The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Thursday said it was not appropriate to play politics with the welfare of soldiers deployed to quell the crisis.
Tambuwal, who explained that as lawmakers, they had been inundated with complaints from their constituents and soldiers about the true picture of the insurgency, said the House was poised to move motions that would address the welfare of soldiers.
He warned, while receiving a delegation of the alumni of Unity Schools Old Students’ Association (USOSA) yesterday, that anybody responsible for denying or delaying the soldiers, welfare shall be subjected to the scrutiny of the House.
“A situation whereby we appropriate funds for our men to be well taken care of, to be well-kitted and for them to have the best of arms and somebody somewhere is playing politics or is not implementing and applying those funds judiciously is not acceptable,” Tambuwal said.
“And we are ready to take on whoever is involved in that,” the Speaker warned.
He pledged that by next week when the lower chamber would resume plenary, “we are going to have some motions that are talking about welfare of our men on the field.”
He noted that: “We have received several complaints from soldiers that they are not getting what is due to them on the field. How do you take someone that is less-motivated to the battlefield. I believe that we need to do more and I believe that those responsible should be responsible enough to cater for these troops.”
Justifying the House’s special valedictory session for the slain children in Buni Yadi in Yobe State on Tuesday, he said: “We interact seriously with our constituents and we have been having feelers and feelings of our people on what has been happening in the North-east and other parts of the country that are prone to some measure of criminality.
“As leaders, we must be concerned about the feelings of our people. That is why the leadership of the House agreed too hold that special session to mourn as a mark of respect and to draw attention to the urgent need that all of us stakeholders and Nigerians must come together and support the government in ensuring that we bring an end to this wanton killing and destruction of lives and property,” he added.
Pledging to support the federal government, he regretted that the legislature had challenges in prosecuting the war against terror. “We cannot commandeer troops. We can only pass resolutions. We can only appropriate funds. Of course, we can perform oversight, but we have our limitations in following the money, in following the appropriated funds. That is why I said in my speech that even as parliamentarians, we may have to find new ways of improved oversight so that we ensure that what is meant for the welfare of our soldiers who have surrendered their lives to this country should be improved.”
Speaking earlier, the President-General of USOSA, Muhammadu Kabiru Nuhu-Koko, said they called on the Speaker because he was the only top government functionary that expressed concern and grief over ” the terrible night killing of school children.”
He urged the lawmakers to make a law that would improve security around unity schools across the country.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian-American Christians have called on the Goodluck Jonathan administration to halt the further spill of over 57,000 refugees into neighbouring countries as a result of Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria
According to the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), there was an increasing frustration coming from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR over the situation.
In January, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) released a report indicating that at least 6,000 people had fled Adamawa, Yobe and Borno to neighbouring Cameroun and Niger Republic.
The UNCHR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, said the agency had been asking states that share boundary with Nigeria to keep them open for the displaced citizens running away from Boko Haram and might need international protection, while advising against any forced returns.
Since then, the Boko Haram insurgency had intensified, the climax being the massacre of over 60 students of the Federal Government College in Yobe State, with increased refugee activity of Nigerians in the three states in the neighbouring countries.
In a recent press statement, the UN refugee agency on Tuesday said it was increasingly alarmed at the humanitarian impact of continuing violence in north-eastern Nigeria and stressing the need to protect civilians, adding that the newly arrived refugees interviewed by UNHCR officials in Niger Republic spoke of the atrocities on the islands and shores of Lake Chad in Borno State.
The latest attacks, according to Edwards, who spoke with journalists in Geneva Tuesday, are reported to have begun in mid-February and were continuing five days ago with 2000 refugees crossing the border to neighboring states.
The UN reported that insurgency in the three north-eastern Nigerian states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno have displaced more than 470,000 people inside Nigeria.
Refugees arriving in neighbouring Cameroun, Chad, and Niger are in addition to this.
CANAN in a statement released by its secretariat, said it was sad because the federal government of Nigeria and the governments of the affected states are not doing enough to cater for the refugee situation that had been created by the Boko Haram insurgency.
According to the organisation, what is being reported in the media regarding the current welfare package of the Nigerian soldiers in the forefront of the terrorism fight against Boko Haram was very disheartening and must be urgently improved.
Since Nigeria declared a state of emergency in the three states in May 2013, more than 57,000 people have fled to Cameroun, Chad and Niger Republic.
Some 17,000 of these are registered Nigerian refugees. The rest are nationals of the surrounding countries who had been living in Nigeria for decades.
Niger Republic had received the majority â€“ some 40,000 concentrated in the Diffa region, a desert in the country’s eastern edge.
CANAAN also asked the federal government to ensure that the emergency rule in place since last year become effective again, lamenting that the presence of the military in the states had become a moot thing considering the rising level of Boko Haram attacks and the surging levels of violence.
â€œBoko Haram is making nonsense of the claim of the Nigerian government to be in charge of the situation, and we want the federal government to redouble its security effort to contain the situation again,â€ CANAAN said.
The statement signed by its executive director, Laolu Akande, commended the plan to create a new special force to deal with Boko Haram, but also challenged the Nigerian military high command to rectify the low morale of the soldiers in the forefront of the battle by beefing up their welfare package and ensuring that they are adequately equipped.â€