Some officers and soldiers of the 121 Task Force Battalion based in Pulka, Borno State, have voiced their grievance against officials at the Nigeria Army Headquarters in Abuja, accusing the officials of indifference to their needs and effective abandonment of soldiers in the frontlines of the war against Islamist insurgents.
Some of the soldiers told our correspondent that they had been deployed to the war zone since 2013, spending three years on the front lines without rotation to another, less stressful location. “And yet there are soldiers and officers who have never been to the frontline since the insurgency began,” one of the mid-level officers at the base told our correspondent.
A number of the soldiers complained of a prolonged loss of a sense of normalcy in their lives. Two of the soldiers, who are both married, stated that they had had neither physical contact nor communication with their spouses, children and other loved ones. “We have no connection with even our wives and children because we don’t have telecommunication network here,” one of them stated. The soldiers disclosed that all masts in the war zone had been destroyed, adding that the lack of communication had frayed relationships.
“Let the world know that we came in here as a battalion with a full battalion strength, but now we have been so much battered that we are less than a company strength,” said a sergeant. He added, “We are losing hope in the commanders in Abuja. The Army Headquarters have now officially withdrawn our unit (121 Task Force Battalion) only in name, but we, the troops, are still here, now attached as a company to another unit just coming into Operation Lafiya Doyle.”
The soldiers said they were demoralized, adding that their low morale was rubbing off on the newly deployed troops. “We feel we are on our own, and some of us may stop giving it our all as we used to do. 250 of us came here. Now we are not up to 100. Some of us were killed in action while others are missing in action,” one of the dispirited soldiers said.