by Temitayo Famutimi
The Defence Headquarters has said it is aware that members of the outlawed Islamist sect, Boko Haram, are in the habit of looting its armoury.
The military authorities stated that they were making efforts to secure all armouries in its various formations across the country.
Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, made the disclosure during his first real-time Twitter chat which held on Sunday night.
The army general was, however, not categorical about the grades of weapons just as he did not name the armouries that have so far been looted by the insurgents.
“We are taking measures to ensure that our armouries are secured. We agree and are aware Boko Haram has stolen arms,” Olukolade said while responding to an inquiry by one of the participants of the Twitter chat.
The Defence spokesman explained that the military high command frowned on the proliferation of arms, noting that inter-agency cooperation had recently been heightened to contain the menace.
According to Olukolade, the policing of Nigerian borders with other West African neighbours have been repositioned in view of the security threats posed by the Boko Haram insurgents.
“Interagency collaboration has been heightened; from all indications policing of our borders has increased. Our strategic information-sharing policy considers transparency, security, propriety and accuracy in reporting to the public,” he added.
Warning that the military would deal decisively with saboteurs among its officers and men engaged in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the North East, Olukolade said the service chiefs were “monitoring all personnel both in the frontline and rear”, adding that “suspicious people are being vetted.”
Dismissing the insinuation that top military commanders were feeding large on the entitlements of the rank and file of the armed forces, the military spokesman argued that the quality of food being provided for the officers and men at the battlefront are the same.
He claimed that the welfare package for the slain officers and men who die on the battlefield was attractive.
“The food they (officers and men) eat is within standards and best diet design as practicable. All eat the same food, be it officers or soldiers.
“By the way, there are two levels of insurance covering all soldiers and men involved in the anti-terror war. There is the Personnels’ Service Arm insurance, the Defence Headquarters Insurance package which is different from the gratuity, death benefits and children scholarships. On honour for slain soldiers, we do give due and befitting burials,” Olukolade said.
According to him, since Shekau has been killed by the military forces, the Armed Forces would remain focused by maintaining the tempo of “firepower to ensure that we sweep them (Boko Haram) off their nuisance hotspots.”
Insisting that the Defence Headquarters would not concede any portion of Nigeria to terrorists, Olukolade said the surveillance and air operations were ongoing with a view to exerting control and ensure minimum collateral damage.
Olukolade further said that the Nigerian Armed Forces were better armed, responsive and service oriented when placed in comparison with their Cameroonian counterparts.
“We welcome input from allies. It still remains our duty to get best results for our people. We are exchanging ideas and intelligence.
“We have a Nigerian-led Multinational Joint Task Force particularly on the Lake Chad Basin area. Cameroon is inactive in this.
“Any campaign to suggest that our Army is weaker than Boko Haram, Cameroon’s or any other force is a campaign against Nigeria.
“There is so much eagerness to discredit us and make us bow psychologically. I am working for my country. No denials.
“They are trying to pitch the soldiers against the leadership. Any military that loses leadership is doomed for the nation.
“Officers are paid to manage soldiers. Civilians can’t control them. Anarchy looms if authority loses grip.”
Olukolade added that there was no time frame to putting an end to the insurgency as terrorism is usually a long fight.
He, thereafter, warned the media against what he described as the undermining of structures.
“This is not the time to prove that the pen is mightier than the sword. Nigerian media should not undermine structures. We appeal to foreign and the local press to be circumspect and be consistent with democracy and public interests.
“We agree that there is such a need to review its (military) communication mechanism and we have engaged with various stakeholders to maintain robust counter-terrorist communications,” he said.