of inquiry was set up to unveil the truth and circumstances behind it.
“To ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter, I urge that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a non-partisan and reputable jurist, be inaugurated to investigate the findings of the Wall Street Journal. While this is occurring,
“I also strongly urge that a panel of inquiry comprising distinguished former military officers be set up to investigate and report to Nigerians the true state of the war on terror and what must be done to ensure Nigeria brings a speedy end to the ongoing insurgency”.
He said that Nigeria must ensure prudent use of finances, so that it can redistribute national resources in such a way that ensures that the military and security forces are well armed and well remunerated.
The former vice president further said, “Even the death of one soldier affects me. But the alleged cover-up of the deaths of one thousand soldiers is a national emergency that should shock all statesmen and leaders of thoughts into action to save Nigeria”.