- Obasanjo, military chiefs warn of prolonged war against insurgency
- Buhari directs service chiefs to promptly settle fallen soldiers’ entitlements
Omololu Ogunmade and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
There are growing concerns that the insurgency war in the North-east is being prolonged by massive external funding from fundamentalist groups and foreign nations, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.
Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo also added his voice to these concerns Wednesday, saying foreign funding for Boko Haram has risen to 50 per cent.
However, in a bid to boost troops’ morale, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered service chiefs to take urgent steps to settle the entitlements of soldiers affected by insurgency across the country as well as the welfare packages designed for their dependents.
Obasanjo’s assertion came as top military sources expressed concerns that the war against insurgency is prolonged by foreign funding and interference.
Also, a group, National Democratic Front (NDF), has criticised the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, over his claim that 847 soldiers were killed by insurgents in the last six years.
Intelligence sources yesterday told THISDAY that the possession of sophisticated weapons for insurgents, logistics and medical supplies by different terror groups showed signs of funding by foreign interests.
A source told THISDAY: “We have seen these types of automatic weapons when they are dislodged or killed. These are not ordinary weapons; they are sophisticated machine guns and rifles and sometimes they have tanks that are not our tanks.
“We have seen weapons with numbers that show that they were not just sourced through the black market but directly supplied by known arms manufacturers from particular countries.”
The source stated that investigations had shown that some foreign-based Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) were being used to supply fuel, food and medication in the guise of humanitarian aid.
“Physical and documentary evidence that indicate foreign funding for these people (insurgents) are everywhere and those who should know are aware of it. Are you not aware of the ties between ISIS, ISWAP and Boko Haram? Do you not know that ISIS is funded by some nations and that is the same with this insurgency war? How do you even buy a single bullet as a non-state actor without significant funding?” the source queried.
In a video seen by THISDAY, Obasanjo revealed that foreign funding for Boko Haram had reached 50 per cent compared to 10-15 per cent as at 2011.
Obasanjo spoke at the President Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington on “Managing Nigeria’s Diversity Amidst Rising Ethno-religious Tensions.”
He said when he first inquired from intermediaries about Boko Haram’s external support, he was informed that it was just about 10-15 per cent as much of their funding was local then.
However, upon recent inquiry, the former president said he was told external support for Boko Haram is now 50 per cent
He said: “Let me say this, the issue of Boko Haram is an internally generated issue. When I went to Maiduguri, I asked how much was Boko Haram externalised and the man, who was talking to me, the middle man between me and Boko Haram leadership, who were out of the country, said may be 10 to 15 per cent and I said how do you know.
“He said he knew the leaders; they are not men of any means and that they are bringing in some new weapons and that somebody must be paying for those weapons either Nigerians, who have the resources, or some external resources.
“Three years ago, I asked the same man, how much is Boko Haram externalised, he said at least 50 per cent. Now if that is the case we are in danger.”
Foreign interest in oil deposits around Lake Chad is also believed to be fuelling the insurgency.
A security source had told THISDAY that some countries were scheming for the oil and funding insurgents as a way of mounting pressure on Nigeria in order to secure a stake.
The source spoke against the backdrop of the recent announcement by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that it just discovered oil in the North-east.
Said the source: “If Nigeria starts her own exploration, it would be against French interest.
“The topography of the area where you have the crude oil deposits is tilted towards Nigerian side and when Nigeria starts exploration, they will lose out.
“Some lecturers were taken to that area to conduct a survey and on their way back, Boko Haram ambushed them and killed all of them.”
Non-governmental Organisations have also been accused of engaging in activities prolonging the war.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had also raised the alarm that some NGOs operating in the North-east were keeping over 50 bank accounts and warned banks to desist from such practice or face the wrath of the law.
“Now look at this scenario. Go to Maiduguri. Foreign Non-governmental Organisations have booked all the hotels there but here is the most interesting part. They paid to stay in hotels in Maiduguri for 10-15 years.
“How do you explain that? So, they and their backers are working to ensure that the war never ends,” the military source added.
A Boko Haram fighter recently killed in Gubio by troops of the Nigerian Army was reportedly carrying an identification card of a France-based NGO, Première Urgence Internationale.
He was identified as a pharmacist working with the French NGO but allegedly had direct dealings with Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, NDF has accused Ndume of insensitivity to the plight of families who lost soldiers in the war.
It also accused him of having links with the insurgents by the way he has spoken.
In a statement signed by Secretary General, Dr. Bolaji Abdulkadir, the NDF reckoned it was time to address Ndume’s alleged inglorious role in the Boko Haram conundrum.
It said: “The National Democratic Front is constrained in light of the shameful and dishonourable statement credited to Senator Ali Ndume, the senator representing Borno South Senatorial District of Borno State, wherein he mischievously stated that over 847 soldiers had been killed by Boko Haram and buried in Borno cemetery.
“The statement credited to Senator Ali Ndume is not only mischievous.
“The National Democratic Front views his utterances as insensitive and an affront to the sensibilities of those whose families and relatives have been affected in one way or the other by the Boko Haram crisis.”
Settle Entitlements, Welfare Packages of Victims, Buhari Tells Security Chiefs
Meanwhile, Buhari has ordered the service chiefs to take urgent steps to settle the entitlements of soldiers affected by insurgency and to pay promptly the welfare packages designed for their dependents.
The president stated this Wednesday when he inaugurated the 2020 Emblem Appeal Launch for the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration in Abuja.
According to him, it is the responsibility of government to ensure that the families of fallen heroes do not suffer the loss of their loved ones and at the same time be deprived of their due benefits.
He said the federal government would continue to do all within its powers to look after the bereaved families.
“The unfortunate cost of the war against insurgency and other internal security operations is the loss of lives of some of our officers and men in the armed forces.
“These very sad occurrences create deep wounds to loved ones. It is, therefore, our duty to ensure that the loss of these bread winners does not relegate the spouses and dependents to a life of want and deprivation.
“Government will do all in its powers to look after the bereaved,’’ he added.
The president said the federal government established the Nigerian Legion to ensure that the veterans continue to share the comradeship that existed while in service and adequately cater for their welfare at exit.
He expressed delight that the legion was carrying out initiatives in transportation, agriculture, housing and other ventures in partnership with the private sector.
“I am happy to note that the legion has continued to be a rallying point of veterans and has done its part in catering for the welfare of their ailing members.
“I enjoin the leadership of the legion to continue in this spirit. I also urge Nigerians to accord them the needed support, friendship and patronage.
“As the grand patron of the Nigerian Legion, I wish to pledge my continued support and that of the federal government to the organisation,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Defence, retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, had appealed for support from Nigerians for families of those left behind by the country’s fallen heroes.
He said: “The launch of the emblem, which is a symbol of the 2020-Armed Forces and Remembrance Day, is one of the ways of supporting the families of the dead, caring for the wounded and the veterans that are still alive.
“In the course of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria against internal aggression, officers and men of the armed forces face daunting challenges; many laid down their lives while others survive with varying degrees of incapacitation.
“That notwithstanding, they have continued to dedicate themselves to the onerous and patriotic duty of protecting their fatherland.
“We therefore owe them as a nation and people. We also owe their families care and support at all times,’’ he said.