Five months after the deployment of Nigerian troops as part of the Africa-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to fight Islamic insurgents, there is no respite in sight for soldiers who have suffered untold hardship and total neglect of the contingent.
PREMIUM TIMES can exclusively report that the 873-man contingent is still making do with poor nutrition, and unpaid allowances of up to three months.
The overwhelming perception of other participating countries in the mission is that the Nigerian contingent has fallen short of the United Nations’ standard.
“They are struggling to remain in Mali,” a defence source said. They are not being fed good food. They have been eating plain boiled spaghetti twice daily without condiments.”
PREMIUM TIMES had exclusively reported the abysmal condition of the troops and the lack of morale caused by the absence of logistics and basic provisions. But defence authorities had denied it, saying the soldiers were well taken care of.
Four months after our initial reports, nothing seems to have changed, as the condition of the soldiers seems to have worsened.
Our source said allowances haven’t been paid for up to three months.
The Commanding Officer (CO), of the contingent, Colonel T. E Gagariga, has been particularly fingered as encouraging soldiers to keep mute and pretend things are fine.
“Commanding Officer told soldiers to pretend that everything is all right because been promised a good appointment. They’re really suffering.”
Morale is said to be at an all time low within the 333 Arty Regiment with the codename NIBATT 1.
It is not true
But the battalion commander says claims of hardship and low morale by troop are untrue.
“All that is pure lie,” said Col. Gagariga, when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES.
“We are doing our very best in every circumstance. My soldiers are of high morale.”