Outraged at the increasing atrocities of insurgents, especially the killing of dozens of troops by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State, Nigerian citizens and groups have urged an investigation into spending by the military.
This came as presidency sources confirmed that a meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and military chiefs was again held yesterday at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
The Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP) expressed "concern that several billions of naira allocated to the military to defend the country have neither contributed to improving the ability of Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram and other armed groups nor provided the much-needed security especially for Nigerians in the northeast of the country."
In an open letter to the president by SERAP's senior legal adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju, the organisation said: "Opacity and deficiencies in the way arms purchases are decided and controlled, if not urgently addressed, would continue to expose our soldiers to risk of attacks and killings; displace people and destroy their means of livelihoods and render them homeless, thereby undermining human rights, including the right to life, right to personal security, right to education and right to livelihood."
It also urged Buhari to "immediately refer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) pursuant to Article 13 of the Rome Statute, all allegations of corruption in the spending of funds meant to purchase arms to empower Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram, including the apparent diversion and sharing of the over $2 billion under the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan and approved spending by your own government."
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on its part, blamed the Federal Government and the army for sabotaging the war through the release of so-called repentant fighters. It questioned the wisdom in freeing terrorists when their other members are engaged in serious battles with the military.
"This government by this atrocious sabotage of our laws has made the country a laughing stock in the international community and has encouraged the continuous waging of war against the Nigerian state by armed non-state actors, since it would seem that some persons in top government and military positions are milking Nigeria dry from the humongous cash voted for national security."
In a statement by National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko in Abuja yesterday, HURIWA said: "If there is anyone who should be tried for undermining national security, it should be the defence contractors and military chiefs who are diverting arms' fund to their private pockets and buying substandard weapons for the troops, which is why so many of them are being killed by Boko Haram."
Expressing "grief" and a "heavy heart" at the killing of the soldiers, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), John Gbor, at the weekend noted: "Early this year, about $1 billion was sought to buy ammunition to fight terrorism. What did we get since? Recently, trans border terrorists killed no fewer than 70 soldiers plus a commander following an attack on 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele. Worse still, a large cache of arms and ammunition and military equipment were carted off."
In a statement released in Ibadan by the Director of Strategic Communication, John Gbor Campaign Organisation, Comrade Mike Angel, the presidential hopeful criticised the Buhari government for allegedly turning the fight against terrorism into a "hotbed of corruption." Sambisa Forest is now "a metaphor for a cash cow that needs to be castrated," he added.
Similarly, the presidential candidates of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, asked the government to be "more honest on the challenges it appears to be facing" in prosecuting the campaign against Boko Haram.
Making the disclosure in a statement yesterday, she said the Federal Government "must take measures to assess the failure of leadership of the service chiefs," because "performance, accountability and consequence have been missing for far too long and must now change."
She noted further: "It is no longer acceptable for our heroes to die and not be accorded the honour of gallantry. The Federal Government and the military must accord full military burial rites to the fallen soldiers and also publish the list of others who have died and have been buried discretely in recent times without giving the Nigerian people the opportunity to celebrate their gallantry."
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meanwhile accused Buhari of constituting himself as a hindrance in the fight against Boko Haram. In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party asked the president to explain why "he has been insensitive to the killing of citizens and soldiers by marauders and insurgents, particularly, given allegations that he has been distracting the armed forces by dragging them to participate in his re-election campaign."
It alleged: "At the time our troops were being attacked by insurgents, our service chiefs were attending the launch of President Buhari's 'Next Level' campaign mantra."
Urging government to get its priority right on troops' deployment, a former Chief of Defence Staff, General Martin-Luther Agwai, noted: "In Nigeria, we want the military to do everything. It is not possible. We must decide whether we want them to fight Boko Haram, guard IDP camps, be at roads blocks and guard hotels. I think we all have to sit down and decide what we want our military to do."
Agwai spoke in an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the 50th anniversary of the Nigeria Fellowship of Evangelical Students (NIFES), yesterday in Abuja.
On a different note, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has given an eight-week ultimatum to contractors handling projects at the Nigerian Air Force Comprehensive Secondary School, Agbani, Enugu, to complete the work or face sanctions.
Abubakar, who was represented by the Chief of Logistics, Nigerian Air Force Headquarters, Abuja, Air Vice Marshal Ibrahim Yahaya, gave the ultimatum at the weekend during an inspection of projects in the school.