By Okanga Agila
At a time when one should logically take for granted that they would have become wiser and sober, considering that the wind they sowed is now being reaped as a whirlwind, detractors of Nigeria’s peace and stability, notably Sahara Reporters, are yet to learn any lesson.
The world may be perplexed today as to the nature and dynamics of the security threats that Nigeria is contending with, but note must be made of how Sahara Reporters led the charge in the assault on the military as an institution. The approach of this treasonable entity was subtle, with a paced frequency, it constantly dished out misinformation about the military. This undermined the institutions of the Military at several levels. It sought to foster dissention within the military, notably the army, while also casting the commanding officers as corrupt persons who do not have the interest and the welfare of their troops at heart.
This obsession with undermining the military through malicious attacks on the integrity and credibility of the military chiefs is one that Sahara Reporters and the hands pulling its puppet have committed to with such vengeance that one wonders if they have elevated their disdain for anything military has been elevated to the level of a religious movement, one that requires a fanatical zeal for its purveyors to find a sense of fulfillment in life.
Thus, the latest salvo from the trenches of Sahara Reporters, a hogwash titled “How Ex-Army Chief Denied Nigerian Soldiers Their Allowances Despite Buhari’s Approval Since 2017” is no surprise given that it has made a career out of hounding the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Tukur Buratai (retired). It is interesting how these same people, who did their best at attempting to discredit and distract the former COAS think they can now achieve what they could not actualize while Buratai was in office. There was a time they were surfacing at least one baseless fresh accusation weekly against Buratai without being able to prove a shred of their malicious claims against him.
These rabblerousers are back to what they do best, inciting mass hysteria with a view to procuring a lynch mob to take down the respectability of their quarry, this case, Buratai, in the court of public opinion, which has sadly become fickle at the hands of online and social media manipulators. In the said news story, they claimed that troops are not being paid certain moneys based on the Manual of Financial Administration (MAFA) for the Armed Forces of Nigeria 2017, the official document detailing the payable allowances of the military personnel. In their usual fashion, they conveniently forgot to mention that the document, which was approved by President Buhari on November 9, 2017, has tremendous input from the former COAS as the then incumbent. It was he, who introduced boots and uniform allowance and had them in the 2017 MAFA.
As former COAS, there are several welfare packages introduced by Lt Gen Buratai (retired), which are not covered by the Manual of Financial Administration (MAFA). Such welfare initiatives are in addition to the massive infrastructural development across the various Army formations in the country as well as many community development projects and services for which he is still receiving accolades.
It is further uncharitable of Sahara Reporters or anyone who persists in peddling its propaganda content to ignore the economic realities that are not peculiar to Nigeria. Even before the COVID-19 Pandemic made landfall there was already a slow-motion kind of global economic meltdown that was later exacerbated by the pandemic. A sincere person or entity would have thus realized and properly acknowledge that the scarce skill allowance, and some other allowances reported in the news item were not implemented 100% due to funding constraints.
Even at a tokenistic level, those bankrolling Sahara Reporters and other online rags to sabotage Nigeria, should invest a little of their resources in training their foot soldiers in Reporting Governance, which would take their operatives above the impish penchant for resorting to beer-parlour kind of analysis. Anyone steeped in how government operates would have understood that although MAFA was approved 2017 there was no appropriation to give it financial backing until the year 2020 when partial funding was granted. The budget cut resulting from the impact of COVID-19 on the economy further put pressure on finances. One should then ask if Sahara Reporters, its clients and the people it spoke with in the military had expected that the former COAS would violate the Appropriation Act in each successive year to pay what was not provided for in the budget. This same pack would have bayed like wolfs at full moon had that been the case.
Had this terrorists’ sympathizing publication taken its time to genuinely investigate and balance its story, it would have at the very least give a passing mention that an implementation strategy was adopted by all the Military Services and the Defence Headquarters to ensure equity, fairness and transparency in the implementation of MAFA.
It should be noted however, that the 2017 MAFA which is the most robust welfare to the Armed Forces since inception was introduced under the able leadership of the immediate past crop of the Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a credit to the President and Commander In- Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, something that Sahara Reporters had never acknowledged until now what it is desperately searching for rocks to hurl at present the government and anyone that had served it diligently. The National Assembly most also be commended for their support in appropriation of funds despite the current tight economic environment.
Furthermore, a manual of financial administration is essentially a guide for the military’s non regular allowances subject to appropriation and does not consequently override extant legislation. There has been many MAFAs before the 2017 MAFA, however, no MAFA has succeeded in the level of implementation as the 2017 MAFA which has archived almost 80%.
One curious aspect to interrogate is the manner in which Buratai was singled out for vilification in the news report when the issues it raised cut across all the branches of the Armed Forces. Could it be because the Army under his command then was the most unforgiving in punishing the terrorists to which Sahara Reporters is exceptionally beholden?
The mischief makers behind this news story are hell bent on tarnishing the image of the former COAS with the taint of corruption. Considering that this is a mission they failed to accomplish while he was in military service, one can only assure them that General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd) is not and will never be corrupt in his lifetime. His determination as a honest leader remains his greatest asset and this no one can destroy no matter the amount of propaganda. Each time they bring General Buratai under scrutiny they will only succeed in exposing the kind of sterling qualities that earned him a diplomatic assignment upon his completing his military service to the country.
Rather than waste further efforts on vilifying a man that has no skeleton in his cupboard, detractors would do well to start discussing options among themselves about how to undo the damage they have done to the once peaceful country that they have incited extremists to daily torment.
Okanga wrote this piece from Agila.