There have been several reports that families of soldiers, who lost their lives in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in Northeast Nigeria are still waiting for the gratuities of their fallen sons, husbands, fathers as well as the nations fallen Heroes, months after the Nigerian Army promised to pay them promptly.
Indeed the reality and news of the fight against insurgency, is not something new to the knowledge of Nigerians, especially with the fact that so many had lost their loved ones in several bombings and attacks involving the activities of these terrorists that led to the death of so many civilians as well as members of the forces, especially the military who engage them headlong.
A popular news vendor in the country, precisely Premium Times reporting the incidence in April stated that, upon their investigations, they were informed of how the military had not fulfilled their obligations and promises to the families of fallen heroes who died in the line of duty, citing the families of Sunday Orji, an officer with army number 04/55/1726 who died on the battlefield in 2015, and the family of officer Samuel Sunday with army number 01/NA/50/725 who died also in an attack by the insurgents in Maiduguri Borno State in 2017, as examples.
They went further to explain that many widows of the slain soldiers are now engaged in production and processing of agricultural products such as garri and Santana for survival. Meanwhile, majority of them who can no longer afford to, or meet up with educational requirements, have had their kids withdrawn or dropped out of school.
After the reports of this news outlet in April, the defence headquarters reached out to Mrs Emelia Orji, one of the wives of the slain soldiers on April 24th with the assurance to pay her deceased husband’s gratuity that month.
In a statement issued by her she said that ” the Nigerian Army had called me from Abuja and promised me they would pay me this month after seeing my name in the newspaper.
She said she submitted all the necessary documents and credentials which were requested and required for the process of claiming her husband’s entitlement in Bonny camp, after she was asked to do so.
It’s been five months after, she continued, and I have heard nothing from the military authorities she lamented.
”I was not allowed to enter into Bonny camp when I went there for update in August. We are presently still battling with hunger and survival.
She stated that after her interview with news correspondents, some military officers paid her family a visit from Odogbo Barracks in Ibadan and reassured her that all her husband’s gratuity will be paid shortly, but nothing concrete has happened ever since.
In response to the above allegations, senior military officers who asked not to be named, told a Premium Times reporter that unless pressure was mounted on military authorities, the families may never get their dues.
For the past two weeks, John Eneche the spokesperson of Defence Headquarters, has refused to comment on the matter when quizzed by the press. In like manner, another army spokesperson Sagir Musa declined making any statement with regard to this issue.
It is true that the guidelines on the administration of pensions for Nigeria Armed Forces personnel, provides that death benefits should be paid to Next of Kin (NOKs) of officers who die in active service.
The guidelines state that when officers die in active service, form 9B (military retirement application document), a death certificate, letter of introduction from NOKs, condolence letter from their last units, sworn affidavit deposed to by the NOKs authenticating them as the NOKs, the credentials of the deceased officer, as well as that of the NOKs, are all expected to be sent to the military pension board at Dutse-Alhaji, Abuja by their respective offices. These are the documents with which the death benefits and gratuity will be processed.
The only problem with these guidelines, is that there’s no provision of a stipulated time or duration within which it can be processed. This therefore makes it difficult to hold the Nigerian Army to account. More so because the rules say that the military pension’s board pay death benefits in batches, depending on the availability of funds.
This perhaps explains why some of the families and widows of such officers go through untold hardship till they are eventually paid if they get lucky.
A civil rights activist, Kehinde Abinuyo commenting on the issue, concluded that the failure of the military to put things in proper shape to enhance prompt payment of gratuity and benefits to deceased officers is really disturbing.