The House Committee on the Nigerian Army has urged critics of the military to visit troops in the frontlines to appreciate their efforts at tackling the Boko Haram menace.
The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Remande Shawulu, made the call on Thursday in Maiduguri, Borno State in an interview with newsmen after the committee visited troops in one of the locations.
Shawulu said such visits by critics would enable them to see the need to proffer sustainable solutions rather than condemn the military even as they combat the terrorists.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that during the visit, troops demonstrated response to imminent terrorist attacks using artillery weapons and Shilka, an anti-aircraft self-propelled system named after the Shilka River in Russia.
Asked to react to the exercise, Shawulu said: “I think it would have been good to bring many people, especially civil society organisations and the media, to the fields – frontlines.
“Let them come and be with the soldiers, let one round be fired, they will know what the soldiers are going through.
“We were at the hospital yesterday (Wednesday), we discovered that acoustic trauma is one of the major problems they have.
“It is very serious.
“Soldiers becoming deaf as result of sound from firing.
“Imagine somebody, who has to do this – firing, for 10 days, what it means.”
According to him, what the military need is commendation and encouragement, not condemnation.
Shawulu said: “I think we all have to put our hands on the deck, we need to agree that for a country facing the type of security challenges that Nigeria has, the level of manning the of the armed forces and security agencies is much, much too low, too low to be comfortable.
“That is what I observe.
“I think we need to commend the men and officers for the work that they are doing.
“You can see how hot that this place we are is.
“You can see that these guys – troops, it is only God, when I mean it’s only God, it is only the efforts that they are putting into the work they are doing, the passion.
“They need to be commended every time so that they are encouraged to do more than they are doing already.”
Shawulu said apart from more personnel, the military required additional equipment to be able to tackle emerging internal security challenges.
He noted that men and officers were being overstretched as they were at times given roles not directly military.
Citing instances, he said commanders on operation in some communities had to be engaged in peace-building and dispute resolution.
He said: “That means that they have a lot of work and I think that all of us need to take the security of the country much more seriously than we have been doing.
“We need to increase men, we need to increase resources and I think, for me, most importantly, we need to make sure that government at the local and state levels are functional.
“If they are functional, there are certain basic responsibilities such as conflict resolution at community level that could be done by local government and not by commanders.”
Also speaking in an interview, Major General Benson Akinroluyo, the Theatre Commander, said the committee was briefed on challenges faced during operations in the North East.
“We told them too that they should find a way of bringing other governmental support and not leaving the military alone to tackle crisis,” Akinroluyo said.
Brigadier General Bulama Biu, the General Officer Commanding 7 Division, expressed satisfaction with the visit, saying it enabled the committee to get first hand information on operations and challenges.
Biu also said it created a forum for interaction and clarification of issues, as well as boost troops’ morale.
NAN reports that while at the Theatre Command on Wednesday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, urged the committee to prevail on politicians to put national interest above political or sectional interests.
Buratai made the plea after he had accused some politicians, who lost in the just concluded general elections, of heightening tensions in parts of the country.
During the two-day oversight function, the committee visited the military cemetery in Maiduguri, where the three personnel, an officer and two soldiers, who died in an IED explosion on Monday, were buried.
They paid tribute to deceased personnel and others, who paid the supreme sacrifice in the course of duty.
They also visited the 7 Division hospital to empathise with wounded soldiers.