By Peter Clottey
The Nigerian army said it would pay for the education of at least four children for each soldier killed in the counterinsurgency fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the northern region of the country.
The army’s sponsorship official said they would include paying the school fees for the children from primary level until they complete tertiary levels of education.
While welcoming the announcement, Nigerians have also urged the army to ensure the slain soldiers’ families do not face challenges to access the plan through corruption or incompetence, which they say often permeate state institutions.
Nigerian military spokesman Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said the army had established an insurance policy for the soldiers to ensure the families they leave behind are properly taken care of.
“We have a welfare scheme for both officers and soldiers of the Nigerian army, especially for their dependents or next of kin in the event of inevitable unforeseen [death]. For instance, if the soldiers is injured or ultimately loses their life, his family will be adequately taken care of,” Usman said.
“We also have group life insurance and we have provisions for sponsorship for at least four children of the deceased officer or soldier, right from primary school, secondary or high school and of course tertiary institutions,” he said.
Usman made the remarks following the army’s announcement that it had made significant progress in the counterinsurgency fight against Boko Haram in the militants’ hideout in the Sambisa Forest.
He said in the “notorious” part of the forest, several militants were killed and others captured. Those captured are providing intelligence, Usman said, adding the army is acting on in a bid to end the insurgency.
“Just yesterday, one Musa Abdullahi was captured by our troops, and of course he gave insight about some of the atrocities being committed. We were able to recover quite a number of weapons,” Usman said.
‘These guys are unrelenting’
“These guys are unrelenting and with each coming day they come up with new strategies. For instance, they tend to use communication gadgets to set up booby traps apart from the normal improvised explosive devices they bury on the ground. But our troops are up to the task,” he said.
Usman added Boko Haram is also contaminating the source of water in the communities where they have been routed out.
Local media reported that Boko Haram militants have resorted to selling cattle to generate funds for their insurgency.
Usman confirmed the reports, adding that it shows the army’s continued pressure on the militants has forced them to abandon their regular sources of income, which includes taxing people who reside in communities Boko Haram previously controlled.
“Initially, they were having a field day … but as we closed onto their respective supply routes, denying them freedom of action, freedom of movement and of course freedom of their source of logistics supply they’ve devised several other means using a third party, either by way of trading some goods and maybe animals. … And that is what led to the closure of some of the markets, because the markets acted as meeting points for some of them,” Usman said.
“With each passing day we get intelligence and information and we act on it,” he said. “I can confidently say that in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria, we are gaining tremendous success and in no distant time, we can beat our chest and say, yes peace and stability have come to stay in our country.”
But critics said President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has yet to defeat the militants who continue to launch attacks on civilians, even after the government said it had technically defeated the Boko Haram militants.
Peter Clottey is a contributor to VOA