The Federal government has today hurried food to Nigerian troop in Mali twenty-four hours after this newspaper reported that the 873-man contingent were being poorly fed and had not been paid allowances in the last three months.
Defence sources in Abuja and Lagos told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday that the defence headquarters was terribly embarrassed by the report and immediately ordered that food be flown to the troop, which is in Mali as part of the Africa-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to fight Islamic insurgents.
“I can confirm to you that several bags of rice and palm oil were flown to Mali today,” one of our sources said. “I’m also told by colleagues in charge that more food will be taken there in the following days.”
Our source however said the soldiers’ three-month arrears of allowances had not been settled.
“Most of the soldiers are broke,”the source said. “Some of them have been calling home asking colleagues and family members to send them money.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has threatened to arrest a PREMIUM TIMES reporter who has worked on a series of articles on the hardship our soldiers are facing in Mali.
The reporter had telephoned commanding officer, Colonel T. E Gagariga, in Mali to get his reaction to the story published on Tuesday.
But shortly after his call to Colonel Gagariga, a certain Major General Ugor telephoned him to say he must disclose his sources for the series of stories he had done on the troop.
“He said I should disclose my sources to him and that he would arrest me if I failed to do so,” said reporter Nicholas Ibekwe. “Of course, I refused. And I’m not sure what his plans are at the moment.”
PREMIUM TIMES had reported Tuesday that there was no respite in sight for soldiers who have suffered untold hardship and total neglect since their arrival in Mali.
The report said the 873-man contingent was being poorly fed and owed three-month allowances.
“They are struggling to remain in Mali,” a defence source had said. “They are not being fed good food. They have been eating plain boiled spaghetti twice daily without condiments.”
But when contacted, the commander of the 333 Artillery Regiment, codenamed NIBATT 1, said claims of hardship and low morale by troop were untrue.
“All that is pure lie,” Col. Gagariga said. “We are doing our very best in every circumstance. My soldiers are of high morale.”
PREMIUM TIMES had four months ago 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 denied, saying the soldiers were well taken care of.