The Nigerian Army has released cheques to families of officers and soldiers who were killed in action as they battled Boko Haram insurgents, documents seen, finally bringing succour to relatives while bolstering their suspicion about the military’s sincerity in the counter-terrorism war.
The September 4 documents, marked AHQ DOAA/G1/300/167, contained details of the development as approved by the Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai.
The fallen personnel included colonels, majors, captains and the rank-and-file.
From September 17, the Army Headquarters has started presenting cheques to the 218 relatives (next-of-kins) of the fallen heroes at the Command Officers’ Mess, Asokoro, Abuja, the Gazette learnt.
The families were, amongst other requests, directed to come along with a death certificate, a military condolence letter and full-sized photograph of each fallen soldier in full military gear.
The Military Pensions Board (MPB) provides death benefits to next-of-kins of military personnel killed in action or veterans who enjoyed pensions for less than five years before death.
The memo did not include the amount due for each family, but the Gazette learnt from the Defence Headquarters that a fallen soldier’s family could receive from N1.5 million and above.
Two families interviewed by the Gazette welcomed the military’s decision as important for their welfare, but said they were surprised the number was that high for recent deaths.
Thousands of soldiers have been reportedly killed by the dreaded Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists troubling the northeastern part of Nigeria for over a decade.
The 218 officers whose families received cheques were killed recently, even though the military did not disclose death figures that high.
The military top brass regularly deploys huge resources towards downplaying their personnel casualties, insisting instead that remarkable progress has been made to check the insurgency.
Two military spokespersons reached by the Gazette declined comments for this story.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) pegs the number of people killed by insurgents since May 2011 at 37,500; with an estimated number of nearly 244,000 of Nigerian refugees.
Veronika Aloko, president of the Military Widows Association, told the Gazette that the association has nearly 10,000 registered members. But she could not immediately ascertain how many widows had lost their husbands to Boko Haram insurgency, estimating the figure to be “close to five thousand.”