Maiduguri — Hundreds of wives of soldiers serving under the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army yesterday in Maiduguri took to the streets to protest a planned deployment of their husbands to reclaim Gwoza and other volatile areas in southern Borno which were seized by Boko Haram insurgents.
This was the second time the women were protesting over the deployments.
The women burnt tyres along the streets, accusing army commanders of exploiting the war on terror for pecuniary gains. The protest hampered the deployment of soldiers to Gwoza which has remained under Boko Haram control.
The protesters alleged that top military commanders in both the North East and Abuja were "endangering" the lives of their husbands by forcing them to the frontlines without the appropriate weapons to fight.
The women also alleged that Boko Haram fighters have superior firepower and also get "security reports" on the movement of Nigerian troops, thereby making it easy for troops to run into ambush.
The women blocked the main gate of the 21 Armoured Brigade, also known as Giwa Barracks, and refused to accept pleas from army officers.
During the earlier protest on Saturday, the women, accompanied by their grown up daughters and little children, alleged that most of the arms being used by their husbands were old with limited ammunitions. They added that the armoured tanks being deployed to the frontlines were obsolete and unserviceable. Saturday's protest forced the military authorities to shelve the idea of sending more soldiers to Gwoza, Daily Trust gathered. The deployment issue resurfaced yesterday but the women rose again in resistance. Some of them laid in front of the barrack gate, saying they had rather been killed before their husbands were taken to Gwoza.
"We won't allow our husbands to be killed because the military authorities have refused to do what is right," Jummai, one of the protesters, said.
"On Saturday, dozens of innocent soldiers were buried, authorities only said 'sorry' to bereaved wives. Before one officer is killed in the battle front, more than 30 soldiers are wasted, not because they don't know how to fight but simply because the authorities have refused to do what is right."
Another woman, Rahila, said: "Our husbands are supposed to defend their fatherland in the face of both international and national aggression as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, but that can only be possible when they are given modern fighting equipment and properly motivated as obtained in other countries.
"During the recent fund raising for terror victims, President Goodluck Jonathan promised that equipment would be supplied to the war zone, we want him to fulfil that promise because even if he sends all the soldiers in Nigeria to this place, they will not defeat the Boko Haram until they have the wherewithal to do so."
Some of the soldiers earmarked for the Gwoza mission declared support for their wives. They spoke to Daily Trust on condition that their names would not be mentioned.
"We are glad that our wives are standing by us. If for instance I and my colleagues take to the streets, we would be charged for mutiny even though everyone knows that our complaint is genuine," one of them said.
"The earlier Nigerian authorities did the right thing, the better for all us. I want to assure you that if we can get the fighting equipment we want, we will finish the Boko Haram in two weeks."
While troops are yet to go to Gwoza, over 5,000 residents of the town are reportedly trapped on the Mandara mountain.
Some residents who fled through Madagali in Adamawa State found their way to Maiduguri where they joined Gwoza people resident in Maiduguri.
They said hundreds of houses, the emir's palace, council secretariat, government lodge, police divisional office and other symbols of authority have been destroyed.
Meanwhile, the Emir of Gwoza who has been missing since the attack on the town is alive and safe, a senator from Borno State told the BBC Hausa radio yesterday.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume said though he had not spoken to the emir, he was aware that he is alive and in a safe place.