Nigerian Troops ‘Cannot Take On Terrorists’
A host of African countries with Western backing may have “declared war” on Boko Haram – but one Nigerian soldier has told Sky News how they have little equipment to take on the terrorists and what weapons they do have are old, worn down and ineffective.
He spoke to us on condition of anonymity: “If my superiors know I have spoken to you, I will be jailed and tortured.”
But he described an army which is haemorrhaging morale and which lacks the will or the means to take on the terrorists.
He said his views reflected the feelings felt throughout the army about the war on terror in Nigeria’s northeast.
“They give us just AK47s to go into the bush to fight Boko Haram,” he told us.
“Our equipment doesn’t work and they give us just two magazines (60 bullets) to go into the bush.”
He went on to say many soldiers were complaining about not receiving their allowances and being made to wait weeks, sometimes months, for salaries to be paid.
“It’s not right,” he said.
“We feel so bad because we … are trying, the soldiers are trying our best but the civilians don’t realise what the Nigerian army is issued with, what they are given to go and fight the Boko Haram.
“They don’t know the calibre of the weapons that the Nigerian army is giving them.
“The calibre of the Boko Haram weapons is past (better) than the Nigerian army weapon.”
The lack of progress in tracking down more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok has angered the girls’ parents who don’t believe the Nigerian authorities responded quickly enough – and then only did so because of the huge international outcry following a social media campaign.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan sparked further discontent when he hurriedly cancelled a trip to Chibok more than a month after the kidnappings, due to reported security concerns.
Sky cameraman Garwen McLuckie and I were in Chibok with the girls’ parents and the elders of the town when the word came through that the president would no longer be coming.
There was a welcoming committee waiting for him as well as increased security.
We listened as one community elder broke the news to them and then spoke to the furious parents afterwards.
Many of them were screaming with indignation and pain.
“Please, please help us,” one crying mother appealed to us. “All we want is for our daughters to be freed.”
Another father told us angrily: “If this place is not safe for the President of Nigeria to come to, how does he think the people of Chibok feel?”
The president’s office later contacted Sky News to angrily deny any trip had been planned and he certainly had not cancelled it.
The president later went on to tell the summit in Paris that everything was being done to try to track down the girls.
But the parents of Chibok do not feel that is the case.
And the anonymous soldier who spoke to us said the troops charged with the task don’t have good enough equipment, the kit or the weapons to carry through the job.
And more than a month on, there’s still no sign of the girls.