Some Nigerian soldiers injured in the course of duty have complained over neglect and non-payment of their allowances by military authorities.
Some soldiers, who spoke to Daily Trust, said that apart from their salaries, they were yet to receive the special disability compensation they are entitled to, while others claimed that civilian patients were given preferential treatment at the 44 Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna.
While soldiers whose injuries are not severe have reportedly been retained in service, some of them claim they have not been paid certain allowances or given promotions their peers enjoyed.
However, Col Ezundu idimah, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations of the 1 Division in Kaduna, dismissed the claims as lies, saying the soldiers are well catered for.
A soldier, who was paralysed from the waist down by an insurgent’s bullet in the North-East, said he had not received any disability compensation, but his salaries have been promptly paid.
Now confined to a wheelchair, the soldier said his dream and that of his family had been shattered as his expectations in life may no longer be met.
Though he is recovering, he still suffers from severe pains.
Another soldier, injured three months after his wedding during a training exercise when he was accidentally shot, said he had been in constant pain since the incident, and has been unable to function sexually.
After the incident, he was first treated for months in Maiduguri before being transferred to the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, where he was treated for another four months.
“I feel a burning pain constantly in the injured leg, and when I walk, a nerve pain is triggered as if I were stepping on sharp nails,” he said.
The soldier now worries about the long-term effects of the injury, saying, “I limp on my left leg as a result of the injury, and it will be difficult for me to walk normally again.”
He said two of his complaint letters, written separately to the commanding officer of his unit, were turned down, but another one had been sent to the army headquarters.
Another soldier, whose hand has been deformed from a gunshot wound sustained in a confrontation with Boko Haram, said he too was recuperating but requires more medical attention.
He also said his compensation pay-out had still not been paid.
‘Civilian patients get preferential treatment at military hospital’
Although most of the injured soldiers are receiving treatment free of charge at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, some of them expressed dismay over the level of care they receive.
While commending the recent upgrade done to the facility and some of the services they receive, the soldiers appealed to the Federal Government, as well as military authorities, to look into their plights and improve their treatment so that they would return to their duties.
“We protected the territorial integrity of the country as best as we could while we were on the field in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where Boko Haram insurgents attacked us.
“Unfortunately, we are not being supported the way we ought to by the government,” one of them said.
“I was shot in the leg in Maiduguri, and in the process, I fractured my arm.
“Even though I was given care at Maiduguri before I was transported to Kaduna, I am, however, still in pain.
“My hand is healing gradually, but I am still having problems with my leg, where I was shot,” he said.
However, another wounded soldier said there seemed to be discrepancies in the attention given to wounded soldiers and civilian patients at the hospital.
“You know, because our treatment is free, they tend to take better care of the civil patients than us, maybe because they are paying. We are suffering,” he said.
It’s a lie – Army
When the findings were presented to Colonel Idimah, he was quick to dismiss them.
“It is a lie,” he said.
He went on to elaborate on the details of the care wounded soldiers receive at the hospital.
“When wounded soldiers are brought in from the front, they are hosted to an arrival party, where they are given a care package.
“Recently, we employed about 12 more consultants, including four orthopaedic surgeons to promptly handle their cases.
“Their feeding is greatly enhanced to aid their recovery; and we have established a ranch to rear animals for their feeding.”
Recently, the German government helped us establish a trauma centre, which is known all over Africa and provided adequate funding for their prompt treatment and rehabilitation.
Wounded soldiers, who arrive at the hospital, are scheduled for surgery within 24 hours,” he said.
He also explained that disabled soldiers wounded in action are trained in computer skills to make them relevant, and soldiers discharged from the hospital are given transport fare to return to their units.
“These are all things put in place to improve their lives.
“In fact, even recently, the Chief of Army Staff hosted the wounded soldiers to a party,” he said.
However, for many of the wounded soldiers, apart from the state of their treatment, they are concerned over the non-payment of their allowances, and appealed to the military authorities to expedite the process.
“We want to call on the military authorities to pay us our allowances so that we can attend to the needs of our families.
“We have done our part, we have served our country and almost lost our lives, so they should also do their part and provide us with our allowances,” one of the soldiers said.
When Daily Trust asked the coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major-General John Enenche about this claim at a press briefing at the Defence headquarters in Abuja on Thursday, December 31, he dismissed them, saying the military had not received any formal complaint from any soldier or anyone else.
“The information I have is that no single troop, whether wounded one or not, has been abandoned on the frontline or anywhere.
“The military doesn’t joke with the welfare of our troops.
“We have celebrated with many of them during these festivities.
“Where they were not physically on ground, we sent representatives.
“So they have not been abandoned, from the information I have, but I will now weigh yours, if I have such information I will now investigate in the first week of January, and when we meet again, I will let you know,” he said.
A week after, on January 7, when Daily Trust followed up with him, Enenche said he still had not received the information.
It happened before
Complaints by soldiers over non-payment of their allowances and neglect of injured soldiers are not new.
In 2016, Daily Trust reported that incapacitated soldiers of Operation Lafia Dole in the North-East cried out that they were dying over the slow pace of treatment they were receiving.
Most of the soldiers at the time, Daily Trust recalled, had their limbs amputated.
Thousands of Nigerian soldiers are actively engaged in various fronts, from the fights against insurgents in the North-East to the campaign against banditry in the North-West, and dozens of other military operations in various parts of the country.
Hundreds have been killed in these operations. An undisclosed number have suffered injuries.
Enenche, however, refused to disclose the number of soldiers injured in these operations.
“Let me ask you this question: How will a soldier in the North- East, North-West and North -Central feel if you tell him that one million of his colleagues were killed? If it were you, how would you feel?
“No, I won’t tell you that these numbers are wounded.
“Those that went to hospitals and didn’t come out alive, all those things? Why won’t we give it? It is for the purpose of ensuring that we give them that moral support and encouragement, not discouragement by way of what you say,” he said.
He said revealing such information could also embolden the enemy.