By, Akpam Papa
Senators expressed shock and anger yesterday over the reported killing of 44 soldiers attached to the 157 Task Force Battalion in Melete, Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents.
According to The Nation report, a sombre atmosphere enveloped the plenary as the lawmakers took turns to condemn the “monumental loss”.
The casualty figure and details of the attack remained hazy yesterday. Some sources said the figure was higher than 44; others said it was not up to that..
The upper legislative body ordered its committees on Army and Defence to investigate the killings and examine the welfare and wellbeing of troops engaged in counter insurgency operations.
The senators also resolved to visit officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces on the counter insurgency campaign in the Northeast.
Their resolution followed a motion by Deputy Majority Leader Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South) at the instance of the Senate President.
Na’Allah decried the plight of military personnel fighting insurgency in the Northeast, stressing that one of the officers killed in the attack was his cousin.
After observing a minute’s silence in honour of the fallen soldiers, the lawmakers resolved to pay a condolence visit to the Chief of Army Staff and families of the slain soldiers.
The senators plan to conduct a “thorough” investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killings and the welfare of soldiers. The standing committee on Army was mandated to carry out the investigation.
Other contributors, including Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, bemoaned the hazardous tasks of men and officers of the Armed Forces fighting Boko Haram.
They called on the Federal Government and the military authorities to adequately equip the personnel and address all welfare-related issues.
Senator Andrew Uchendu (APC, Rivers East), suggested that the Senate shut down for the day, instead of just observing a minute’s silence for the slain soldiers.
Uchendu said: “Mr President and dear colleagues, I have no reason to doubt the figure of the 44 dead soldiers. But if that figure is correct, then this Senate must come out and show massive concern, not just one-minute silence.
“We must shut down for one whole day in honour of those fallen heroes.”
The plenary was brought to an abrupt end.
There were reports that about nine farmers in the community were killed in the attack.
Addressing journalists shortly after the plenary session, the vice chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ibrahim Danbaba, deplored the “lackadaisical attitude” of the committee.
According to him, the situation in the Army would have been different if the committee had lived up to its oversight responsibilities.
Danbaba blamed the chairman of the Army Committee, Senator George Akume, for the lapse, saying there was a clear case of dereliction of duties on the part of Akume.
He lamented that the committee had remained dormant since Akume assumed its headship in 2017.
Some soldiers were allegedly killed on Monday when insurgents attacked the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Guzamak Local Government Area of Borno State.
A large cache of arms, ammunition and military equipment were reportedly carted away by Boko haram fighters during the raid.
The Monday evening attack was described as a huge setback for troops fighting to end insurgency.