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Boko Haram: Starving troops’ story fake news – Lai Mohammed

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed, Tuesday, described media reports that Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram in the North East were starving and ill-kitted, as fake news.

He told a press conference, in Abuja, that the troops were being fed centrally, thrice daily and that it was, therefore, not possible, for any of them to starve, as claimed in the report.

Alh. Mohammed said that the troops were making great sacrifices for the nation and that the public should support and pray for them.

His words, “Recall, gentlemen, that a little over three months ago, precisely on July 11th 2018, we launched a National Campaign Against Fake News.


“At the launch, we said the campaign is to sensitize all Nigerians to the dangers posed to the peace and security, and indeed the corporate existence of Nigeria, by the phenomenon. We said that each and every
Nigerian has a role to play in curtailing the spread of fake news. We also said Nigerians should not share any information they cannot verify.

“Two months and 10 days after the launch, specifically on Sept.21st 2018, an online publication reported alleged deplorable conditions of the troops who are fighting Boko Haram in the North East.

Quoting a phantom Corporal, with the pseudonym Gandoki, said to be serving with one of the Special Forces Units in the theatre of
operation, the publication alleged that troops deployed in particular along Gubio Road and the Brig.-Gen. Maimalari Secondary School were begging for food to survive, were poorly kitted with some wearing slippers and were facing irregular/short payment of their allowances. The publication also reported non-serviceable equipment in the theatre.

“These allegations have grave implications for the security of the nation, hence the allegations were taken
seriously by the President and Commander-in-Chief, who subsequently ordered an investigation to determine the veracity or otherwise of the claims in the publication.

“The investigation has since been concluded and, in line with the transparent stance of this Administration, I have invited you here today to share with you the outcome.

“The summary of the findings is that there is no case of hunger, starvation or begging among the troops fighting in the North East, and in particular in the Armed Forces Special Forces Battalion that was referenced in the
publication.

“There is also no irregular/short payment of allowances, while claims of poor equipment, inadequate kitting and accommodation are found to be ill-conceived and unfounded.

“Let me elaborate. The troops in question, deployed at Brig.-Gen. Maimalari Secondary School along Gubio Road, are being fed centrally three times a day, and are kitted immediately after their training before they are deployed in the theatre.

“How then can soldiers who are fed centrally be starving or begging for food? Concerning the payment
of allowances, the monthly allowances of troops of the AFSF Battalion are being paid directly into their various accounts from the Defence Headquarters, hence they cannot be shortchanged.

“On the allegation of poor equipment and inadequate kitting, it was found that the inflow of logistics into the theatre in the past six months showed an enormous quantity of material was distributed to troops in the theatre. “Needless to say that no army in the world has all the requisite equipment to prosecute a counter-insurgency
operation

“There is no issue of hunger, improper kitting of soldiers, non-payment or short-payment of soldiers’ allowances and poor equipment at the AFSF Battalion or in any other units within OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE theatre.”

On the claim of poor accommodation in the operational environment, the minister said, “By their training, soldiers in theatres of war are usually in trenches, tents or other makeshift structures. Fighting insurgency is not a walk in the park and the gallant men and women in uniform who are engaged in counter-insurgency operation in the North East are not on a luxurious expedition. The battlefront is no playground.”

The minister noted that Nigerians troops engaged in the war against the terrorists were making great sacrifices and that the general public owed them prayers and support.

He said, “Our men and women in uniform are making great sacrifices for us as a nation. They stay awake and are constantly in harm’s way so that you and I can sleep well and be safe. I saw this first hand when I took over 30 local and international journalists to the North East in December 2015.

“As we drove from Maiduguri to Bama, passing through Konduga, Kaure and other towns along the way, we saw gallant troops deployed on desolate roads and bushes. We saw them perched on very high towers, where they stay for hours on end. We marveled at the sacrifices they are all making on our behalf. The least we can do is to support and pray for them.

“Engaging in the publication of what I can now call fake news about the troops on Sept. 21st 2018 is not only a great disservice to the nation, but a terrible downplay of the kind of sacrifices being made by our gallant troops. Such reports amount to collaborating with fifth columnists and enemies of the nation to weaken the fighting
spirit of our fighting forces. In short, they (the reports) represent a clear and present danger to the nation’s security.”

Alh. Mohammed appealed to the media to check the veracity of whatever information they received from any source before publishing such.

According to him, “It is particularly necessary to double-check with the government before publishing any information from the theatre of operation in the North East.”

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