Contrary to claims by the Nigerian Army that 23 soldiers died in the recent attack by Boko Haram insurgents on Nigerian Army 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Borno State, one of the soldiers who survived said no fewer than 200 people lost their lives in the incident.
He also said that Boko Haram members, who were earlier arrested by soldiers in the battalion but later released by superior authorities, were among the attackers.
But Defence Headquarters in a reaction, dismissed all the allegations raised by the surviving soldier, insisting that only 23 soldiers were killed in Metele attack.
The soldier, who disclosed these, yesterday, to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said the video being circulated as depicting the Metele attack was the video of an earlier attack on soldiers in Jeli. He further noted that the wrong location of the base, faulty Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs, and absence of aerial support from the Nigerian Air Force made it possible for the insurgents to inflict heavy casualties on the soldiers.
However, the surviving soldier appealed to President Buhari to disregard the information being given to him, saying that apart from the poor equipment deployed to the battlefield, soldiers were being owed six months allowances.
Consequently, he urged the President to review the welfare packages of those fighting the war, alleging they are being underpaid by the authorities.
Also, he regretted that the ground troops were not getting enough support from the Air Force, saying while Boko Haram insurgents monitored their activities with drones, the Air Force hardly carry out such tasks in enemy camps. Continuing, the soldier, who said the Army does not have an accurate data of those on the war front, added that the Air Force always attribute alleged inability to support them to poor visibility.
His words: “The information about the Metele attack by the head of the Army, especially the Chief of Staff is wrong. I do not think they are doing what they are being paid to do. Soldiers are being killed daily, and their families are not being catered for properly. Last year, a celebration was hosted in Maiduguri to make sure that Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs returned to their respective areas. One hundred and fifty (150) vehicles left Abuja for Maiduguri for the exercise, 15 suddenly got missing and the 15 vehicles that got missing were painted green, with Operation Last Hold written on them. They are the vehicles being used in attacking military locations, including Gagiram that was first attacked.
“The attack led to the death of a Captain and 11 others, but they told the press and others that we lost only seven soldiers. Even if seven soldiers died, was it right to describe the figure as only? I think Nigeria is in a state of war. For us to lose about 11 soldiers and them called it just seven it is not true…”
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters yesterday dismissed insinuations that troops in the North-East battling Boko Haram terrorists were not properly fed, adding that there was no iota of truth in the allegations that soldiers wounded in Metele attacks were paying for their drugs.
It also denied that over 170 soldiers died in the recent attack carried by the terrorists at Metele Village in Borno State, reaffirming that only 23 soldiers died, with 31 others wounded.
The Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim, reacting to the allegations while speaking to Vanguard on the telephone, insisted that the military authorities were fully responsible for all the needs of the troops in the North East and asked the general public to disregard the allegations he described as not only baseless but also unfounded.