Former Chief Of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika (retd), has revealed that about 30,000 soldiers have no accommodation.
Gen. Ihejirika, said the situation had forced army authorities to keep troops fighting Boko Haram insurgents for as long as three years in the North East, whereas they ought to spend between nine months and one year there.
To solve the accommodation problem, Ihejirika told Sun that 50 percent of funds approved for construction in the North East should be channeled into renovating military barracks and construction of new ones.
He said: “More barracks need to be built. Within the three and half years I was in office, we expanded the strength of the army by, at least, 21,000, but we did not build accommodation for the 21,000.
“We built new barracks leading to new accommodations for, at least, 5,000 people; what of the other 16,000? And since I left office, more people have been recruited, so, any fund available for the counter insurgency, a good proportion of that money, if possible, fifty 50 percent, should go to rehabilitation of barracks and construction of new ones, to accommodate the, perhaps, up to 30,000, soldiers currently not properly accommodated.
“Today, they are engaged, tomorrow, they will be disengaged and they will go back to the barracks.
“Due to inadequate accommodation, rotation of troops is difficult. We now have troops in the battle area for two or three years; so, that has to do with welfare of troops generally.”
On the recent order by the chief of army staff to officers and soldiers of the Nigerian army to learn the three major Nigerian languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, Ihejirika, who said there was nothing wrong with the directive, explained that knowledge of local languages enhanced unity in operations and reduces mutual suspicion between the civil populace and the military that operate in the area.
The former army chief described the extension of tenure of the Defence and service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari as “bad business for sponsors and sympathisers of the Boko Haram terrorists” operating within and outside the country.