Reports of Nigerian Army soldiers struggling to survive while top military officers loot funds have become commonplace as the army continues its war on Boko Haram.
However, an often overlooked problem afflicting the Nigerian military is the toll the war has taken on Nigerian soldiers’ mental health.
Speaking to SaharaReporters, a top military officer, who requested anonymity, said that although allowances are often delayed, troops generally receive enough money to meet their needs.
“No one is owed operational allowances as at date. The minute the federal government releases money to the military, even though it is often delayed, it is disbursed to troops immediately,” he told SaharaReporters.
The military officer, however, expressed grave concern over the lack of investment in mental health treatment for soldiers fighting Boko Haram.
Soldiers in the battlefield frequently suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders as a result of the tense, traumatic experience of the war against terrorism in the Northeast. The officer lamented that the military and Nigerian society in general are not sufficiently trained and funded to properly treat such ailments.
“Soldiers are human beings with flesh and blood, and they suffer from a great deal of anxiety and fatigue,” he said. “With these, you are bound to have problems with professionalism and civil-military relations.”
He added that unsubstantiated rumors of corruption and subversion affect the morale of Nigerian soldiers.
For example, following the latest redeployment of the theater commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, to the Army Headquarters to serve as Deputy Chief of Policy and Planning, there has been a barrage of media reports alleging that the affected general lost his job for not supporting fraud. This is not true, and the redeployment is a routine posting, said Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, the Deputy Director Public Relations of the Command.
Mr. Nwachukwu also bemoaned unsubstantiated reports of subversion in the military.
“It could send a wrong signal and precipitate disaffection among troops of the Nigerian Army and indeed the theater of operation,” he said. “It is imperative, therefore, to implore members of the public to please discountenance these erroneous impressions.”
According to the top military source whose name is being withheld, “It is reports like this, coupled with a broad kind of mental illness and emotional trouble, that are affecting soldiers.”
He urged the general public to desist from peddling rumors that are affecting soldiers and their families and called on the relevant institutions to step in quickly to implement requests by the military for the adequate provision of psychotherapy facilities to hundreds of soldiers. The military officer said that such treatment would improve soldiers’ well-being and morale and allow them to operate more professionally.